Olumide Oworu is an actor best known for being in the sitcom Everyday People and more recently as Weiki in the MTV Base television series Shuga.
In this interview, Olumide talks about transitioning from being a child actor to playing more mature roles, the challenges that come with an acting career at his age and his experiences on Shuga.
Sabinews: How has it been with Shuga?
Olumide: It’s been amazing, you know the last season was beautiful to be a part of, and I am just excited for this, especially for me, there’s more depth to my character. Oh yeah, my character has a girl friend as well. Yes, Weiki hooks up with Leila this season. It was amazing to work with Jemima as well. I am just excited, because Shuga gets bigger with every season.
Sabinews: Coming from where you are, you’ve always being on television, and you are still on tv, is there a plan to go into feature films and movies?
Olumide: Yeah, I already have one that’s going to be out in a couple of months, most of them are only just about to come out, because of post production and other reasons, but I have done feature films. I have done some short films for Africa Magic; I have done a movie for Iroko as well. So it’s only just getting better for me. I am just happy to be transitioning from a child actor, you know ‘cause that’s one of the hardest things to do, to go from child actor to a more mature actor. A lot of people just don’t understand. Being put in a box is one of the worst things that can happen to an actor. I plan to do more to push on, I really don’t want to cage myself. I really like to push myself as an actor so just knowing that now people are appreciating me not just for my face, but for my acting talent is just amazing. I am just very excited and hopeful to see what the future holds for me.
Sabinews: So which do you prefer, series or feature films?
Olumide: It is very hard to pick, seeing as I started out doing series, sitcoms and soaps. But series afford you more time to become your character, especially for Everyday People that I did for like 8 years, I grew so the character grew with me and I grew with the character. So it gives you more time to give your character more traits, you know just map out the proper back story for your character. On the flip side, movies give you an escape, so you can have more. Say you do like ten films; you can be ten different people. Movies help you push yourself. With series, at times you can get comfortable, because you’ve done it for so long, it becomes second nature. So it just goes action and boom you are in character, it’s easy. But for movies that’s when you have to push yourself ‘cos you don’t have that much time to settle into your character and you are working with a different set of people. So it’s like two sides of a coin, but they are still on the same coin, you cannot remove heads or tails, heads and tails are very important to the coin.
Sabinews: Was it difficult moving from comedy to Weiki?
Olumide: A bit, but as I said I like to push myself, the more challenging a role is, the more excited I am to play it. So just knowing that I was going to leave comedy for a while and just have to actually be emotional, especially connecting with a topic that’s as delicate as having HIV, that was not the easiest thing to do, cause, I don’t have it (laughs), so it was really hard to connect to the emotional part of having HIV, especially because society doesn’t help. Once people find out somebody has HIV, they just tend to push the person away. I have heard of families who have abandoned members because they had HIV. So at the end of the day it was really hard for me to connect with the character emotionally. But once I crossed that bridge, it’s been smooth sailing.
Sabinews: After auditioning and you got Weiki, and discovered Weiki had HIV, how did you feel?
Olumide: (Laughs) There’s no other role? Then I thought of it, Shuga is much more than a show, there’s a really important message behind the campaign most notable of it being making people more conscious about HIV/AIDS, so from that point of view, I understood that it wasn’t just about me as an actor, now there’s a message, I have a chance to affect people’s lives, not just in Africa, but the rest of the world. That made me love the character a lot more, because the character exploded, it became much more than just being Weiki. Now the character is a role model, an example that people can learn from. It helped me take the role a lot more seriously, because it’s not just work. It is like a balance of work and getting the message across to people. That just made me much more excited to play the character, when I realize the number of lives I could be touching just by being Weiki.
Sabinews: Have you ever had that experience when someone will just say you have HIV?
Olumide: Of course, this is Nigeria; people find it hard to separate the actor from the character. So people just go, “Ah, Olumide, how is it living with HIV, shey it’s not too bad?” and I’m like, “No o, I don’t have HIV.” “No, you don’t have to be shy about it, we saw you on Shuga, don’t worry, God will do it for you, just be using your medicine regularly”, and I’m just like, “Ok, no problem, no problem.”
