by Jim Donnett
With the recent conclusion of the AMVCAs, one of Africa’s biggest event that celebrates and heralds Africans and their indigenous works in the screen media, entertainment stars showed up in their troops for the epoch event with a select few smiling away to their homes clutching the award. Amongst them, is the Lupita Nyong’o-compared man of the moment, who pulled the award for best actor in a drama category. He beat other actors including Majid Michael who even had two nominations. Wow!
Playing the role of Jude who later transitioned into Lala in A Mile From Home, this AMVCA win for his first major lead feature on screen, is only the beginning of the best things to talk of in his acting career. He is TOPE TEDELA and I hope you enjoy reading about him like I did, talking with him.
Teen Y!: I’m proud to present AMVCA winner, Tope Tedela as the newest feature in Teen Y! Meet The Stars series. You know, this is actually cool because we did a lot of coverage on the AMVCA and today, look where we’re sitting now *smiles*
Tope Tedela: Oh really? That’s cool
Teen Y!: Yeah, you should look up our site you know, we’ve got a lot of great stuff going on there.
Tope Tedela: It will be my pleasure
Teen Y!: So… ok, now we know Tope, the AMVCA winner. But asides that, who is Tope really?
Tope Tedela: Well, I’m an actor fundamentally but in the recent past, I’ve been a broadcaster. I worked in radio as a presenter, as a news reader, I’ve worked in television as a presenter, as a news caster… I write, I proofread, I edit text, I’m a guitarist
Teen Y!: You’re a guitarist… wow!
Tope Tedela: Yes, I play the guitar a bit, I sing a bit… I just love the arts generally
Teen Y!: That’s cool. Now, we would be reliving the AMVCA experience (again), you were category winner for best actor in the movie…
Tope Tedela: A Mile From Home
Teen Y!: And so you played what role in that screen picture?
Tope Tedela: I played Lala
Teen Y!: Lala. Now who… I haven’t seen A Mile From Home anyway
Tope Tedela: A lot of people haven’t seen it either
Teen Y!: Exactly, so give us an insight into the movie and Lala
Tope Tedela: Ok, Lala was a good boy from a good home in the university and on his 18th birthday, his dad gave him an expensive gift and all of a sudden, this guy comes from the blues and just hijacks it from him, bullies it off him, takes it from him and Lala goes to seek… well, Lala is Jude actually. Jude was the good boy; so he went to meet a gang to help get his stuff back and avenge like… the taking of his gift, so in the process of going to meet the gang, he had to join them and all of that. Even though he really didn’t want to, he had to join them and he became Lala and the story just goes on from there
Teen Y!: Interesting, A Mile From Home actually started with Jude now and then Jude transitioned into Lala
Tope Tedela: Yeah
Teen Y!: How do you marry these personalities. First, there’s Tope and then Jude, then Lala
Tope Tedela: Well…
Teen Y!: Where does Tope fit in? Is he more of Jude or all out Lala?
Tope Tedela: Well, does Tope fit into any? In reality, may be Jude has some traces of Tope but Lala is not anything like Tope. That’s where the acting prowess comes in, you just have to rely on your imagination and othe artistic creativity
Teen Y!: Alright, you must be really good. I mean you beat everybody in that list to win, even Majid Michael
Tope Tedela: You know, did I beat the? Really, it was an honour to be in that category and with those guys
Teen Y!: Yes and I understand everybody is a winner but eventually, there must be the who goes home with the title or will I say the prize… in this case, the award
Tope Tedela: Sure sure
Teen Y!: So yes, you beat everybody in that category to clinching the award
Tope Tedela: I think the young people who are online on Twitter, on Facebook who supported, who helped the journey you know I just have to thank them for making it happen
Teen Y!: How did you feel… you know that moment when your name was called as the winner for that category, how did you feel?
Tope Tedela: First of all, I think you’ll feel shock, you’re just like “wow”… the shock makes you go “oh!” and then you try to regain yourself, regain composure. It’s surreal, there are a lot of emotions just mixed at that point but your own emotion is joy, happiness, gladness, you’re just happy that there’s a place called forward where you’re all heading to
Teen Y!: That must have felt so good, I can imagine. I’ve always fancied screen acting and I hope I get there some day
Tope Tedela: You could
Teen Y!: The Tope connection now right?
