By Ikenna Obioha
Playing the role of Ebisinde on MTV’s ‘Shuga Naija’, budding actor, Abayomi Alvin has won the hearts of many fans of the show with his simple boy charms and belligerent ways.
With a professional acting career spanning three years, the actor has appeared in acclaimed productions like ‘Jenifa’s Diary’ and ‘Isoken’.
Bagging a bachelor’s degree in Sociology and Anthropology from Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Alvin ventured into acting as a fulltime job. Before then, he considered studying Medicine and Surgery before opting to study Microbiology. The Ekiti-born star is also a screenwriter and model.
In this chat, he opens up on his career, love life and future prospects among other issues. Enjoy it.
How long have you been acting?
I started while I was in school. I think I got my first gig in 2013/2014. But professionally after school, I started in 2016; I took it serious… like a career, and not just jumping from school to acting. I attended Obafemi Awolowo University where I studied Sociology and Anthropology.
There seems to be a shift in your career path. Is acting something you walked into or something you always wanted to do?
If you look at it, it is not really a big shift. The beautiful thing about social sciences is the fact that you can work anywhere. And even while I’m acting in Nollywood films, I still get to practice some of what I’ve been taught in school. Is that really what I wanted to do? Well, I’d say yea. I’ve always seen it as a hobby. But I decided that I really wanted to act in 2014. Before then, I have always thought of… honestly, don’t let me lie, I never really knew what I wanted to do until I started acting. I have always thought, okay, medicine, but I didn’t get into medicine. I had to do microbiology, and then sociology, I just never really knew what I wanted until… okay, I’ve always had this (acting) as a hobby, how about doing it for real, as a career?
With impressive movie titles under your belt, do you think you could have carried on with acting if you didn’t get an opportunity to star in these acclaimed movies?
It is not about window of opportunity or anything. Trust me, I went for the audition. The window of opportunity is probably you are in school on your Instagram page, and the producer or the casting director sees you and they are like, ‘oh, you, come and act this film’. No, I went for the audition, I remember then going for ‘Tinsel’ audition, even the first MTV’s ‘Shuga Naija’ audition, I went for it. I wasn’t picked. I went for ‘Isoken’ audition; I was invited, same thing for ‘Jemeji’. I went for all these auditions, even including this ‘Shuga’. I won’t say… definitely opportunity, but again it is because I went for it and not because I was sitting in my house and the opportunity just came to knock on the door, no!
How has ‘Shuga Naija’ impacted your growth as an actor? Also, talk more about the role you played.
I played the role of Ebisinde on ‘Shuga’, he is a teenager who has to make a lot of choices in his life, which is what human beings are about, what teenagers are about. How ‘Shuga’ has impacted my life? I would say a whole lot. The other day, I was in Babcock (University), and you needed to see the love from Babcock students. I was in Port Harcourt, same thing. I was in Ghana, same thing. The love is crazy. People get to see me and be like, ‘oh, the guy from MTV Shuga’, instead of the usual protocol. Definitely, the show has been a huge part of my life, my career. I totally appreciate the platform; it has really been awesome. The thing about ‘Shuga’ is not just about entertainment; it is also about passing a social message.
You hinted on your truancy in high school, did this make your role as Ebisinde easier to play? Do you find acting easy?
When I got the Ebisinde role, I had to dig into my past as well to connect with this character because acting is really about connection. If you cannot connect with the character, the audience will see it. And then finding acting easy? Hmmmm… sort of, but not totally because Ebisinde wasn’t written for me, it wasn’t written after my life. Definitely, sure, I was able to pick some points from my own life to connect to Ebisinde… definitely, I did my own research, how people below middle-class, how people at poverty level behave. Totally, it is not as easy as it seems, but again, I’m an actor, that’s my job.
When you mentioned that you wanted to become an actor, did your family support you?
Yes, they supported me fully, totally, completely and irrevocably. The thing about my family is that when I came of age, they left me to make my choices. The first 16, 17, 18 years of my life they were making all the choices. So, if they keep making all the choices for me till I am twenty-something, why am I a human being? Why am I a man? But they believe they have taught me, at least my background, they have impacted me enough. So, they believe whatever I am doing is what they have taught me. The least they can do is support me so that I can make the best decision and stand by it.
Can you speak more about your scriptwriting, how do you go about the process of writing?
I am a screenwriter; I have got projects on screen. I was part of the writing team for ‘Jenifa’s Diary’, seasons 9, 10, and 11. I wrote ‘You, Me & the Guys’; it is (showing) on Iroking till today. I also wrote ‘30 Pieces of Silver’ as well as a series, ‘African Beauty’, I wrote 26 episodes.
