By Ikenna Obioha
Nollywood actor, Tope Tedela is fast becoming a household name with his acting skills.Debuting in 2006, his decade-long acting
has garnered him critical acclaim, with multiple industry awards like the AMVCA and AMAA to his credit.
In this chat, the Ekiti State indigene and University of Lagos Mass Communication graduate talks about his current projects, work ethics and the state of Nollywood.
Do you like your job as an actor?
I love my work as an actor, but I have come to learn that loving it does not mean the absence of challenges or that I do not have times of worry and despair. In spite of the odds, I am passionate and courageous enough to keep it moving by the grace of God.
What inspires you as an actor?
I am inspired by the desire to experience many lifetimes in this lifetime of mine. I do that through the characters I portray via different media, and I want to portray these characters to the very best of my ability as much as it is within my power. Books, music and simply watching and observing people inspire me. When I see something interesting about a person, I make a mental note; I write it down and see how I can incorporate it into my work.
Who are your acting role models?
I draw inspiration from a lot of actors. In an industry with quite a number of very talented actors, both young and old, it is a chore to pick one or two.
In a low funded industry as Nollywood, describe your experience as an actor. Do you think Nollywood with its latest offerings is moving in the right direction?
I think that the film industry has come a long way, and though, we are not yet at the Promised Land, we are not where we used to be. In the last five years, we have had a number of titles that we can be proud of as a people, and a lot more are going to come.
What was your first acting role? Describe your emotions on set.
My first proper acting role was playing Julian in 2006 in ‘Edge of Paradise’ and it was a case of wanting something so badly, getting it and then being so afraid of it that you want to let it go. That was the feeing I had when I got on set to commence shooting. I remember telling the director, Mr. Greg Odutayo of Royal Roots that I could not (do it) and that they should hire another person. My jitters were that serious. However, he and the rest of the team encouraged me and the rest is history.
In ‘A Soldier’s Story’, you played the role of a soldier while in ‘Slow Country’ your role was more of an underdog, did you find it difficult playing these very different roles?
That’s the beauty and indeed the joy of acting for me – that opportunity to switch between the spectrums of human emotions, existence and realities. It is what makes the acting process exciting: the fear of taking on roles that are outside my comfort zone, plunging in, taking the dive and coming out successful on the other side. Also, having the courage to look yourself in the mirror and admitting that you could have done better and work harder and smarter as you go along.
Since the release of ‘King Invincible’ and ‘Slow Country’, what have you been up to?
I have been working on ‘What Lies Within’, a feature film I co-produced with Vanessa Nzediegwu and Paul Utomi. I have also been working on the telenovela, ‘Jemeji’ where I play Obi, a good-natured scammer, who is way overhead in a scam and is trying hard to keep his life together.
Tell me about the new film project.
It is a drama thriller film that chronicles 24 hours in the life of a family, as they try to cover and uncover secrets that could affect their lives forever. It stars a gamut of seasoned actors like Ebele Okaro, Michelle Dede, Kiki Omeili, Paul Utomi, Ken Erics, Okey Uzoeshi, Odenike Odetola-Odeleye and a cameo by Yaw. Paul Utomi, Vanessa Nzediegwu and I also appeared in the film.
It was a passion project that we tried to get off the ground and it has been over two years in the making from production to its eventual release in September. It is full of suspense, intrigue, and a few laughs, and I trust that audiences would have a great experience.
Describe your role in ‘What Lies Within’.
I play Gboyega in ‘What Lies Within’. Gboyega is trying to win the heart of his girlfriend’s mum at their family gathering, but he is also suspecting something foul going on with the family.
Describe your experience in the principal photography. Is it different from anything you have done in the past?
Making ‘What Lies Within’ was a totally different ball game because I wasn’t wearing my acting hat. I was wearing my producing hat so I had to be mother, father, caregiver, motivator, problem-solver and many other things that took me out of my comfort zone. Working with Paul Utomi and Vanessa Nzediegwu and sharing the burden made it so much better than it might have been.
We had to deal with the usual – hiring, making decisions on the direction and approach to take on the film and so on. In all, it has been an arduous but rewarding journey because I have grown to be a better human being, and I can see the filmmaking process in a more holistic manner.
Do you have a phobia for anything?
Off the top of my head, there’s nothing I can remember having a phobia for.
Are you currently in a relationship?
Right now, I am just trying to focus on my career and in due course all good things will come.
What do you do to relief yourself of stress?
I read a book; I enjoy music a lot and I watch movies. I also enjoy board games like Scrabble.
Do you enjoy doing sport? Which one?
I enjoy doing sport and I think every human being should engage in at least one sport or the other. I play tennis and I swim.
Do you play any musical instruments?
I can play the guitar to save my life. And I try to play everyday.
Do you have aspirations to cross into music making?
It depends on what you mean by crossing into music. I have been in the choir, I have played with a small band and I still do some songwriting. I live music so there really is no crossing to do.
For N30 billion will you quit your acting career?
You never always know what you would and wouldn’t do until the situation presents itself. I love acting and it is a very fulfilling endeavour for me, hence, I would want to continue doing it N30 billion or not.
What advice do you have for aspiring actors?
I would say the focus should be on the work/craft of acting and on being the best actor and human being you can be. Acting is a job and it should be treated as such: show up on time, be a team player, do not be the weak link, get training, formally or informally. In addition, have a good attitude and remember that the world does not revolve around you.