Tope Tedela: I hope so
Teen Y!: Alright, so moving on quickly from the AMVCA and into other more personal issues, what kind of a boy child were you… how was the whole childhood/growing-up experience?
Tope Tedela: Ah, what kind of boy was I? As much as I was cool headed and gentle, I was also very mischievous. Honestly I was mischievous and I did some really terrible things. The truth is at some point in my growing up, my father wanted to take me to like a juvenile jail
Teen Y!: Really!
Tope Tedela: Like prison for young people and stuff like that
Teen Y!: Ah! The Justin Bieber treatment
Tope Tedela: (Chuckles) but you know, I think my mum pleaded during that episode and I was let off the hook. I really gave my folks some issues but I survived
Teen Y!: You mentioned being mischievous, can you share some more on what those things were… did you knock up a girl, did you do weed, crack?
Tope Tedela: No, no… well, I’m not really…
Teen Y!: Did you bash daddy’s car?
Tope Tedela: Oh everybody bashed daddy’s car, that’s one of the thing, I bashed daddy’s cars
Teen Y!: (Laughs) daddy’s CARS! You bashed them, wow
Tope Tedela: No sorry, daddy’s car. I’ll take what doesn’t belong to me, I’ll just do nasty things… as in I was in boarding house, I’ll fly the fence, I won’t go to prep, I just did stuff
Teen Y!: These things don’t sound mischievous enough to me you know
Tope Tedela: Well, I just…
Teen Y!: Ok, did you get arrested for like may be driving without a license?
Tope Tedela: Well, I know I slept… ok I didn’t sleep, I was remanded in custody once but I didn’t spend the night there
Teen Y!: Oh wow! What did you do?
Tope Tedela: Errr… we’ll talk about that in a future interview
Teen Y!: Oh, oh… ok, I see you’re trying to be evasive now. But still on your many mischiefs, seeing as you didn’t do those other things, did you bring girls home? Like hide them in your room, of course you did
Tope Tedela: That’s the funny thing, not really. You know I was in boarding house and when anytime I came home, it’s not like I really had friends at home so I was just indoors, play game and stuff. Yeah, that was it. I lived a boring life so may be mischievous shouldn’t be the word, let’s just say I did some small small bad things. That’s what I should have said
Teen Y!: Ok, so we would totally edit that mischievous part and replace it with small small bad things (laughs)
Tope Tedela: Yeah, yeah… if possible
Teen Y!: Cool. Now, schooling life… fire on
Tope Tedela: Ummm… school was alright, it was good. Primary school, I was in the literary and debating society club for a while and then…
Teen Y!: Secondary school… those teenage years
Tope Tedela: Yeah, secondary school was really tough. At first, I didn’t like the fact that I was in boarding school
Teen Y!: What school was that?
Tope Tedela: Lagos State Model College
Teen Y!: Alright
Tope Tedela: I didn’t like it at the boarding house and even up till SS2 I’m sure I still hadn’t recovered from the fact that I was in boarding house. It’s not like I was a spoiled child, I just thought that I was an ok child.
Teen Y!: Sure, daddy was rich still
Tope Tedela: Nooooo, noooo
Teen Y!: (Laughs) ok, but family was comfortable
Tope Tedela: To an extent, you know my parents really really tried to give us the best and under the circumstances and looking at where my folks were coming from, I appreciate everything but there were rough times, honestly, there were times when we’ll just take garri, sugar and may be a satchet of milk to school and stuff. Things were tough and hard and all but we just kept keeping on believing that our folks loved us and that it wasn’t like they didn’t want to do so much more but the basics, they tried to provide and it was alright
Teen Y!: Cool. Now what university did you go to?
Tope Tedela: I attended University of Lagos
Teen Y!: Wow, UNILAG… and the toll keeps increasing
Tope Tedela: That’s like the best school on this side of the continent, as far as I’m concerned
Teen Y!: You know this! You soooo know this, although I didn’t go to UNILAG anyway (don’t ask me where I went to)
Tope Tedela: Ah, you should have
Teen Y!: Well, I still can… go back to UNILAG (laughs). So what did you study at Lag?
Tope Tedela: I studied Mass Communication
Teen Y!: Ok, that explains the whole inclination towards everything media
Tope Tedela: Yeah yeah
Teen Y!: How was university… who was the boothang?
Tope Tedela: Funny enough, I wasn’t… oh, there was this girl in year 1 and I really really liked her
Teen Y!: What’s her name… you will say her name?