Do your scripts project the African narrative?
One thing I have noticed about Nollywood is that we love dramas a lot, which is not bad, but again, we love relationship dramas a lot. If you check an average Nollywood story, we get to see a lot of drama about relationships and love. Somebody loves somebody, somebody is married to somebody, somebody is having problems in marriage, and somebody is breaking up. You know all these kind of stories. It is not bad but I felt Nollywood is saturated with all these kind of stories. We have other storylines to explore. What of the child from the ghetto, what is happening to him? Education? Our stories don’t necessarily have to be about someone getting married. My stories kind of deviate a little. I like stories of grass to grace; I’m not saying that is my forte but I love those kinds of stories. I feel we have not told enough of those stories, like the real struggle, action part, and not just about drama, about that person that meets this person and falls in love, but the action part.
Apparently, most scriptwriters don’t feel appreciated like their western counterparts, compared to actors. What is your take on this issue, who is more appreciated in Nollywood?
Let me not be diplomatic about it, actors are more appreciated. This is more or less so, even in Hollywood. You get to see the actor even before the director or the producer. Actors are the faces of the film. Maybe the reason some screenwriters in Nollywood are feeling like they are not appreciated is the money.
Do you think there is a dearth of professional screenwriters in Nollywood?
No, there isn’t, if there is, then why are we the third largest producers in the world?
Tell us more about your modeling career
That started in 2011/2012. I have won a pageant, Mr. Ideal Osun State, and Mr. Ideal Nigeria. I have done a couple of runway shows: African Fashion Week Nigeria, Fashion TV runway show. I did a couple of commercial jobs as well for Diamond Bank, Fidelity Bank, Glo, and MTN.
How has your modeling impacted on your acting skills?
Actually, they are a bit connected. I mean, at the end of the day, both a model and an actor, they are in front of the camera. Yeah, as both, you have to have that confidence. Being a model before I became an actor kind of boosted my confidence; instead of starting from ground zero as an actor, I started from maybe like ground three or four. As a model, I’m already used to the camera, all I have to do now is learn my lines, be a good actor.
As an up-and-coming actor, do you think you have big shoes to fill in terms of replacing the likes of Ramsey Nouah and Saint Obi in the boy charm/bad boy category in Nollywood?
Definitely, big shoes, but you have people who have been playing these roles for years, the audience love them, people want to see them more and more, but again, they can’t keep playing these kind of roles. So, anybody who is filling those shoes or any set of new generation actors definitely has a whole lot of shoes to fill, a whole lot of space to fill because they need to be able to see you without seeing RMD (Richard Mofe-Damijo), in the sense that you aren’t trying to ‘form’ how to be an RMD, you are not trying to form to be a Ramsey Nouah. And they also need to see you and be like, ‘okay, this person is doing well; he is not bad. Okay, maybe Ramsey Nouah can chill for a while and start playing fatherly roles’.
These people you’ve just mentioned had a whole lot of groupies back in the day, how has this experience been for you in relation to females who try to meet you or be in your face?
A lot of people come, everybody. At the end of the day, you choose where to draw the line, that’s just the best thing. One, you can’t be friends with everybody, you can’t date everybody, you can’t be intimate with everybody. So, you just need to know where to draw the line. As much as you are friendly, there need to be that invisible line.
And has this influenced your dating life?
Now, I will be speaking in two different angles: one, before dating. It kind of makes it a little hard to screen people. As a normal person who is just going about his normal, daily life, you will get to see people who are not so much into you, because you are you, you are not on TV. But with you being on TV gives you a bit of an edge, because now, everybody, Tom Dick and Harry wants to be on your case, wants to get to know you. You don’t even know who is real and who is not real; who is faking it. So, it makes it a bit hard to meet someone who is real. And then when you now finally meet someone who is real, it also makes it a bit hard because an average human being is jealous. Whether you like it or not, the thing is just a degree of jealousy, whether it is high or low. So, if you have a high degree of jealousy, a partner who is quite jealous, and you are on screen at some point becomes a problem because this person, this girl or that girl is going to be shouting your name from somewhere. ‘Oh, let me hug you, let’s do selfie’ and all those things. It is going to affect it. But then, you just need to find somebody who understands. If an actor or an entertainer can find that person who understands, I think they can… and again, the entertainer should give him or herself some sense, and not deliberately frolic around.
Have you found this person?
I think I did, but for now, I am single.