Femi Adebayo, son of legendary actor popularly known as Oga Bello has gone from living under the shadow of his father to create a niche for himself in the Yoruba movie industry.
The star of Jelili fame in this interview with New Telegraph’s Lanre Odunkoya speaks on his failed marriage and other sundry issues
What is the latest to expect from your stable both as an actor and a producer?
Presently, I am not doing any other thing than to produce a movie. The movie is at the post-production stage and it’s titled Gbewiri Meta (three armed robbers). The movie is action packed and I have no doubt it’s going to be a hit. It’s going to have serious impact on Nigerian society.
I was unfortunate to be a victim of an armed robbery attack sometimes in November 2011. Ever since then , I have been looking for a way to touch the hearts of those people who think the best way to earn a living is to take what belongs to others forcefully. So, I thought about passing the message since I was once a victim. I felt very bad that they took my belongings and I know that that’s the way many Nigerians who have had the same experience felt. That is what actually inspired Gbewiri Meta.
You are a trained lawyer but you inherited and later honed your skills in acting. Have you finally dumped the legal profession?
Point of correction, I didn’t dump law for acting. I still practice law. It’s just that I saw the need to do so well in entertainment, acting to be precise and that is why I am focusing more on acting and at any point in time I can go back to law. I have not dumped law for acting. The call to act is divine and I just had to heed that call.
There is a hugely speculated rivalry between you and Odunlade Adekola, your colleague, though junior in every sense of the word. Do you think that is incorrect?
(Chuckles) Odunlade Adekola is one of my very good friends. We don’t see ourselves as rivals. Outside our profession, we see, we talk, we relate, we rub minds; we even share ideas regarding how to live our private lives. That automatically negates the word rivalry you are talking about. We are not rivals, we are friends, and we are colleagues. We do our things and our fans appreciate us.
What would you say distinguishes you from him?
Odunlade is a very tall man and I am not tall. I think that’s one of the very obvious differences between us. But we have a lot in common. He is a fantastic actor; I am an awesome actor as well. We interpret our roles the way we feel we should interpret them. We share the same date of birth. We are in the same industry. He is friendly and so am I. He’s down to earth and I’m equally down to earth.
Many believe you rode on your father’s success to get this far. Do you think differently?
Well, there is no doubt about it. I owe my success to him. I can’t rule out the fact that daddy’s name has helped me. I give glory to God and I want to thank my dad for that. I have received several awards locally and international and I have always dedicated the award to my dad, because his success in the profession made me what I am today. If you want to say I have ridden on his success, you are perfectly right. And if you think people appreciate me because I am Adebayo Salami’s son, you are perfectly right as well.
What are your memories of childhood?
Growing up was fun. I was a very naughty boy when I was young, very stubborn but trust me very friendly as well. I grew up in the ghetto in Ebute Meta, Lagos to be precise. My dad was very strict. I am very glad that I lived in a ghetto because I have been able to strike a balance between the people at the grassroots and people at the top and that makes life more sensible to me.
Any plan to produce an English language movie soon?
I am working on one at the moment; it will come out very soon. It’s going to be like 70 per cent English, 30 percent Yoruba.
Recently, the media was awash with the news that you were planning to remarry soon. How true is that?
Well, marriage is a thing of joy. If I want to get married, I won’t hide it but trust me, I am not getting married any time soon. I have no plans getting married for now. I don’t even have a wifeto- be for now. But if I eventually see a lady that I am comfortable with, I will definitely marry her.
How exactly did you start acting?
I started as far back as 1987, I was pretty young then. I was a kid actor in one of my father’s movies. But I actually went into it on my own in 1996. That was when I had the opportunity to act in Tade Ogidan’s blockbuster movie, Owo Blow. The movie won me several awards.
Is your father your earliest influence into acting?
Yes, that is actually what inspired me. I saw that dad was an actor and I wanted to do what he was doing.
Despite the widespread claim that the Yoruba movie industry is not lucrative, you look really comfortable if not rich. Do you have other income means?
I don’t know your definition of money. Any job that you do that pays your bill, I think it’s worth doing. Acting pays my bill and I am very comfortable with that. Although, I still do my law job, I do property; I still buy and sell property for people. Most of my clients are based abroad. Asides that I must categorically state that Yoruba movie is not doing badly though, it can be better.
Could you tell us about your film academy?
I just see that there are lots of people who have talents, so I decided to float a school to help bring out these talents in them. The school is named J-15 School of Performing Arts, and it’s situated in Ibadan. We have graduates of theatre arts from Nigerian universities as lecturers. To the Glory of God, the school is doing well. We will be seven years this year and we have graduated over 150 students who are now doing well in the industry.
Do you regret parting ways with your former wife and the mother of your three children?
I believe in destiny, and I take things the way it come. Marriage is a contract between two parties and in a contract you can have someone breaching the contract. I believe that is how the marriage is destined to end and I am cool with it.