Tope Tedela: Chinenye, I really really liked her but even at… that was my first year in school, I didn’t have the courage to…
Teen Y!: Awww
Tope Tedela: But that was then, now if I like you, I would tell you. You know, that was then
Teen Y!: But of course. And I mean, you’re Tope Tedela now
Tope Tedela: No, not even… even before, I’m just saying that as you grow, well, may be for some of us you begin to…
Teen Y!: Exhume confidence
Tope Tedela: Yeah, mehn you live only… you live just once like they say but not like you live just once, it’s about crazy stuff… I’ll tell you how I feel and all. But I really liked her and all that, I just never popped the question and said the word and you know how time just draws people apart and now she’s married so hey, that’s a closed chapter. But I really liked her then
Teen Y!: Oh woow! so after Chinenye, who else came on the roll call?
Tope Tedela: Well, there’ll be people that you liked and all that but at some point I just like mehn…
Teen Y!: So they were just crushes now right?
Tope Tedela: Yeah, people you liked and all but I never pursued
Teen Y!: Now, I’m sure you were quite the girls’ favourite back at school and you must have had crushes or crushees too… yes
Tope Tedela: Everybody does have crushes
Teen Y!: Everybody certainly does. How did you deal with crushes? Those ones people had…
Tope Tedela: Well, for some you end up being friends with them, getting close to them. Even there are people I had crushes on, I still like them. May be not as intense as before but I still like them but you see ehn for a long time, I wasn’t one to pursue. I was afraid of rejection, like if I was going to have a relationship, what if she said no? So I was very shy and laid back and all so I will just like you from afar, if we get to talk, I’ll enjoy the company and all but that was it, I just wasn’t the pursuer
Teen Y!: Ok, now you haven’t exactly said how you will deal with a crush on you, not you crushing on someone
Tope Tedela: Ohh, that was the question? Ohh oh mehn
Teen Y!: Like I said, you must have been quite the ladies charmer back at school
Tope Tedela: Well the question I ask is, how many people… even if 20 ladies like you, how many of these ladies can you deal with? So, for me the approach is to be friendly, is to be… try to be as much of a friend that you can be. I think there are times when you have to be explicit like, I know the way you like me and all but… I don’t believe in people wasting their time, I don’t. Because the babe may want something very serious and you just think she’s your friend, so sometimes you have to like make things clear about where things stand between you and that person, so that’s just the deal
Teen Y!: Hmmm, one very significant thing that comes with all these emotionally expressive subjects like love and crushing…I like you, you like me back emotional drama, is heartbreak. Have you been heartbroken before?
Tope Tedela: *sighs*
Teen Y!: Oh, you didn’t see this coming right?
Tope Tedela: The thing is, some people have this part of their heart where…
Teen Y!: Nothing can touch them
Tope Tedela: Yes
Teen Y!: (Laughs) you’re like that?
Tope Tedela: Yes, I’m that kind of person. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing though I think it’s a bad thing, so there’s that part of my heart where from when I was young, I’ve locked it up
Teen Y!: It’s like building walls around yourself
Tope Tedela: So I try not to let you get there. I’m not sure if it’s a good or a bad thing ‘cos I think it’s a bad thing
Teen Y!: Well, only you can know if it’s a good or bad thing
Tope Tedela: But it works for me. It’s one of my… and it’s not like I’m proposing it to anybody but life could be tough, life could be crazy, life could be harsh. So to alleviate pain for myself, I don’t build castles in the air. For instance, if you call me now and tell me you have a job for me, you have a script for me, an awesome script and we’re starting shooting next week and you’re paying me 20 million… it sounds good but no where in my heart will I sit down and start building castles in the air, mehn 20 million, that new job is coming, no! It’s until after it has happened. So I just keep my heart that way
Teen Y!: So you’re saying you haven’t been heartbroken before because you didn’t give room for that to happen?
Tope Tedela: Well, one or two times, you know you may have…
Teen Y!: Ok may be not heartbroken exactly but you’ve been let down on some emotions you had
Tope Tedela: Yeah, of course
Teen Y!: Now how did you deal with that
Tope Tedela: Mehn, I moved on. That’s just it and that’s why I told you that I just let… I talk to myself, may be not like talking to myself but in my mind, I’m like Tope ok, you like this girl but she didn’t really see you that way, just forget about it, mehn it happens and I just… like a day, 2 days, 3 days, a week, I’m cool. I’m done
Teen Y!: They say life is too short for iranu
Tope Tedela: Yeah, iranu. So that’s it
Teen Y!: Alright. You look stylish…
Tope Tedela: I do?
