Actor and movie producer, Peter Ijagbemi is a prominent face in the Nigerian movie industry. He dominates both the English and Yoruba sectors. The Thespian, a graduate of Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria and Masters’ Degree holder from the University of Lagos (UNILAG), also in Theatre Arts, in this interview with FEMI OGUNTAYO, speaks on his plans in 2021 and other issues in the industry. EXCERPTS:
How would you describe your 2020 and what are your plans for 2021?
2020 was a great year for me. It was a year God really defined my course in the industry. I will say it was a year a lot of things changed for good for me. This year 2021, I pray that everything goes as planned. I was to set up my theater school this year, I also want to produce a lot of projects in terms of films and I pray God helps me in fulfilling all these this year.
Tell us briefly about who Peter Ijegbemi is?
I am a calm guy. Let me say, I am neither an extrovert nor an introvert, I am between the two. I am a playful person and I know when to be reserved. I am a married man, a proud dad, proud husband and a proud son to my parents.
How was your growing up?
My growing up was fantastic. I enjoyed both fatherly and motherly roles in my life, so growing up was a good one. I grew up in Ibadan, but spent some time of my life in Kogi, also some in Ilorin. So, basically, it was fun growing up.
So, what’s your educational background
I had some part of my primary education in Ibadan, Ilorin and Kogi States, but my secondary school was in a missionary school in Kogi State, it was a boarding school. From there I proceeded to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, where I studied Theater and Performing Arts. Before then, I had a higher diploma in Mass Communication but because I didn’t really like the idea of communication, I didn’t really love the course, I had to go for Theatre Arts.
I did the higher diploma in 2006 before going for BA in Theater Arts, then I did my masters in UNILAG in the same course and I majored in dance. I applied for a Ph.D, but because of the job I had then I couldn’t concentrate on the programme, but I just took another form in University of Benin to start another Ph.D. Then I have some professional courses I have done too.
What is your journey to stardom like? How did you join Nollywood? How did it all start for you?
Jeta Amata came to my school when I was in the university, he came to audition people because that is his style. He loves to use Theatre Arts students for his movies. So, I was lucky to be chosen as one of the winners, and that was my first major film. I did five scenes; the title of the movie was Sarauniya (Queen Amina of Zazzau). After that, I finished and I went to Lagos and later to Ibadan, where I joined ANTP, the Yoruba aspect of Nollywood. I had a boss then – Biodun Lawal (Diplomacy), I joined his caucus. From there, I just felt I should change, so I left there for Lagos, where I focused more on soap operas. It has been God all the way, God has been faithful. I have been moving from one level to another and I thank God I have not been stagnant and that is the most important thing.
What role do you love playing and which do you find challenging?
Every role is challenging and I cannot say I love a particular role. I love every role and every role for me is challenging because whatever character I am playing is not me. I am trying to put on someone who is not me, so every role is challenging to a professional. For a professional, every role should be loved, because if you don’t love the role, there is no way you will interpret the role very well. So, I love every role I play.
As a married man, are there roles you wouldn’t play because of your wife?
My wife knew what she was going to face when she married me. She married me as an actor so she already prepared her mind for whatever she was going to face. So, I won’t say I can’t play a particular role because of my wife. In fact, she will be the one encouraging me that, ‘baby you can do this’. Maybe you feel if I am to play a role where I have to kiss another lady, my wife will even be the one encouraging me that I should do it, because that is what brings food to the table.
As a thespian, what would you say distinguishes you from other actors in the industry? What is your unique style?
I can’t really say this is what makes me different from others; I think that is left for the viewers to determine. I just know that I try to deviate a little from what is common from the norm. For example, a particular thing happened and I was supposed to shout, I try as much as possible not to shout, to express my anger and not shout, still showing it in a very calm mood. I just know that the grace of God makes everyone different in their own way. So, I can’t really say this is what makes me different.
What are the challenges you faced on this acting job when you started?
Every actor faces challenges but one thing I think we should put our eyes on is the passion aspect. When you have passion for a thing, you won’t really see the challenges. Even as a journalist, there are a lot of challenges that come your way, it is we seeing you that will see the challenges, you will not even notice. Sometimes it is when you have left that stage that you will look like, how did I cope? When I started I didn’t notice the challenges. I think the common challenge people mention is the fact that they wouldn’t want to use you for lead roles because you are not popular yet, but that is normal because nobody wants to risk his investment.
A day you will never forget in a hurry?
On the job, I have not had that day yet; when it comes I pray it comes for good. But in my life, that was the day I had my first child – my boy, I was so happy that day, it was a great day for me, it was a day I will never forget.
How many movies have you produced in all?
I have produced only one movie, I titled it ‘Osojumi Koro’. That was four years ago. Since then I have not produced any other movie, any other movie you see me playing lead roles in are people’s jobs.
Can you tell us one thing a lot of people don’t know about you?
One thing most people don’t know about me is the fact that my gray beard is natural, I didn’t tint it. Most people always think I tint it white, no I didn’t do that, I was born that way. I have never grown a dark beard in that part, it has always been like that.
Do you get intimate advances from female fans? If yes, how do you manage them?
People will often come for you, especially when they see that you are a good-looking actor, but just be disciplined. I have never slept with any actress; I can say that with confidence. Even outside the industry, when I go to parties, people walk up to me you know, I just humbly and politely tell them, ah sorry I am not interested. So, it is just one of those things, but discipline counts on this job.
What do you think about the current state of the Nigerian movie industry?
I think Nigerian movie industry is getting there; we are getting there considering the type of movies we are producing. In terms of talents, we are not lagging behind; the only area we are lagging behind is the technical aspect. We also need more finances from the government and, most importantly, individuals. They need to see the movie industry as an industry in which they could invest in. Most movies that we have had in Nigeria that are fantastic, check their history, they are movies that they spent a lot on to produce. I also think we need to go back to base; we need to focus more on indigenous movies. No matter how much we speak that English, we cannot sound like Americans, so let us produce movies in our native languages. These are things Oyinbos want to watch, this I believe is a phase we will overcome, but I will say, we are doing well.
Do you have any hidden talent?
I could make a cracking sound on my fingers more than 20 times in a minute. I also chant, I do Ijala and ‘Oriki’ very well, but most people have not seen that in the industry because I have never played any role that I needed to do that. Another hidden talent, I sleep well (Laughs).
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