Femi Jacobs is one of the most-sought after actors in Nollywood right now. He has featured in award winning movies and even has a handful of awards to his credit. ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with him on his sojourn in the make believe world…
Femi Jacobs left a lucrative job for acting sometimes back, why did you make that decision?
I wouldn’t say that I left a lucrative career for acting per say. My going into acting was a gradual process. I was working in a bank at the same time, doing a business in marketing communications alongside acting. As a result of that, much demand was being placed on my time. I realised that I had to make a choice between doing my business, acting and banking. Those days, I would leave work at 5pm to go on locations. At times, I’d take permission to go on location. I was not as effective as I wanted. I wasn’t giving my utmost best in either of the two places so I had to make a choice. I realized that the opportunity running my business and working in the entertainment industry would give me was far better. I finally made a choice to stay in my business and acting.
Looking at it, I think working with the bank will bring more fulfillment than acting?
That is your own assessment. It is a matter of choice. I can understand perhaps you mean banking will bring more money than the other sector. I doubt that very much. You have never worked in a bank that is why you have that assertion. There are so many people in the bank who are struggling. One must always do what will bring fulfillment. At the end of the day, you should be a blessing to people and solve some problems. When everything was becoming too stressful, I had to quit the one I was not particularly talented in. The one that couldn’t give me the deep fulfillment I wanted. So, I left the banking sector.
Looking back now, is there any regret?
Absolutely not. It is obvious to everyone that I have had more successes in acting than I ever had as a banker. In the banking sector, if you are not at the middle or top management level, it is really a struggle, to be honest with you. It is better to make a choice and do what will bring fulfillment. Acting has been wonderful. The recognition, the response, the awards have all proved that I made the right choice.
How will you describe the experience as an actor over the years?
It has been quite rewarding. It is the grace of God. The kind of progress I have made in the industry as regards my career is more than what I expected. I was hoping I would spend several years in the industry before I can get those recognitions. I am quite happy about it. I am happy that I got the right kind of roles. I have met the right kind of people. God has been very gracious to me. Looking back, it is the best decision I have made as per career.
What do you look out for when accepting a script?
First of all, I look out for the strength of the story.
Every actor should make up their mind on the type of actor they want to be. Do you want to tell an inspiring story about families, success, integrity or you want to be a commercial actor? You have to make up your mind. I decided to go for those stories that can inspire people. Not just making films for the sake of it. I ask questions like – will it add value to people’s lives if they watch it? If the answer is no, then I reconsider my involvement in it.
I also look out for who is going to direct it. Who will be in it. All of that will determine how the story will be interpreted and how it will come out at the end of the day. I need that confidence when we start working.
Have you turned down any role before?
Every actor has turned down some thing before. A lot of people turn down stories because their schedules cannot accommodate it. Some because they don’t really like the story. But I have said more yes than no.
Can you share some of the challenges you are facing as an actor?
I think it is very hard to find materials that are relevant to Nollywood to read. I don’t think a lot of people, most especially our veterans have done so much as regards to that. If you go online to find materials you can learn from, you will find more about Hollywood. They have written a lot about their industry. In Nollywood, that is not the case. It is a challenge to me because I like to read. I like to know about history.
I am hoping that the more experienced practitioners in Nollywood would write their experience down. I know Uncle Charles Novia has done something like that. I wish they could share more on how to become an actor. What to do and not to do. I see a lot of young actors who ask questions on how to join Nollywood, it is unfortunate that I don’t have any reference to give them.
Second, we will also say that we are not doing a lot to train our people. Actors don’t develop professionally apart from what they learn on the job. I would like to see that change.
Third, I don’t think a lot of people take film making as a business. They see it as something they are just passionate about. I want us to be more business minded so that we can attract investment.
How did you get your role in Tinsel and how will you describe the experience?
I acted in a film titled Choices in 2006. It was a film done by my church (Fountain of Life). The director was Pedro Don Obaseki. He encouraged me to go into acting, that I could do it. But I told him that I just wanted to carry on with my job. Later, the church wanted to do a series titled Tango and it was directed by Solomon Macaulay who was also then an actor on Tinsel. He forced and dragged me to go for Tinsel’s audition. When I got there, I was given a script, I read it and two days later, I was called to come for a role. It was the first proper set I’d acted on. I was quite impressed by the work flow, the ways things were done, the atmosphere, the studio. It was my first time in a standard studio. I am grateful for Tinsel. It really helped a lot of people to learn more about the work. A lot of friends were trained in South Africa. I think it has contributed to the television series in Nigeria. It was a wonderful experience. It was on that series the producer and director of The Meeting saw me and invited me for an audition.
What drives you despite the success you have achieved in a short time?
I think we are driven by what is inside of us. Usually, the vision is greater than what your present realities are. I don’t think I will leave the industry anytime soon until I have made a mark in the process. I have to contribute my quota. Most of the challenges I talked about are things I have vision to resolve. You can’t keep waiting for other people to do it. You have to proffer solutions too. I believe God has given us an opportunity to make an impact. We should look beyond receiving awards but rather look at how we can join in building the foundation and structure of the industry. It must be better than we met it. Those have been my driving force and my vision. I know most of my colleagues share the same vision too. We are not stopping any time soon until we achieve those things.
How do you remain grounded despite limelight because it gets into the head?
Humility is not natural. I don’t think it is something one can achieve by one’s ability. I trust the power of the Holy Spirit in me to manifest the grace I need to be someone whose life honours God and blesses humanity. Every day, I pray for such grace. I thank God for His grace and mercies. I hope I get better than I am right now. Naturally, I could never be grounded except through God Who gives the grace.
Who are your role models in the industry?
My role models are plenty. There are friends that have made profound impact on me and there are those I admire their works. When I got to the set of The Meeting, I met a lot of people who were very kind to me. They have formed part of my family. They have shown me things, they have been gracious enough to enlighten me. Mildred Okwo, who directed The Meeting is one of them. She is a teacher, coach, someone I can call if I have a challenge with my work. She will tell me the truth about my work. Part of that family includes Nse Ikpe Etim, Rita Dominic, Kate Henshaw and a few others I met afterwards like Ramsey Nouia. I met RMD at the very first time I wanted to attempt acting. He has been a great source of inspiration. Uncle Olu Jacobs too. A lot of them locally that I learn from. I am impressed by Denzel Washington’s career. He is a grounded actor. He is focused on his trade. He has been able to build an impressive career.
In life, my role model is my Pastor Taiwo Odukoya. He is an amazing man.
Do you have favourite actors, actress you enjoy acting with?
They are many. I have met a lot of wonderful actors in the course of my work. All the actors in The Meeting and a few others I have met after. Don’t want to run into trouble with names here.
What is your love life like?
I don’t want to talk about that yet.
Do you think you will use your license as a commercial pilot to fly one day?
Flying is a hobby for me, one that I hope to invest in much later in life.
– SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN