by Wilfred Okiche
Nollywood actor and television host Joseph Benjamin has come a long way from his humble beginnings working as a bus conductor in Lagos and plying the Ojuelegba-Ikeja route. He spoke with us recently about his career moves, humble beginnings and love for his leading ladies.
Enjoy excerpts from the conversation.
You have worked with all the leading ladies in Nollywood. Which of them did you enjoy working with the most?
I enjoyed working with Genevieve and I just did a film with Rita not too long ago and it was a great experience.
Is there any one of them who has underwhelmed you while working with them?
Amazingly enough not really.
I read somewhere that you were a bus conductor at one point in your life but I find that hard to believe.
Why would you find it hard to believe, are conductors not human beings? Why is it out of place for me to have been one?
Okay let me put it this way, I don’t even think you would make a credible conductor on film.
That is the problem but, yes, there is a point in my life where I was a conductor, in Lagos here and my route was from Ojuelegba to Ikeja.
Was this before school or after?
It was in between my university days.
What led to that?
Every man wants to survive, irrespective of challenges. You do not have to let your limitations determine who you are and where you are going. You should always be ready to rise up to the challenges of whatever that you are facing. I was having issues then with family and all so I was not ready to come out a failure.
While you were doing this, did you have it at the back of your mind that it was going to be temporary and what kept you going?
All the jobs I did at that point were just to get what I wanted. I worked as a conductor, as a waiter, as a security guard, sold shoes at Balogun market. But they were all what I had to do at that point to move to the next point.
How does one go from being a bus conductor to becoming Joseph Benjamin?
Determination and perseverance. That is basically it. You can achieve anything you want to as long as you set your mind to it.
Yes but in practical terms what did you do?
I guess its desire. A drive to win, passion. Every day I wake I feel I can do so much more so this inspires me to want to go further and positively inspire my generation.
The first film I saw you in was “Tango with me” which is a very well made film but then most of your work after that has not measured up in terms of quality. Are you satisfied with the roles you have taken on so far?
So far yes, some have been good so yes, I am satisfied. There is a lot more and I am open to more challenges so it can only get better.
Do you think you have done your best work?
Your best is relative to what your mind is set out for. So for me I think that you cannot set a projection and say this has been my best job so far and the shut your eyes to so many more that could come after. I won’t say that I have done my best. It is a process and I am getting better every day. I have had quite a few challenging roles and I am happy the directors were impressed. I always like to set targets for myself, I always like to push myself so I don’t get complacent.
Which of these roles have challenged you the most?
Two actually. The first was when I had to play visually impaired and I had to connect so that viewers can feel it and the next one was when I had to play a dude that was confined to a wheelchair. They were difficult.
Have you gotten to a point where you are tired of playing the romantic lead or the love interest?
One has to be very careful so as not to get placed in a strait jacket. I try as much as possible to make sure not to place myself in that box where all producers and casting directors think when they look at me is this lover boy. I want to show my versatility so no I am not comfortable with just being the love interest.
What would make you turn down a role you were offered?
I have turned down a couple of roles before because in terms of content and quality they did not measure up and I do not want to be taken advantage of. When I look at the script I ask myself what message is it sending. I always tell my people that beyond entertainment, we should look at this platform as an avenue to sensitise the people. This is your podium to speak to the people so we should look to generate good content. If I look at your script and it is not adding any value to the system or to my life as an actor then I will turn it down. People just don’t respect the industry just because we only entertain.
You have worked as an actor, television host, voice over artist, which of these would you prefer?
Oh! So when is the album dropping?
Soon enough. I have a passion for singing.
On a scale of Chris Brown to Luther Vandross where do you fall?
I do soul music. I’m not sure where that places me on your scale.