Teen Y!: I think?
Tope Tedela: Wow!
Teen Y!: It’s a typical… it’s a weekday and you’re not at work, you’re at Teen Y! office. So no, I didn’t expect you all suited up and stuff like that… like you were at the AMVCA (you looked good by the way)
Tope Tedela: Ah thank you, thank you very much
Teen Y!: So what’s your typical day outfit like? I mean you work in the media, you’ve been at radio stations, TV stations…
Tope Tedela: That was then, now I’m an actor
Teen Y!: Same thing, so what’s your typical day outfit like?
Tope Tedela: My typical day outfit is a pair of jeans, t-shit and comfortable sneakers like converse, all-stars which I think is the most comfortable shoe in the world
Teen Y!: And not forgetting the Ray Bans
Tope Tedela: Well yeah, this just came up but yeah, this is for the sun and to keep your identity a bit lowkey. That’s it, I’m laid back, very casual. I’m a very casual guy
Teen Y!: I can imagine
Tope Tedela: If I could wear jeans and t-shirt and converse all-stars on the red carpet, I would but hey, fashion police would break my head
Teen Y!: They would eat you raw
Tope Tedela: They would eat me raw, I know but I would try it sometime but not now
Teen Y!: Definitely not now
Tope Tedela: And may be by then, there’ll be nothing to prove anymore, may be in 8, 10 years, I’ll try it. I’ll just show up at the red carpet wearing jeans (laughs)
Teen Y!: Like Pharrell at the red carpet now or something
Tope Tedela: You know, that kind of thing
Teen Y!: Really cool. Your work, there are times it gets really stressful, right? Having to do takes on takes upon takes. So when you find the time to chill amidst all of that work craziness, how do you relax, what’s your favourite hangout spot, what do you do when you chill?
Tope Tedela: I’m a very boring guy honestly, I’m an indoor person really so it’s either I’m in my room reading, listening to music, playing along with the guitar to something I heard on the radio or talking to a friend, really or watching a movie. That’s it.
Teen Y!: Wow…
Tope Tedela: That is it. Honestly, I’m not going to say I go to one place, I do one thing… nah, I’m just like that.
Teen Y!: Now in this whole screen picture thing, who and who can you say are your influences or have been your influences? Home and abroad
Tope Tedela: My influences…
Teen Y!: Producers, Directors, Cinematographers, Actors…
Tope Tedela: Ok, the truth is growing up, there’s this Hollywood great called Clint Eastwood. I don’t think I’ll say he’s an influence but I watched him a lot growing up. My daddy used to have his videotapes and I used to watch it a lot. I really liked the way he acts, like a bad guy. His name is Clint Eastwood – For a Few Dollars More, For a Fist Full of Dollars, The Good, The Bad and The Ugly… those westerns and what they had going on
Teen Y!: Yeah, western classics
Tope Tedela: Exactly, those western classics now. I really liked the way he used to act in his films, I liked his voice and all of that. So yeah, he’s someone I really liked. The truth is, I gain from a variety, even with music. I can’t say… I like gospel music, I like R&B, I like soul, I like some highlife, I like world music, so I’m just… I’m a variety guy. As much as I loved Russell Crowe’s performance in A Beautiful Mind and Gladiator, I also enjoyed Johnny Goodman’s performance in Flight, which was a lot more recent. So I just like actors in different levels…
Teen Y!: Like a variety of experiences
Tope Tedela: Yeah, experiences. When you start saying things about best food, best actors, best this one… I’m not really a…
Teen Y!: You’re a variety person
Tope Tedela: Yeah, exactly. So that’s it
Teen Y!: Ok, that’s pretty cool. Moving on swiftly… oh yeah, celebrity crush!!! *drums on table* who is your celebrity crush?
Tope Tedela: You know someone had asked me this question before and I didn’t have an answer, it seemed like I was forming but I wasn’t. You know but in recent times, I’ve been seeing myself performing with Jennifer Lawrence in the near future
Teen Y!: Jennifer Lawrence is the celebrity crush?
