Actress, Jaiye Kuti, has wormed herself into the hearts of many lovers of Yoruba and English movies. Kuti, an astute producer and entrepreneur, speaks with SEYI SOKOYA, she speaks on her acting career.
How would you describe your experience as an actress in the movie industry so far?
It has been fun and taxing. This is what I have passion for. I love acting and it is really working for me. I won’t say it is challenging, because every other job has its own hiccups. My greatest achievement is that I have been able to set an eviable standard for myself in the industry.
You appear to be the toast of producers in the industry, especially with the way you deliver your roles. Does this come with a lot pressure?
It is good to know the principle of what you are into and also prove that you have got what it takes to stand out with your talent. I thank God that I have been able to prove my worth on the job. God has given me the wisdom to be able to use my talent in a unique way; but this did not come easy. I was able to have my breakthrough by being focused and determined since I discovered that this is what I love to do. I still have a lot to deliver as far as the job is concerned. I don’t see myself as the favourtie of any producer, I believe everyone in the industry is relevant and good at what they are doing. With my little experience, I see everyone as equal.
But you seem to be enjoying some degree of respect from your colleagues. They said you are a no-nonsense person. Is this true?
There is no hard or fast rule about the fact that respect is reciprocal. I have a good relationship with everyone and I don’t think I have had any nasty experience with my colleagues. I appreciate the fact that I have enjoyed a lot of respect from colleagues and I also humbly reciprocate in my own way. I love everyone and I salute them because they are really giving their best to lift the industry and entertain the people.
You have been frequent in the English and Yoruba movies. How easy has this been for you?
It has been the grace of God. I see it as a privilege and I am enjoying the challenge it throws at me. As for me, I don’t see any difference in both because it is all about acting. The English films have to do with soap opera, while the Yoruba mostly involves home videos. The experience is not different; it is all about reading, interpreting and delivering scripts. If you are talking about soap operas, the only difference is that one has to stay out of the house for a while for the movies, but as for soaps, one can switch between home and location for months because it has to do with episodes where one could have breaks after producing scenes in episodes. Soaps take longer time but one can still rest or do other things in between. At a point, I was overwhelmed with the Yoruba movies, but I don’t hesitate whenever I am called for English movies. In fact, some people still believe that I am a ‘soap opera actor’. Also, I usually play motherly roles in both.
Which is more financially rewarding between soaps or movies?
I would say both, because one will have something to take home at the end of the day. But soaps pays more because it takes longer time.
How much will it cost a producer to feature you in a movie or soap?
(Laughs…) I don’t think I am permitted to disclose this because it is a sensitive thing. One has to be very careful about it; it varies. In some cases, what you get for acting in movies could be more than soaps, or vice versa. So, I would not want to confuse any prospective producer, but I think a solidified negotiation could also guarantee my face in any work.
Why have you not been taking many lead roles in both versions?
That is not my fault and you should not forget the fact that I have to act according to the script. Also, virtually all our movies are mainly stories about man and woman. So, I will take the sub lead role as a wife or mother of the main character because mothers are seen as supportive agents to their husbands. To be candid, I really enjoy this role; it has also helped my personal life and enhanced the passion to deliver my lines beyond what I could imagine.
What exactly would you say has been helping your career?
I am enjoying the fact that I have a physique of an African woman. My stature and expertise in acting have contributed to what I am today. I have also been able show my fans that I am flexible and that I can take any role, either the good or otherwise. This is what shows a versatile actor. In fact, some producers have made people see me as a lousy, crazy person through the role they want me to play. As I said earlier, I like to play the role of a mother, because I have to represent the quality I possess.
How did you set into acting?
It started about 10 years ago. I started acting part-time because I was working then. I started with ‘Laffpatern’ and ‘Everyday People’. This experience gave me a platform to blend easily when I finally dumped the job for acting. Venturing into the industry was like entering a familiar terrain, because I was a convinced that I am talented. From soap operas, I later proceeded to home videos. I was one time Assistant Coordinator of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) in Ogun State. I later joined the Association of Nigeria Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP) where I started with Oga Bello, and then Jide Kosoko. The industry has been interesting. I have been able to learn a lot of things from the people I met in the industry.
What would make you stop acting?
I don’t think such will occur because this is what I have been doing for a decade, despite the challenges. I still have to stand tall to make sure I make a headway. Acting, for me, is life and it has also given me the platform to become a brand. This has also given me a leverage to enlarge my coast and most importantly to impact positively on the up-and-coming ones.
What have you been up to lately?
I recently completed a movie production. It was stressful and time consuming. On the other hand, it has been fun too, because this is what I love to do and it has been part of me to stay long at locations. I decided to take this job because I feel it suits my philosophy of making impact into the home, especially the women and children. I discovered that the script of the “Family First” soap opera film production will also afford me the opportunity to reach out to people. The script is good and the term is also convenient. The fulfilment overshadows the stress. I did not know why the brains behind the project selected me, but I think I have done my best and I hope they must have got what they wanted.
Does your home suffer much because you have to be on locations for weeks and sometimes months?
I must tell you it has not been easy; this is one of the hazards of acting. We have to face it as it comes. It is not as if I am totally away from home. I have my husband’s consent and I am connected with my home, even if I am away. My husband and I speak and pray every day. Aside this, I thank God that I have an understanding husband. I have his support in my acting career and he has always been standing in for me whenever I am away. I also have a mother that helps me take care of the children while I am away, while I ensure they enjoy me when I am home. It is a happy home that anyone could pray for.
It is believed that many actresses find it hard to put their home together as a result of their absence from home. How has your husband been handling this problem ?
I thank God that I am happily married to a good and understanding man. He has really been supportive of my career. Aside the fact that he plays his fatherly role to the children, he always covers for me whenever I am away. Unknown to many, we are still connected even when I am out of the house. We talk more on phone and pray together in the morning and before we go to bed. I have not seen any man like him.
What is your assessment of the movie industry?
The movie industry is growing fast, but we are still facing some challenges, especially that of piracy. The quality of movie production has improved and the industry has also empowered many people. But there is room for improvement and I know we will attain perfection very soon.
How do you handle advances from men?
This is normal. To shock you, I get advances from both the younger and older men on daily basis. I cannot hide the fact that I am beautiful and that I have a fine physique that would make any man want me, but as a mother and a wife, I have been applying wisdom in handling them carefully.