’Cos of my medical training, many didn’t believe I could act —Kiki Omeili

Nollywood actress, Kiki Omeili, known for her role in Blessing Egbe’sLekki Wives, a TV Series, has etched her name on over forty mainstream movies, winning awards and nominations locally and internationally since her emergence in 2011. The Lagos University Teaching Hospital trained physician-turned-actor in this interviewed by Newton-Ray Ukwuoma bares it all out.


How has this year been for you? We learnt you recently landed an international nomination?

Yes o. It’s  been a very good year. I won the 2016 GIAMA Best Supporting Actress Award for my role in Sting. I also won the City People Award for Best Supporting Actress. I won the Best Female Act award at the “Lagos 30 Under 40” Awards. I have other nominations from the SCREAM Awards and the Most Exquisite Lady Awards. My first international nomination was the Berlin International Film Festival in October for my work in Deluded for the Best Actress in a short film.


All in 2016?

Yes. All in 2016. This year has been very successful for me career-wise. 2016 saw my directorial debut for my short film “Unprotected”. Before now, I had never produced a movie.


You  have also been doing a lot of comedy skits lately. How did your romance with comedy begin?

Yeah. [Smile] You know, in this industry, not many role interpreters like to be stereotyped. And speaking personally now, I like to do all genres of film. I like  people to see the different sides of my skills; you know, to see that I am a well-rounded actor; that I can pull through any role – be it drama, comedy, romance, trailer or action. When Yomi Black reached out to me to do comedy skits. At first, I was quite skeptical. You know, comic actors are almost always being stereotyped. I didn’t want to do it at first. But because I wanted people to see that I can do any role that’s thrown at me, so I got in and did Sunday and Lolade. And ever since, the skit has taken a life of its own on social media. The views are crazy. Needless to say, people love it.


Do you want to continue in this path, or it ‘s just a phase?

Like I said, it is not a phase. However, I don’t want to be a comic actor, because that’s not who I am. Doing comedy is just to show that I can do anything. As to your question, Yes, I will continue the skits definitely. It is loved by so many people. I guess it brings happiness to them. For instance, I have gotten so many messages from people who say they got better after watching my skits from their hospital beds. Some also tell me that they got out of depression and sadness after watching the skits. These are the things you hear and you know that you are impacting positively on people’s lives. I will continue doing that. And will also continue doing my drama and my health advocacy.


We also know you were a doctor before being an actor. Does your medical background in any way influence the way you undertake your job as an actor?

First, I must say that the medical field in Nigeria still has a long way to go. It has grown, yes.  A lot of the things that were not available ten years ago are now available. There were so many surgeries, tests, procedures that people had to travel abroad for that are now being done in Nigeria. Regardless of that, we still have a lot to do. Apart from people in the medical field, we as a people, also have a role to play. A lot of people are uninformed about how to live healthier and better lives. People do things that endanger their lives on a daily basis. Why? Because they are ignorant of how dangerous these things are. So for me, I try to use my experience to pass some of these pieces of information across through drama. I try to fuse my knowledge of medicine into role interpretation, into everything I do. I call it Health Advocacy. Apart from films, I give health advice on social media, participate in awareness talks like breast cancer, cervical cancer, dyslexia and other health causes. You know, any means to get the message across.


Your producing debut, Unprotected, was health related. How much did you borrow from your experience as a medical doctor in producing the short film?

The story was someone else’s story. But I witnessed it as a medical student. When you’re working in a hospital you see so many stories, you come across so many situations. The truth is there aren’t too many of them that stay with you the whole hog. That particularly story really stayed with me. I have always said that if I had the opportunity to produce a movie, I will do it first. That’s what I did. It was basically to tell people about how their actions hurt other people, regardless of how they think their actions affect them alone. The short film was a way of telling people that actions have wider impacts.


Do you intend to do more health -focused stories in the future?

Oh yeah! But here is the thing, the focus will be to educate people about the basic things that can help them prevent even life-threatening diseases. It is not really about sermonising the message, but also infusing a lot of entertainment in it.


Some of your posts on social media address the challenges faced by the girl child. At this time, what will be your message to them?

I think what the children, especially the girl child, needs in life is some kind of mentor, someone to look up to, someone that will always be there for them. Girls in the process of growing-up and discovering themselves go through much. And it does take too much for someone to suppress them or for someone to make them not have the feeling of self-worth and self-esteem. Depending on those around them, they may be convinced to go into early marriages, and not make much out of their lives. The truth is that women have the capacity to do so much. We recently saw a woman running for the president of the most powerful nation in the world. I am passionate about the girl child because there are so many outdated practices that shouldn’t be done to the girl child that we still see. Things like female circumcision, early marriage should not be heard in 2016. I want to encourage girls especially to believe in themselves, to seek ways of adding value to the society.


You have been in the movie industry for how long exactly?

For five years.


How many movies have you done so far?

If I have to give a round figure, I will say about forty.


Was it easy breaking into mainstream movie production?

Initially, it wasn’t easy. I had a lot of trouble convincing people that I was talented enough to be here. When people heard I had a medical background, they just felt like,“what is a doctor doing here?” But I have been lucky enough to be given the opportunity to prove my craft. Now, I have comfortably cemented my place in the movie industry.


In the process, what were the challenges you encountered?

There were so many challenges. You have the challenge of people believing certain things about actors. People think you are what you portray in movies. Actors are almost always seen as the extension of their roles in real life. That is not so. Then, can we talk about loss of privacy and private life? That’s already peculiar to the industry. There are other challenges here and there.


If  you are to pass across a message to producers about yourself, what will it be?

I will tell any producer that I am a versatile actor, a well-rounded actor. Also because of my background, a little bit more aware about several things than the average person. I have the ability to interprete any role that is being thrown at me. It will be of great value to your production to cast me in your movie.


Have you played your most challenging role yet?

I always say that I have played challenging roles. But the truth is we don’t know what is ahead of us. GbomoGbomo was very challenging for me. The character was nothing like me at all. To be able to play that character, an uncouth person who does not speak any English except Pidgiin with the mannerism, believably was very challenging. Sting, the one that won the 2015 GIAMA for Best Supporting Actress, equally gave me a lot to chew. It was emotionally and physically challenging because I played a rape victim.But have I played my most challenging role yet? My answer is I can’t say until the challenge comes.


Looking at your international nominations and the skits that have been on social media platforms, would you grab international recognitions if they come?

Is it possible? Yes. And if they come, will I take? Of course. I think every actor will welcome the challenge of showcasing their crafts beyond their comfort zones. I will definitely.