Bimbo Akintola is the star of the moment. Since the premiere of the Ebola movie, ’93
Days’, some days ago, she has been getting thumbs up. The actor who just returned
from the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada, in this interview with OLUSHOLA
RICKETTS, speaks on challenges in the Nollywood industry, the late Dr. Stella Adadevoh,
and how she gives back to the society.
What came to mind when you were told about ‘93 Days’?
The truth is that like most Nigerians I did not understand what really occurred during the Ebola period at that point in time. So, I did not feel anything. I went for the reading with no emotion attached to it. It was until I went through the script I got the whole picture. I was touched; I felt it could have been a severe experience than we had.
As far as I am concerned, divine intervention as well as the selflessness of those doctors saved Nigeria. Though, you cannot take away the fact that Lagos State Government did their bit, the staff of First Consultant hospital in Obalende, Lagos, started the whole thing.
How did you feel while reading through the script?
There is no way you could casually say lives were lost. This woman died in her service to the rest of us, Nigerians. Knowing that she died for me was a big deal. So, I was very emotional when I went through the script and I still feel for her anytime I see the movie. Anytime I see the scene where she was talking to her son, who was outside the hospital, through the phone, it hits me that they are people who still miss her every day. She had a lovely life before she died. She had a son, husband, sisters and parents. All these people must now move on without her.
Do you have a cordial relationship with her family members, especially the husband and son?
I only met the son once and that was before the production. He spoke to me about his mother and how amazing she was. I do not have a relationship with them, unfortunately.
I wish I had met her while she was alive because I strongly believe I would have loved her person. I have heard many wonderful things about her.
Would you have agreed to be part of the movie without being paid?
I have paid my dues in the industry. If I were not paid, I would not have been part of ’93 Days’ but I would still talk about it. Let’s be sincere with ourselves; acting humanitarian will not pay my bills. We are in a growing economy, this is Nigeria.
I would have talked about her after reading that script even though I did not get the role. I feel it is importance for us to note that our heroes must be praised and remembered.
Would you ask a banker not to collect his salary for a month because of a humanitarian act? It is not possible because you must pay your rent and eat. This is my profession.
Does this mean you’ve not done a free job in recent times?
Why would I do a free job? Do you write for a cause? I am an ambassador for Mirabel Centre where we work with people who have been raped or victimised sexually. I work with them for free because it is something I am passionate about.
I work with another organisation that brings attention to the displaced people in the North. There are lots of Nigerians who do not have homes in the North. I do everything I can selflessly to help them.
Hearts of Gold Foundation in Surulere, Lagos, is also very close to my heart. There, they take care of children who have all sorts of diseases and make sure they get the proper care they deserve. Even if a child may not survive as a result of a terminal condition, they make sure that his or her last days are beautiful. So, I will not ask anyone to work professionally for free but you must always give back to the society in a way. I have younger people I mentor too; I call them my daughters. I am open to anyone who needs my advice and mentorship. I am also starting a project where I would be talking to secondary school students on what is going on in the society and the fact that we have lost who we are as a people. We are Africans, we are Nigerians and we have so much to be proud of. So, I love to remind young people about our pride and culture.
Do you think it is worth dying for Nigeria?
Yes, it is worth dying for Nigeria.
What is the most challenging role you’ve had to play in movies?
All roles are challenging because you are acting a different person. But playing the late Dr. Adadevoh had peculiar challenges since it was a real event. She was someone who had a life and scarified it for Nigeria. It became so importance for me to give a believable representation of who she was. Before now, all the movies I have acted in are fictional. It could be a reflection of what is going on in the society, but not real. Ebola lasted in Nigeria for ‘93 Days’ and we gave an account of it through a movie.
What are your unfulfilled desires?
It has to do with my career. I want to continue acting different roles, touch lives with what I do and speak more on what people are afraid to say.
Don’t you think you could get tired of acting and walk away just like Regina Askia-Williams and Liz Benson?
We are different people. I am like my mothers in the industry. I have Taiwo Ajai-Lycett who I know would act till the day she dies. I also have Joke Silva who I know would act till death comes. I would also act till the day I die. Acting is one of the reasons I am here.
Have you ever thought of venturing into politics?
I have never thought of that, but I am always open to changing lives.
Are you avoiding politics because you feel it is dirty?
If something is dirty I feel it is our duty to clean it up. Politics is dirty not only in Nigeria, but in many other countries as well. I would say I’m not involved yet because I have not seen where I am needed. If anyone shows me where I could be of use to the younger ones, I may want to consider it.
How did your background influence what you do today?
All of us are a product of our experiences, which include our backgrounds. My background has influenced everything that I have done and I am. It is how I learnt to become who I am today. What do you miss about growing up? If anyone gives me a magic wand to take me back to a 16-year-old, I would reject it. I started working at 16. The only reason I may love to go back to those years is if I could take along all the experiences I have learnt.
What is the biggest cooking blunder you’ve committed?
I do not look at things as blunders because every experience no matter how bad it was taught me something and made me who I am today. So, I look at them as steps that you take to become the person you needed to be. And there is none of these I regretted because they had brought me to this place.
Your tears are on real on screen; when was the last time you cried in real life?
I cry out of frustration at times. When I am upset, I cry. For me, crying comes very easy because I am a very emotional person. If I am angry and you ask me to explain why I am angry, I would cry. I am that kind of person.