HAFIZ Oyetoro is really doing well for himself, starring in countless soaps and movies. He is making appreciable impact in the industry. Recently, he was nominated for an international award, via his comic roles in movies.
Hafiz is married to a beautiful woman, Olaide and they are blessed with three children. The University of Ife (now OAU) graduate had his Masters in African Studies. He has started his Ph.D programme in Performance Studies at University of Ibadan. In this interview, he shared with ENCOMIUM Weekly how the journey began, his foray into advertisement and sundry issues.
How did the journey into comedy began?
As a boy, I used to take part in our end of year drama in school. Even in secondary school, I was part of it, I was an ardent member of the dramatic society. I discovered that they gave me roles that were interesting, by the time I finished secondary school, I had picked interest in acting though I never had it in mind to study dramatic art. But with the activities and interest in the programme, I used to watch on OGTV, I made up my mind to study dramatic art. I never had comedy in mind, I was a full theatre practitioner but unfortunately people thought I was funny, some even told me that I am a better comedian when we compared my comedy and acting.
What are the gains and pains of your career?
Let me start from the pain. There is a saying that, ‘No pain, no gain.’ In terms of work experience, the attitude of the society to theatre practitioners is discouraging. They are not really appreciated, I was wallowing in poverty, in fact, if poverty were a man, I would say I have dined and wined with poverty. We have done a lot of things together, I mean, with poverty, a lot of people discouraged me at the beginning, but today the story has changed. In fact, I just received a letter that I have been nominated for an international award. I can say God has been good to me, I made what can make me and my family comfortable. I will consider this as the gain of being a comedian and actor. At least, I can say I am a sought after actor, recognized to an extent. I give God all the glory, I think for now I thank God, I am comfortable.
How do you feel when people laugh at your jokes?
I feel fulfilled, it is like when a baker bakes bread and people appreciate what he has done. When people laugh it means they appreciate what I do, it makes me feel fulfilled and I appreciate God for the gift He gave me. It makes me happy because I believe it is what God sent me to do, if I can see fulfillment in it then I believe God will applaud me as well.
Can you remember your first comedy show?
This comedy thing started when I was young, but when I got to the university, I was doing it with one of my friends known as Yinka Kunle and some other people, we had a comedy club, we went for variety shows, that was around 1986. We realized like N20, by the time we shared the money I got N3. Nigeria was very good then, if you had N50, you had a lot of money. I used that money to buy Ankara and it lasted for a long time.
Can you remember the film that brought you to limelight?
I think it is a combination of all my early works, but there was a police drama series known as Area C, I think after that people started identifying with the man called Hafiz. I also did another one known as House Apart, I played Ashaka in the series, I believe these two shot me to limelight,
Between acting and comedy, which one are you most passionate about and which one brings better financial reward?
Acting, it is still acting. Comedy is another form of drama for me, in comedy, I can act a drama, so I will put everything under acting, though I am still a lecturer in Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education.
It seems you are into soaps more than home video?
Yes, though I don’t have any particular reason for that. I am working on movies as well. It is just that I don’t accept some movies because I don’t appreciate them, they might not be up to my taste and standard. I am also an academician, I have done my Masters and started my Ph.D. I have always tried to stick to my standard though I have taken part in a lot of movies, but more in the Yoruba genre. Some producers don’t call me that is why people don’t get to see me much in movies, though I don’t have anything against them, some people even believe it is only comic roles that I can do, probably that is another reason I don’t appear in movies. Things have changed in the movie industry, there are better scripts now, people write and produce better movies, in fact, the award I got nominated for is in a movie. Then, I also co-produced and directed, in some of those movies, I might be playing another role different from appearing on the screen.
What are the basic elements of an entertainer?
An entertainer must be a serious-minded person, such a person must be creative and innovative. He must be honest and have self-control, he must have the fear of God, he must not be a pretender. An entertainer must be a role model because that person is also portraying other characters, revealing the negative and positive sides of a character. Such a person must not be found doing what he or she is trying to correct. An entertainer has tools, his body, voice, facial expression, they are the natural tools given to them by God. An entertainer should have bundle of talent and training, the talent should be polished to bring out the best in them.
You are also into advertisement, how did you get into it? What are the major jobs you have done, and how much did it fetch you?
Advertisement is part of acting, it is a short film, I did malaria advert, I did some for NNPC. It was a producer that contacted me for that, I have done a couple of others but I wouldn’t want to disclose how much I was paid.
Which one has been more rewarding between advertisement and acting?
What you collect for a 13 episode in a television series cannot be compared to what you will collect for advertising, you might even collect three times that amount. Adverts are special aspect of theatre, it pays more, it gives less stress and plenty money. Advert pays much better than other aspects of acting.
Some people see Hafiz Oyetoro as an albino?
No, Hafiz Oyetoro is not an albino, he is a light complexioned person. An albino, according to scientists has a malfunction in the blood, I am not an albino. But I am very close to an albino, every hair on my body is black. I have gone to the hospital, I have been tested, I am not an albino, my children are not as fair as myself, they are in-between.
You appeared in Tunde Kelani’s O le ku, but after that, you disappeared again for sometime before people started seeing you again?
I was doing my Masters degree at University of Ibadan, I wasn’t totally out of theatre but I was more into stage performance. I was doing a one-man show, I used to do it at the University of Ibadan, Ilorin and Ife. When I finished my Masters degree, I came back fully into the industry.
Tell us about your background.
Hafiz Oyetoro is from Iseyin in Oyo State. I had both my primary and secondary education in Iseyin. My primary school was at Baptist Primary Day School, while my secondary was at Koso Community Grammar School. I had my first degree in Theatre Arts at Ife, my Masters was in African Studies and I am currently running a PhD in Performance Studies at University of Ibadan. I am married to a beautiful woman who understands and accepts me the way I am. Her name is Olaide, we have three lovely kids.
THIS INTERVIEW WAS FIRST PUBLISHED IN ENCOMIUM WEEKLY ON TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 14, 2010