by ‘Jola Sotubo
The announcement of relative newcomer, Tope Tedela as the winner of the award for “Best Actor in a Drama” at the recently concluded Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards, was received with shock by movie enthusiasts.
Tedela was nominated for his role in the movie “A Mile From Home” and was placed in the category alongside more popular actors like Majid Michel, Hlomla Dandala and Juma Rajab Rashid.
YNaija.com had an exclusive interview with Mr. Tedela, his first since winning the coveted award, and he revealed how it felt to win and also the plans he has for the future.
Full interview below:
YN: How does it feel to be the man of the moment?
TT: It’s a good feeling. I feel humbled and I’m grateful for this time in my life
YN: How do you feel about being described as Nigeria’s Lupita Nyong’o, since you literally came out of nowhere?
TT: Well, I wouldn’t say I came out of nowhere since I was involved in some things before the movie but being compared to Lupita is definitely an honour and again I’m humbled by it.
YN: You’ve been involved in the media for a while, working in radio and even on television, what sparked this interest?
TT: I grew up in an environment where you have to do some soul searching and know what you want to do with your life so that definitely helped. I discovered that I wasn’t attracted to the sciences but I loved the arts. I was interested in motion pictures, writing and acting was top of the list. At the time I didn’t think acting was something you could do for a living but that has obviously changed now.
YN: Were you expecting the award?
TT: It was a 50/50 thing. I wasn’t being a pessimist but I wanted to keep an open mind so I didn’t set my expectations too high. However, I still had hope somewhere in my heart that it could happen.
YN: There was a tweet posted by media practitioner, Olumide Iyanda stating that you haven’t been paid for your role in the movie, is there any truth to that?
TT: It’s a common practice in the movie industry for an actor to see a script he likes and agree to work without pay, if funding is an issue, with the hope that he would get remunerated when the movie is released and proceeds are gotten from sales. That’s what happened, so saying simply that I wasn’t paid makes the director, Eric Aghimien, look bad and that wouldn’t be fair because he’s a great guy.
YN: How did shooting the movie affect you as a person?
TT: It helped me to develop my imagination because I had to channel the character. There was also a lot of action and the fighting scenes proved challenging for me because I had to learn the right body language. The movie also taught me that sometimes people are forced into making choices that they wouldn’t ordinarily make due to circumstances.
YN: The movie was shot on a low budget so obviously you must have had some financial challenges along the way, what kept you going?
TT: Yes, we ran into some challenges but we kept going because we knew we just had to finish. We all had invested too much in the movie to give up so we were determined and we pushed through.
YN: Still on the movie, the action scenes were very realistic and it seemed like actual bullets were being shot, how did you guys manage that?
TT: I don’t take any credit for that, all the kudos goes to the director, Eric. He did a great job.
YN: How do you think winning the award will affect your life, personally and professionally?
TT: Winning the award has given me a platform to show that I’m talented and that’s something that a lot of young people don’t have. I feel really blessed to have the opportunity. The award has made a lot of people in the movie industry aware of me and that’s a good thing. As for my personal life, I think it’ll just make me a bit more cautious.
YN: You play the guitar and the piano; do you have any plans to go into music?
TT: I really love music and I have done it all my life. I sang in the church choir and I even joined a band where we wrote good songs and did the alternative rock kind of music so music is definitely something I’d want to explore.
YN: Do you think you will able to cope with your new found fame?
TT: I think I’ll be able to cope. My belief is that as a human being, you need to have discussions with yourself so that you can stay grounded no matter how famous you become.
YN: You are said to be passionate about mental health issues, any specific reason for this?
TT: I think that not enough attention is being given to mental conditions like depression in Nigeria and this is leading to young people committing suicide which shouldn’t be. I believe mental challenges should be given as much attention as AIDS and cancer.
YN: What plans do you have for your future as an actor?
TT: I hope to work with great minds in the movie industry, the likes of Tunde Kelani, Shirley Frimpong-Manso etc, and I hope to get great roles. I also want to improve my skills by getting more training.
YN: What is the one thing about Tope Tedela that you want the whole world to know? What’s your philosophy of life?
TT: I believe that everyone should show a little kindness and aim to make the lives of people around them better.