Oluwafemisola ‘Femi’ Jacobs is one Nollywood actor who has consistently impressed audiences. Born in Ile-Ife, Osun State, Femi is mostly known for his role in ‘Taxi Driver’, though he has been part of exciting productions like ‘Tinsel’, ‘The Meeting’, ‘Heaven’s Hell’, ‘The Visit’ and ‘This Thing Called Marriage’. Femi, who is a behind the curtain singer, in this interview by NEWTON-RAY UKWUOMA and some other journalists speaks about his career and passion.
Entrance into Nollywood
In 2006, I first acted in a movie called ‘Choices’. The movie was produced by the drama group of my church. I was in the choir, but they got me to act the lead. I don’t know how they got that impression that I could. The movie was directed by Don Pedro Obasi. It was contracted so it was a standard movie. It had myself, Desmond Elliot and a couple of budding actors in my church. It was a good experience. It was my first time in front of the camera and I am very grateful that I had that experience. People say I’m have a dramatic personality, that even when I am not talking that I give an expressive face; maybe that was why I got casted.
However, Don Pedro was so gracious with words. He kept saying, “Femi, you got this thing going for you”. So, I did that ‘thing’ well. Again, in 2008 my church decided to branch into TV series as well. They produced a TV series called Tango, shown on Kingdom Africa TV. I was also part of it. It was when we were on that that the director, Solomon Macaulay, said to me, “I think you should give acting a lot of attention.” So he wanted me to go to ‘Tinsel’ audition. I was like, “Leave me alone. I am too busy”. Eventually I managed to go. After the audition I was picked.And that was how I started on Tinsel from 2009 to 2014. I left officially in 2015. It was when I was on that series that the producer and directors of ‘The Meeting’ saw me and invited me to come for auditioning. So my feature in Tinsel brought about auditioning for ‘The Meeting’ and Nollywood.
The choir and music
I have been singing since I was a kid. I, however, started in my home church Rhema Chapel. Getting into my choir was quite dramatic. It started one day that we came for singles special at Fountain of Life Church and Pastor Bimbo asked for people who could sing. I raised up my hand and they asked us to come the following day for interview. Back then, I was running a laundry business and I had deliveries to make so I didn’t make the rehearsal early. When I got there later, they had already finished. A chap called James Bunor, whom I knew from my former church, said we could see Pastor Bimbo at her office. So we went upstairs. When we eventually saw her, she asked me to sing for her. I sang. She said to sing another song and I did. She then got up and took me to Pastor Taiwo’s office. When we got there, she said, ‘darling, you need to hear this guy sing’ and there were some people there and I began to sing.
When I’d finished singing, Pastor Taiwo said, ‘He sounds good’ and she said ‘good ke? He is very good’ and so she took me downstairs, called the musicians back and they rehearsed with me. After the rehearsal, I sang at that single’s special on Saturday and after I finished she said I should come and sing the same song on Monday for the singles fellowship.
Body of work
I have a new single called ‘Orunsi ‘(Heaven Is Opened). It’s already out. I have doing music in the sideline, but in terms of releasing digital commercial work, I’m just going back to it. The last time, I released a song was in 2004. In 2010, I did a number of songs but did not release them because the musical atmosphere at that time needed a lot of time and attention. Nollywood was also calling at that time. So it was not something I could give a lot of time to, but now I think am in a stage in Nollywood where I can decide when I want to go on set or not. That is why I want to release my work.
I think I have been lucky in so many ways, the chief of it is the fact that I ended growing up alone. Although my parents are alive, I left them when I was eight years old and I lived with my uncle. My uncle tried his best to put me through school, but he had his hands full. He had four other kids. It turned out that I was left alone. That gave me something to think about. Since I didn’t have anybody to drive a course into my head, I had the freedom to choose. That freedom came with responsibilities. I studied hard, read, researched and listened to my own self. Secondly, I discovered the spiritual side of me early enough and I cultivated it. I was like 13 or 14 years old when I gave my life to God. It really gave me some focus. I’m not perfect but it gave me some depth and discipline.