Tope Tedela: I didn’t say she is but I’ve been seeing myself like performing with her in the near future so if you want to interpret that to mean celebrity crush, well it has to be looked into
Teen Y!: What’s it about Jennifer Lawrence that trips you?
Tope Tedela: I think she has a level of range and intensity that I really admire
Teen Y!: Oouuhh, watch out Jen, Mr Tedela’s on your trail
Tope Tedela: I’m on her case mehn
Teen Y!: And he’s gonna get you
Tope Tedela: Well, hopefully
Teen Y!: Only time will tell
Tope Tedela: Yeah, time will tell
Teen Y!: So now what other aspirations do you have?
Tope Tedela: Well, to keep doing good work, as an actor really… I want to work across the world. You know I’m a citizen of Africa and I’m also a citizen of the world as well, so I’ll love to work in Hollywood, I’ll love to work with the best of directors, work with the best of actors and do very great projects. I hope that with the gift I have been blessed with and the popularity that comes with being in this kind of profession, I would use it to better my world. Particularly I’m interested in… I’ve been saying this a lot, I’m interested in mental health issues. A lot of young people, teenagers, young adults, even older adults face issues like depression, like suicide and they really have no one to turn to because it seems like it’s a taboo to talk about these things, like it’s a bad thing but…
Teen Y!: Or like they sound crazy talking about it
Tope Tedela: Yeah, like how can you have depression, this is Nigeria… hustle hustle, hey hey, be strong… I’ll really like to work along these lines and start doing stuff soon
Teen Y!: So it means if you weren’t an actor, you’d have been a doctor like…
Tope Tedela: No, not like I’d have been a doctor, I’d have just been an advocate which I’m looking at you know, which hopefully I can be. If I weren’t an actor may be I’d have been a musician, really. And if I weren’t a musician, may be I’d have been a writer or a journalist but being in the performing arts, this is something that I’m passionate about that I’d like to do so regardless of what I’d have been, which isn’t doctor, lawyer or engineer, no… I’d have done something along this line
Teen Y!: Alright. Sadly now, this is like the very last question which will lead to more strings of questions depending on how you answer anyway… umm, this is like some days after your AMVCA win, how has the reception towards you changed, from your friends, from your fans, work folks and even family, how has all of that changed?
Tope Tedela: Well it just seems like a lot of people are happy for me really, you know it’s like it’s hard being an actor really, it’s a very hard job, very very hard job and the award is not even for me really, it’s just like for young people… all of us, we young actors, emerging actors in Nigeria particularly I mean, guys, we can do this thing, there is hope for us and it’s like mehn ok oh, I’m not holding it just for myself , I’m holding it for all of us, we can push forward, we can be the next big thing… that’s the deal. But it’s been good, you know it’s been good, at least you get called, you get calls…
Teen Y!: You must have gotten bazillion calls by now
Tope Tedela: Yeah, actually I have, I really have and I’m grateful. People I haven’t heard from in a long time, old family members, the press wanna talk to me and it’s humbling and a good feeling
Teen Y!: That’s nice. Thank you so much. I’m tempted to asking you what final words do you have to some teenager out there… you know how it goes
Tope Tedela: Yeah, yeah… you know, just enjoy life and as much as you’re enjoying life understand that to a large extent, you’re in control of your life and do what you want to do. Ask yourself what you really want to do, try to find that thing that really makes you tick. But I realized that for a lot of people because it seems like they don’t know what they want to do or what their dreams are or what their visions are, they just want to stay somewhere. Don’t stay somewhere, do something, volunteer somewhere, write an article, work in a gym, follow your father to work, follow your neighbor who you really admire to work, just do something… it doesn’t really have to be about money initially. But just do something because in doing something you find out, ok I don’t like this thing, I can do this thing, I can excel in this thing, oh I’ve tried this thing and I don’t like it but it seems I like this one… so just explore, that’s the word, explore! When you’re enjoying life, explore and pray please, to God. You know, He listens. There are a lot of our frailties and God knows that so hopefully, life’s gonna be better.
Teen Y!: Thank you so much Tope. We’re privileged to have had this wonderful talk with you. It was wonderful, thank you!
Tope Tedela: Thank you too and I hope it wasn’t boring?
Teen Y!: Oh c’mon, believe me, it was not. I even wished we had more time. It’s been good.
Tope Tedela: No wahala