Lateef Olufemi Adebayo also known as Jelili, is one of the acting children of Salami Adebayo, aka Oga Bello, His hardworking, like his father’s, has endeared him to many and has equally earned him international recognition. The lawyer-cum-actor and producer shares with ENCOMIUM Weekly how he came to lime light, a glimpse into his formative years as the son of a renowned actor, his marriage and host of other things.
What year did you debut in the movie industry?
Yes, I played my first major role in 1996, but before then, I had been on and off the scene due to my academics. However, I came fully into the scene in 2006. By then, I decided to stop full practice in law.
Is it true that you are one of the highest paid actors in the Yoruba genre?
I have heard that over and over again , but I don’t know how much other actors are paid so, I can’t say if I’m among the highest paid or not. To the extent that many producers are saying hiring Femi Adebayo is big project, it’s all about being a brand and packaging myself well.
In the past two, three years or more you’ve featured regularly in most Yoruba films. What’s responsible for this sudden shoot-up in your career?
I quite agree that I have been very busy, but all the same, I give God all the glory for that. To the best of my knowledge, some producers just realized that I’m talented. They realized that despite my background, I can play any role in any movie or comedy. Before now, I was only playing the lover boy role but I guess they just realized how versatile I could be.
How do you feel each time you feature in a movie with your father?
The father and son relationship ends the moment we are on set. We instantly become professional colleagues and have to creatively interpret our roles. That notwithstanding, I always have the confidence that whenever I am on location with him, the movie cannot be less qualitative.
This is because of his experience as an actor and the fact that I learn from him. Whenever we are on set, it is a different thing because acting is make belief and we have to make the viewer have a feel of reality. It is no more a father and son relationship but purely on professional basis. We have featured together in many movies such as Jelili, Alade Owala, Alapata, etc.
How do you separate your emotions from the roles you play?
That’s where your professionalism comes in; apart from the fact that I have the talent, I also learned acting as a craft. I belief having a talent is one and learning the rudiments of the profession is another. Acting is all make-believe and for you to make your act believable, you must get into the character and believe you are actually the role you are playing.
Now, if you want me to be the lover of an actress I have never even met before, as a professional actor, it is easy for me because all I have to do is get into the character of her lover. After doing all that I need to do, I’ll drop that character. Separating your emotion from acting is based on professionalism, of course, because I’m a professional actor I find it easy.
What would you say acting has done for you?
Acting has made me great.
I hear that being a celebrity also comes with getting a lot of freebies from rich fans. How true is this?
That can be determined with the situation of the Nigerian economy. It’s rare to see someone give you a gift of say half a million. Among my male colleagues, it is rare but I am not sure of the female acts. At least, I am sure of myself, it has not happened to me. I have gotten gifts of N5, 000 recharge cards among others. But I know our ladies get gifts such as cars among other things but that hardly happen among the male acts.
How has your law background helped your career in the movie industry?
It helps in so many ways, but I have to go deeper. If you look at my movies, as a graduate of Law from University of Ilorin, my education level will showcase whatever I do, and that is the basic thing. To me, it is an investment for the future.
I am sure my calling in the entertainment world is for a purpose. A time will come when attention will move to other actors who are quite younger than us. So, at that point what do you expect me to do?
How do you handle female fans? Do you get a lot of pressures from them?
Let me start by telling you that my female fans are interesting. I appreciate them, I don’t joke with them. I came to notice that majority of the people that watch home videos are females, the guys don’t have time. In my home, my wife watches movies than I do, I don’t even have time for movies. So, I don’t play with my female fans. Some can get distracted by what they watch in the movies, but like I always say, I am one of the luckiest actors in Yoruba home video.
How many movies have you produced on your own?
I can’t count the number of movies I have done. If I have to give an estimate, I would say maybe over 500 movies till date. I have been doing this since 1996.
How about your acting school?
J15 School of Performing Arts was established in 2008, and to God be the glory, we have graduated over 300 students and so many of them work behind the camera and some of them are artists. I give glory to God for what I’ve been able to do, in my own little way to assist the youths that have so much passion for the industry.
So many of them have been nominated for awards as artists and they are doing so well. I have a couple of them, Aishat Lawal, she’s now a producer and also an artist, Tope Adeoye, a very good effect and makeup artist, Lola is also a very lovely costumier, Wonuola Adekunle and so many of them. What we do is we employ theatre graduates from any universities their lecturers. They take them mainly on the theoretical aspects.
What was it like growing up in a polygamous home under your famous father?
It was fun growing up because daddy is always acting. He only stops acting maybe when he is praying but every other time, he is acting. So, it was fun growing up under him. If you find yourself where we are all gathered, you will not want to leave us because it is all acting.
About six of the children of my dad are into acting. My brother, Tope Adebayo is an actor cum producer, while Sodiq Adebayo is a full time production manager. Rilwan Adebayo is a full time editor, while my mother is a movie marketer. So, acting radiates within the family.
With your busy schedule, how do you make time for your family?
Just like you journalists, managing one’s time is part of the profession. I have learnt to plan my schedule. My schedule can be very chaotic but the days which I devote for my family are sacrosanct. That is how I handle it. There is this common slogan we say among ourselves which is ‘The show must go on.’ This is irrespective of what happens except by permission. If I have to abandon the set, then there must be someone else to fill the space. The only time I had to abandon set was when my wife was in labour for our twins with the kind permission of the director and producer. If I wasn’t granted permission that means I have no option than to remain on set.
It seems you enjoy being a Yoruba actor than featuring in English movie?
The only reason I don’t really appreciate doing English movies is that one will automatically become artificial because English is a foreign language. Despite the fact that I’m well educated, I love our culture so much and that’s why I appreciate doing Yoruba movies. That doesn’t mean I’ve not acted in English movies. I was in Ladies Men, I’ve done Ladies Gang alongside Mercy Johnson and it wasn’t bad.
What are some of the challenges as a celebrity?
The major challenge is losing your privacy; no thanks to the press. I have always criticized journalists for writing controversial stories, mostly not balanced. One other challenge someone like me is facing is being harassed by female fans. But I have my way of managing it.
What do you have to say to your fans out there?
To my great fans, I want to appreciate them. They are the pillars behind me. I want to promise that I won’t disappoint them. I will add that they should keep showing me love and support so that I can do more.
Can you, please introduce yourself?
I am Femi Adebayo born into the family of Adebayo Salami popularly called Oga Bello. I studied law at the University of Ilorin and earned a master’s degree in law at the University of Ibadan. I am from Ilorin in Kwara state. I am married and have children. I am best described as an actor and a lawyer.
I am married to a wife with three children including a set of male twins and a girl. It is a complete team (laughs). All I need to do is to work harder and make more money for them.
– NIKE POPOOLA