It was basically to aid all of these things that I have already talked about. I like the speaking and writing. I have a Master’s in Communication Business. I wanted to go into print production. I wanted to own a magazine. (Imagine!) Well, you know, in Nigeria schools combine every aspect of the media in Mass Communication. You have Advertising, Marketing, Journalism and Media wrapped in one course. And there would never be a time you are allowed to specialise, even PR is included. But that’s unlike the developed market of the world. I wanted to study abroad. I still went to IBS to Study Marketing Management. I was sponsored by the bank I worked for. We worked with the branch management decision. There was a time I had no choice. There was a time I had to go VI to work and at 4 o’ clock I would run to Tinsel at Ojota to film and then go back to work. But the truth was that acting made me feel good, it made me feel powerful, strong, it made me feel like I was making a difference; so, I decided to give it my full attention. It, however, took me away from the media, from marketing consultancy.
Busiest year in the industry
2014 was busier, but it was in 2015 that the movies began to come out and we still have about six or seven that are yet to be released. There was a time three of my movies were at the cinema at the same time and that can be good and that can also not be good, because overexposure is not so good and I think that is what happened and I realised that was not so good so I don’t get to compete myself in the cinema. But for over a decade now, we have seen consistent growth in the industry in terms of the quality of work produced. That is a good thing. I am busy now working. I have also been working on my music because I started singing before the movies came.
The Femi Jacobs personality
I am still evolving. I’m a relentless learner. I believe in personal revolution. In fact, I said somewhere that we are capable of a million evolutions in a life time. I don’t know why people say they are lost. Because someone broke up with you does mean you can’t make it. That you lost a job, or lost your parents doesn’t mean you are finished. We are capable of a million evolutions; so, I always say I am a being in evolution. Someone has once called me jack of all trades, but I just believe that if you put your mind on something, if you do anything for the right reason you will succeed.
Life off the stage
A lot of people don’t know I am shy. People don’t know I am simple. A lot of people think I am materialistic and quite a lot of people don’t know I am nice. Quite a number of people feel I am unapproachable and arrogant. I am extremely shy but these things I act I have to put them on and do what I have to do. You need to see me when I am going to church, I am literally running from the church to my car.
Role in Taxi Driver
My role in ‘Taxi Driver’ was amazing, I understand. After ‘The Meeting’, it was the next character film I played. You give yourself to characters everyday but there are some that you have to literally play in a particular way, otherwise it wouldn’t be believable. Adigun was that particular character. First, he is a taxi driver, a semi-literate taxi driver from Ibadan. He has never been to Lagos before, a man looking for his father, who left home 20 years back. Coupled with the peculiar nature of Lagos, one expected a very obtuse character and comic scenarios. And that wasn’t easy to put together. You had to become Adigun to be able to play that kind of character, otherwise it couldn’t just make a dramatic sense.
Working with Odunlade Adekola
It was amazing. He is a consummate actor. Sometimes I don’t know when he is acting and when he isn’t. He is just like that, a very sharp mouth, quick-witted and humble person. His perception of things is unique. You can easily see that he is dedicated to his work. He listens to directions. That’s what great actors have in common. They don’t discriminate. He is not caught in the tides between English and Yoruba movie. Give him a good script and he goes to work. That was why the chemistry was strong.
Family and Childhood
My dad is late but my mom is still alive. I was born in Ile-Ife and I spent seven years of my life there before I moved to my uncle’s place at Osogbo, and from Osogbo to Lagos. I am from Osun State, Ife Central Local Government Area. Once you have the right mind you become the centre of the world. It’s not your location or where you are from. It is your disposition. If you think right you will attract the right people to your life. I believe it is not about what you are lacking, it is what you know how to use, so make use of what you have to get what you need.