Deyemi Okanlawon Quits Acting, Actor Says He’s Focusing On Other Interests Outside Entertainment
Nollywood actor Deyemi Okanlawon has bowed out from the entertainment industry to focus on other businesses.
The handsome actor who revealed this in a recent chat with Kore Ogidan, said his extended break from the big screen is to give him an opportunity to explore other interests outside the entertainment industry.
Enjoy the excerpt of the short interview below:
What have you been up to lately?
Actually, I’m on an extended break. I had a very busy first half of the year and now I’m taking a break from acting to focus on other interests behind the camera, and outside the film and entertainment industry.
Are you happy about your current standing in your career?
July made it exactly five years since I transited from a corporate career to full-time acting and I’m extremely grateful for all I seem to have accomplished – the high quality productions I’ve been on, the amazingly talented and skillful actors and crew members I’ve worked with, as well as the brand relationships I’ve built.
Did you imagine you’d be at this level today?
First of all, I never even imagined I would have a career as an actor, even though it had always been a passion and serious hobby. When in 2013, I quit my job as the Head of Marketing at OLX and decided to go full-time into acting, it was meant to be for a year; after which I expected to get back to work in corporate Nigeria. Sometimes, it all still feels like a dream, one I’m not in a hurry to wake up from.
Asides the passion, why are you an actor?
I grew up in my mum’s bakery business, Baker’s World, and worked as a baker and sales person and I loved every bit of it. I also studied Chemical Engineering at the University of Lagos and had a stint at the NNPC’s Kaduna refinery which of course, I also loved. I went on to a career in sales and marketing and quickly fell in love with that too; I held jobs in FMCG, consulting, e-commerce. I loved everything I set out to do and loved them all. Today, I’m an actor because it is the talent and skill, among others, through which I can give most value and receive most value; and of course, I absolutely love it!
What’s been your closest to real life movie role ever?
I played the role of Tokunbo Adepoju in the Web-TV series, Gidi Up. Just like me, the character worked in e-commerce, had founded a start-up business, rides a power bike, had issues with some relatives and had multiple love interests. The added bonus to that is that his surname is the first name of my pastor (smiles).
What was your experience in your first movie set?
After many years acting in church dramas, my first movie set experience was for a short film titled, A Grain of Wheat. It was there I first got the hint that I totally enjoyed and could excel as a film actor.
How did your background influence your strength as an actor?
Everything about my background made me a strong actor. My family and spiritual upbringing, education and work experience are responsible for the way I approach my craft and my career.
What are some unexpected perks you enjoy as an actor?
I get loads of exciting gifts from brands, invitations to VIP events, and whenever I go out, home and abroad, there always seems to be someone who loves my work and offers to pick up my tab.
Which do you prefer – old Nollywood vs new Nollywood?
There really is no such thing as old or new Nollywood; there is only one Nigerian film industry. An industry that is continually growing and evolving, with people deciding what level of the industry or section of the market they are interested in, equipped for and can play in.
Tell us about your experience leaving engineering for acting?
I didn’t ditch Chemical Engineering, which I loved, for acting. I was a sales rep for my mum’s cake and bread company while in the university and when I graduated, I was employed as the sales and promotions manager, a position I held for two years before resigning and moving out of home. Parents and relatives can be so hard to work with. What I had expected to be a stop-gap job turned into an eight year-career and it was amazing. My acting career followed the same pattern. I tried it, loved it, saw an opportunity and thought I’d do it for a year. Here I am, five years later.
How did you feel receiving your first award?
My first award came in 2013 for Blink. I won the best actor award at the IN-SHORT film festival. I remember it feeling like an out-of-body experience until I held the plaque and my heart felt so full of joy.
Tell us about your experience being a judge on the Ebonylife First Stars competition.
It’s always an exhilarating experience to see young, talented creative hands display their skills and be in a position where I can help guide them. Judging First Stars helped rekindle my excitement for the Nigerian film industry and was partly responsible for me starting the Business of Acting programme series (beginner and advanced). However, having to select who moves forward and who doesn’t was one of the toughest things I’d ever had to do.
Any plans to be a producer/director full-time over acting?
Currently, I have written about five stories which have been scripted and which I intend to produce and direct as the opportunity arises. Each script was specifically developed for the huge local and international television-online market (Africa Magic, IrokoTV, Ibaka, EbonyLife, YouTube and airlines). I’ll be playing different characters, lead and supporting roles in each of them.
What are the challenges you’ve faced as an actor in Nigeria?
Money of course! Jokes aside, the industry faces several issues; poor distribution infrastructure, guild ineffectiveness in influencing government policies, few education and training opportunities, lack of financing and loss of audience confidence, have over the years negatively affected the earning capacity of the film industry, hence we are yet to capture it’s full value. Thankfully, the industry is growing tremendously and several individuals and organisations are tackling the challenges we face. As things get better, we will all receive more value for our talent, time and effort.
Seeing the evolution of film in Nigeria, do you think we’ll get to Hollywood’s level eventually?
I sincerely believe aiming for Hollywood’s level will be short-changing ourselves. The African narrative is unique and largely untapped and as we develop our own film philosophies and ethos, reconfigure our industry infrastructure and its market structure for international consumption, set minimum standards of excellence in every area of filmmaking, there is a clear opportunity to surpass every other local film industry in the world.
How would you describe your marital experience?
I met my wife, Damilola, in the university. Like me, she studied Chemical Engineering, though she was a class below me. However, we only started getting to know each other and dating a few years after we had both graduated and we have been inseparable since then.
How are you able to balance your busy schedule with your home?
Family is truly my first priority, and as much as I love my work, I love being home with my wife and two sons even more. This is the number one reason I hardly ever have time to go out and I’m very selective about which events I attend.