Nigerian actor and star skitmaker, Debo Adedayo is no stranger to biopics. In the last few years, the all-round thespian-cum-activist, popularly known as ‘Mr Macaroni’ has interpreted roles in movies of genuine historical quality, his latest being the role of Oba Kayode Sikiru Adetona, the Awujale of Ijebuland. TOMI FALADE tracked him down on the set of the ‘Awujale’ film, a biopic based on the king’s self-authored book, and here’s what he had to say….CONTINUE READING
Why do you think it is important to document the history of Awujale?
When we talk of great kings in Nigeria, the Awujale is not just a great king, he is an embodiment of culture. For men like these, we are not able to understand their journey, where they are coming from and what they have been able to do in its entirety. It is all about what we see and what we hear sometimes. So for me, biopics allow you access them. Not they themselves, but you are able to get a glimpse of how it is, so yes, I am very excited to be here.
You are playing a major role a version of Awujale in his 30s. Are you not worried?
I am not worried, instead, I am honoured to be playing it. While I am humbled by that fact, I am also very careful about making sure that I represent his younger version definitely – not exactly how he was, but in a way that glorifies that time of his life. While doing my research and talking to the director about his person, especially that age, the director was telling me that there is a bit of his personality in me because Awujale is very tough, he is strict and highly principled. So, I am not worried, I think I am just humbled by the fact that I was considered good enough to be picked.
What are the things you have brought on your own to carry out that character in the best way you know how to?
As I mentioned, research. I also like to bring a new style into every role. You should not be able to see ‘Daddy wa’ in a younger version of Awujale because the characters are very different. For me, I always just want to ensure that I am doing right by the character. The character that we have here is a younger version of Awujale who is not a fictional character, he is real. He is inspired by true life events. So, we are not trying to create drama or what not or make a figment of our imagination, it is a role that is based on how he lived, which factors in stories of his time. What I am simply trying to do is to merge the actor in me with the character. I want to stay with his personality at the time and try to use my God-given talents to bring the personality to life.
Tell us about the preparations you made to fit into this character prior to the time you came on set.
Truthfully, the Yoruba is very different and yes, my mum is from Ijebu, but my dad is from Abeokuta. I am a full-blooded Ogun-born. But then, the way I speak Yoruba is not the same way Ijebu people speak Yoruba. But glory to God and of course, thanks to the professionalism of the entire crew behind this project. There is a dialogue coach on set, so he guides us. Also, largely because I am playing the younger version, at that time it wasn’t as if the Yoruba was that deep. This was someone who was preparing to go to school and went abroad at some point before coming back. So that really helped me and I was able to tone it down and where the dialogue coach thought that I needed to and heighten it as needed.
Also, I would always go back to research just to understand the person I’m being asked to portray a certain age of his life. I have not been opportune to meet with him, but of course, even if I am opportune to meet with him, right now he is 89 and there are definitely a number of things he won’t remember because I am playing him in his 30s. But from what I heard and who I spoke to, it’s more or less just trying to ensure that it is not conflicting. People who know him personally at that age should not see me and say that is not Sikiru. So, I need to be sure that I am able to depict him well. From what I got, Awujale at that age was someone who was very focused, he knew what he wanted, and he loved his mum so much even though there were a lot of high points between him and his mum. Sometimes, I see myself in there.
Do you think we as a country are doing enough to document history?
I have always been an advocate of documenting our history. One major reason is that if we don’t do it, others will do it for us, and they will do it wrongly. So, we are in the best position to tell our own stories. I have always said that Nigeria has been so blessed. There is no tribe or locality in Nigeria that you are going to pick that you will not find hundreds of thousands of stories. The stories are inexhaustible, original stories. At the end of the day, why are we focusing so much on stories that are not real? As dramatists, we always try to bring to life a figment of our imagination. But then we have been so blessed with so many original stories that even people all over the world are looking for and have been trying to recreate those stories. So, I am so excited that now we have started to do it by ourselves and we must continue to do so. This is to ensure that our culture and our traditions are preserved and that the history that we have is not altered.
In your job as an actor, how do you draw the line between spirituality and acting as a lot of people consider these things ritualistic? What is the line for you?
For me, is there a line? I don’t know yet. Maybe I have not been presented with a script like that or a scenario where I will say ‘Ah, this one pass my power!’ I am a very spiritual person, I might not belong to the school of thoughts of the most popular religions that we have, but I am highly spiritual. I believe that the spiritual controls the physical and anywhere I am, I connect to nature a lot. In fact, when we were doing a scene, it was at a river side. I immediately connected to the creator, and I prayed. I was praying in my mind. I wasn’t scared. I was praying for blessings, and I was feeling some type of way. I strongly believe in God. I might not belong to the popular schools, but I believe in love and if you even check the most popular religions, they always preach love.
When I see rainfall, I see the sun shining and I see different things happening, I know the world is too powerful; the things that happen are too powerful for there not to be a spiritual underline or a supernatural force controlling the activities of men. Sometimes you find out that you are doing some certain things, but you do not have control over them. So, for me as an actor, I believe I am there, I am doing my job; there is no job that does not have hazards. I get there, I get on stage and once I am able to connect to the spiritual, I tell God I am in His hand. Actors are very brave, you just go into a place you don’t even know what is happening there, you just enter, you carry camera and you start to shoot.
What is your takeaway from the Awujale project?
I think it is just a further push from myself. Playing that role helped me see the things he stood for and the decisions he took. Even when it was only him taking decisions, I kept thinking “Yes, I want to be this man. He had a lot of reasons to back down. At one point, they kept going back and forth on something, he told them that if he accepted this thing again, He would do things his way. He said that you are not going to rubbish the traditional institution that our forefathers have tried to protect and that we are trying to protect and they said okay. And till today, he is still being celebrated. Everyone is still talking about him and from all the people that I spoke to, when you mention Awujale, the first thing they will tell you is he is principled a man. So, my takeaway will be; that thing that you are doing that people think you are stubborn, so far you believe, don’t live in delusion. If you know that what you are doing doesn’t make sense, you need to stop. But if you are personally convinced that what you are doing is right, you should just continue what you are doing….CONTINUE READING
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