With a first class degree in Drama and Performance from the University of Wolverhamption, United Kingdom (UK) and triple distinction in Performing Arts from the City College Coventry (also in the UK), Adesua Etomi could pass for a genius.
The light-skinned beauty is well versed in the finest character depiction techniques as evident in her performance in productions such as Knocking on Heaven’s Door, Gidi Up, Lasgidi Cops, and others.
In this chat with ENCOMIUM Weekly, the screen siren debunked the idea that being light skinned is an advantage in Nollywood. She also spoke on sundry issues…
You are regarded as one of the fastest rising actors. How does that make you feel?
It’s very flattering to get recognized for doing something you love and it is nice to have my work appreciated. My goal is to continue to improve as an actor and make this world better.
What do you have on your hands now?
I’m preparing for a film called A Couple Of Days, basically doing character work and learning my lines. I will start shooting in few days. I really like my character, so I’m looking forward to a great shoot.
In the early days of my career, it was the challenge of being given an opportunity to show my acting skills. Thankfully with time this has gotten better. Now, maybe it would be the challenge of type-casting. It’s very easy to find yourself in a box because of a previous performance. I have so much acting to give and I would love to show how diverse I can be, if given a chance. An actor lives to play different people. And last, there is the prejudice of being light skinned. There is a school of thought that says Nollywood likes light skinned actors, so a few mischievous people will allude to that being a reason for the amount of work that has fallen on my plate. I wish this was the case and while everyone is entitled to their opinion, no Director has told me I got a role because I was light skinned.
What’s the most tasking role you’ve played?
That honour would go first to Amaka Obiorain LasGidi Cops; she goes undercover a lot and has to play different characters on the show. There are several other roles that have challenged me emotionally like Muna in Falling, which was produced by Uduak Isong Oguamanam and would be out in September. And you already know Debbie in Knocking On Heavens Door. Every role is somewhat challenging in their own right. If it wasn’t, it would not be acting.
Who are those that have influenced you as an actor, both locally and abroad?
Locally, I absolutely love RMD, I like Rita Dominic, Kalu Ikeagwu and Kate Henshaw and one day I hope to work with them. Internationally I’m inspired by Daniel Day Lewis, Meryl Streep, Leonardo Dicaprio and Julia Roberts.
Tell us, what was it like working on Knocking on Heaven’s Door?
Knocking On Heaven’s Door was like being on a roller coaster ride, emotionally and physically. It was my first film and so I was new as far as film terminologies went. All the training I had in the UK was for theatre, so hearing things like CU, Medium shot and the likes was brand new. I remember quietly pondering how we had so many takes, quietly because I wasn’t about to blow this by asking rookie questions. I simply opened my eyes and ears and took in every single thing. I was a sponge on that set, determined to learn everything. So, In a nutshell it was like going to school all over again.
What do you look out for in your scripts?
It all starts with a good story. It must have realistic dialogue that is believable and character wise I look for depth. There is also an intuitive connection with the script and character. These things are spiritual; the voice in my heart has to sing when I read a script. I really just want to be a part of great projects that inspire or heal people and a good script is the foundation.
Have you had cause to turn down a role, why?
Yes, because unfortunately there are only so many days in the year and scheduling challenges arise. Maybe one day we will have 60 days in a month and 24 months in a year so I can be a part of everything. But till then I’ll do what I can and hope I make the right choices.
As a stage performer also, how is it different from screen?
They’re two different ends of the spectrum performance wise, but they both require discipline and a lot of hard work. With the stage, everything is in the moment, it’s larger than life so you have to project and externalise. With film, you have to hone it in. The voice level comes down because we have body mics and the sound guy may go deaf if your voice goes above a certain decibel constantly. Film also requires a lot of control and subtlety is king. Movement in film is also reduced because it takes a long time to set up camera positions and lighting. On stage you can traverse the length and breadth of your space and the audience won’t lose you. Film is majorly internal unlike stage which is external.
Having stayed and schooled in Britain, what would you say is the difference between their movie industry and ours?
In the UK, my performances were on stage. I am not in the best position to compare both industries from a first person perspective.
You have quite an impressive CV. Would you say that gives you any edge?
It’s always good to get training in whatever field you’d like to pursue. This does not however mean that you cannot excel as an actor if you don’t have a college degree in the arts or something related. A lot of people are naturally gifted and training improves your techniques and gives you the skills to harness an innate ability. I’m grateful for the training I have. If you are in a position to get some training in the arts, I’d say it is a great idea. Back to your question, do I have an edge? I honestly don’t know.
You could have stayed back in the UK after your studies to practice, but you returned instead. What informed the decision?
I wasn’t planning to move back to Lagos when I did. Frankly, I quit my job over there because I grew discontent and restless. The idea was to visit for three months, but it has been three years. I stayed because Nollywood welcomed me and my love for acting refused to take a back seat anymore. It is a decision I’m glad I made.
Don’t you think the exposure you would have gotten there surpasses here?
Maybe and maybe not. A seed will grow in Nigeria or America if the conditions are favourable. For every successful British actor, there are hundreds of struggling actors. It is the same thing over here. The exposure of Nollywood has grown and continues to grow. Our movies are on Netflix now, and that’s a platform that is very popular in the West. I’m just happy to act, whatever geographical location I find myself is immaterial.
You are undoubtedly a beautiful young lady; how do you handle the male folk, especially your fans?
I have the most polite fans ever, there is no weirdness. They say the nicest things to me and I haven’t yet had any reason to feel any fan has been intrusive.
Is there a man in your life right now?
Yes, Jesus is the number one man in my life. My father and brother are also men in my life. I could go on, but it only goes downhill from this point.
How do you handle all the adulation and spotlight you get as an actor?
God is very comfortable with my success as He made it all possible. Is that the right answer? Seriously though, I share so much of me with the world that for sanity sake I like to keep certain aspects of my life extremely private. This road we are headed leads to a dead end!
You will be the first to know when the bells are ready to ring.
Fame can be quite intoxicating. Who are those that keep you grounded?
God first and then my fantastic support system, which is a mix of family and close friends. Aside these, I have an outlook on this fame business that keeps me very grounded. My journey has only begun and it would be a bit premature to celebrate when I know that this is only a tip of the iceberg, so that thought also keeps me focused and it is easy to stay grounded if you’re focused. The actor is never bigger than the job. The moment I think Adesua is a celebrity, the acting takes a back seat and I’ve lost my way. I never want that to happen.
You are also a singer. Tell us about that.
I love music but I just haven’t had the courage to pursue it professionally. I was in the church choir for 10 years while I was in the UK. I didn’t join the choir when I moved back to Nigeria because acting takes you away and I would miss so many rehearsals that they would probably have to kick me out. I will do something about using my other gift singing very soon, I promise.
Where do you see Adesua Etomi, the actor in five years?
Adesua the actor would by His grace still be acting. I’d love to be an established actor who is recognized all over the world. It is a bit ambitious but an Oscar would be great, so maybe an international project or two. The definite thing is that she will still be acting.