’Only Deyemi the actor need be in the spotlight’
From featuring in several school plays at five, to starring on the Ndani TV-produced Gidi Up with the likes of Joke Silva, and then starring in the yet-to-be released Road to Yesterday alongside Genevieve Nnaji, the rise of Deyemi Okanlawon has been meteoric. He now ranks as one of the brightest talents rubbing shoulders with the very best in the industry.
In this chat with ENCOMIUM Weekly, the married Chemical Engineering graduate opened up on why he keeps his marriage and family away from the spotlight. He also talked about his career, his growing up days and his passion for baking…
What project (or projects) are you working on currently?
I’m currently in between projects and taking a much-needed break from acting. However, I have two movies coming to cinemas in few weeks Road To Yesterday with Genevieve Nnaji and Beyond Blood with Joseph Benjamin.
How and when did acting start for you and what motivated you into the career?
My being on stage was in primary school, I was about five and featured in every school play. As an adult, I’ve participated in several amateur drama groups including God’s Function (HICC) as well as Xtreme Reaction and Snapshots (Covenant Christian Centre). All the while I had a career in Sales and Marketing. I eventually switched careers in 2013 to full time acting.
What is a chemical engineer doing on a movie set as an actor?
My father is an Aircraft Engineer and I guess I wanted to grow up to be like him so I opted to study an arm of engineering – chemical engineering. Looking back now I’m thankful for my choice of study which helped me develop a very analytical, solution-centred mind which I now use to break down scripts and characters.
Did you dream of being an actor, even while growing up?
I always thought of acting as a serious hobby, something I’d always do, but never really considered it as a career choice until one day, to my utmost surprise, someone offered me a role in a movie and paid me! That was when I realised I could earn a living doing one of the things I love the most and which I could possibly be the best at.
What was growing up like and what role did it play in your choice of career?
I grew up in a family of seven – parents and siblings, each one of them very unique characters I loved to mimic. Also, I spent a huge amount of time in story books. I found out early that I enjoyed visualising myself in these stories.
You are passionate about baking, do you still bake these days?
How do you guys know about that? No, I wish I had the time to. Once in a while I help out at Bakers World, my mom’s store, during the festive periods and would sometimes decorate a cake or two.
What’s the one experience from your growing up days that you hold dear?
Having a deep spiritual awakening at 10.
Which role would you regard as your toughest challenge in your career?
Every role comes with challenges – physical, mental or emotional. Blink, which is on my YouTube channel, was physically draining – we shot scenes under water and spent weeks doing breath exercises. In Glass House, an African Magic Original Film, I was mentally tasked playing both roles as a set of twin brothers, while there is a very emotional scene in Gidi Up, on the Ndani TV YouTube, that haunts me till today.
How would you describe your experience in Nollywood since you started?
I have been very fortunate and blessed to work with some of the most talented veterans and emerging talents, working on some of the best projects on this side of the Atlantic.
Have you had cause to turn down roles for reasons other than your schedule?
Yes. Often times I’ve had to let go some projects because I did not quite believe that the story being told or the character being offered was appropriate for me at that particular time.
What do you consider the highlights of being an actor?
Working with hugely talented creative people from across Nigeria and the world to create movies or plays that people would get lost in and connect deeply with.
How about the downsides?
I’m honestly yet to come across a downside.
Are there roles you would never play?
It all depends on the “way” the story is being told, it is quite unlikely.
Of all the projects you’ve featured in, which would you regard as your most enjoyable?
As long as I’m acting, I’m in full enjoyment mode.
Have you featured in a role that mirrored or was similar to your reality? Tell us more about that.
I try to avoid roles that are too similar to who I am. Where’s the creativity and fun in that?
Did you foresee yourself achieving this much success when you started some three years ago?
I hardly stop to look back and pat myself for any achievement but I’m actually a very optimistic person and my faith is predisposed towards being successful in everything I do.
What would you attribute your success to?
If you describe this phase of my career as successful, then it must be as a result of my absolute faith in God.
Who are the movie stars that have inspired you over the years?
I’m inspired by movie stars all over the world, in Nollywood, Hollywood, Ghallywood and even Bollywood. Some of my all time favourites are RMD, Desmond Elliot, Denzel Washington and Daniel Day Lewis – I just realised they all have D in their names.
What’s your typical day like?
On a typical work day, I wake up really early, get a quick workout, speed through my domestic routine and spend the rest of the day at work. Sometimes I’m on location for weeks. Other days, I just slow things down a bit and replace on-set work with the business side of acting and brand building.
What kind of people do you surround yourself with?
My inner circle comprises very positive and very supportive people – mentors, friends, family. The one person who gives 100 percent of both is my wife.
How long have you been married for?
It would be three years in a few weeks.
On a scale of one to 10, how much of a family man are you?
10! I am first, a family man, most of my decisions are largely based on the impact it would have on those closest to me.
You keep your family away from the spotlight, why’s that?
Only Deyemi the actor need be in the spotlight – it’s his job. Deyemi Okanlawon and his family are doing just fine without it.
What are those things and people that mean the world to you?
I genuinely love to see young people succeed and grow and always make out time give a hand or, at the very least, a word of encouragement or advice.
Being a famous young actor with all the attention and praises can be quite intoxicating, how do you remain grounded?
With the kind of family and friends I have, there’s little chance that I’ll ever get swollen-headed – the fear of their knocks keeps me in check. Also, one of my mentors is Pastor Poju Oyemade, I’ve had the opportunity to observe him closely and I understand how to handle attention.