So it’s not exactly a problem, it’s just something I think every actor should be prepared for, Hopefully at some point it will be easier for the audience to differentiate between the actor and the character. Yes I have gotten a lot of mixed reactions. At the end of the day, it just shows that people were watching the show, and they really understood who the character was and what the character stands for. Just the fact that the message is being passed to them, I am happy with that.
Sabinews: So Shuga made you a more responsible person?
Olumide: I would say yes, cause there’s a lot of things I didn’t know, that I have learnt just because of Shuga, from the seminars that we’ve had, you know, just the content and the information you are exposed to when you are a part of Shuga. It definitely changes your lifestyle and the way you see things. So being a part of Shuga has made me a more responsible individual and affected the way that I live with people of same and opposite sex; opposite sex most especially. I am more responsible, my behaviour, my sexual life as well. I have more respect for people that have HIV, all the troubles and hardships they have to go through. Yes, being a part of Shuga has made me a responsible person, a more responsible person. (laughs) I was responsible before.
Sabinews: How old are you?
Olumide: 20, I’ll turn 21 this year.
Sabinews: So how has it been, balancing school and acting?
Olumide: Balancing school and acting has been hard. I cannot count the amount of courses, tests, exams I have had to retake. There are years I had no holiday, because right after school I am hopping from set to set. It’s taken a lot of my personal life as well, but, at the end of the day school is important. I remember I used to be like, all these people especially those in entertainment, once they just do one or two things they want to drop out of school, can’t they just stay in school? Then I started to get more work, then I am like ok, it’s actually not that easy. I have actually considered, not necessarily dropping out, per se but taking a pause from school, you know. I plan on finishing school, there have been projects I couldn’t be a part of, at the need of the day, I can’t do everything. I am just thankful for the amount of work I have done so far. Once I am done with school I am going to be facing acting a hundred percent. So it’s been hard so far, but I don’t think I would have changed that much. I don’t think so.
Sabinews: Transitioning from a child actor to playing more mature roles, are we going to be seeing you swinging from a wrecking ball?
Olumide: (Laughs) The transition from a child actor to mature actor has been very hard. But at the end of the day, I am an actor; the plan is to be multiple characters. That’s one of the fun things for me, the fact that acting affords me being different people so you know, as long as it’s a good enough script and I buy into the character then yeah, I would be doing some swinging, if it’s something I like, a story I want to be a part of. I am very picky with material that I take part in, I only want to do things that are going to make meaning, that would be exemplary, if the material is good enough, that’s why I am an actor, and hopefully at that point people will understand the difference between the actor and the individual. ‘Cause someone asked me one time, “Can you play a gay role?” and I was like I really don’t have a problem with it, because I am not homophobic, but a lot people are not ready to see me, I have not even finish trying to transition, I’ll now go and act, ah, they’ll just say black hole. But it is not something I shy away from, I am an actor, you know, it’s just representing different thoughts and characters, and just passing on a message. It is a known thing in Nigeria, when you play a character really well, they start thinking that’s you real life, it just means the person is a good actor; you could be two opposite sides of a pole. I think that also is a problem for actors, you really want to give a hundred percent of yourself to a project, but at the end of the day you are scared that people will put you in a box, and you’ll only be getting called for that type of roles, or people will just stereotype you and say oh no, he’s wicked, or oh no, he’s only a fine boy, in all his films he has to be dating babes. I think it is a problem for actors, hopefully at some point we’ll cross that bridge and just allow actors to give 112% of themselves in every project that they are part of.
Sabinews: Do your parents make the decision about what roles or jobs you take?
Olumide: Not necessarily, especially as I have gotten older, my parents have let me have an active say in the choices I make as an actor. ‘Cause they understand I am getting older, they are just there to give their opinions most of the time. Because my mum is my manager, she’s like do you want to do this? Why do you want to do this? Or are you sure you want to do this? Or if she feels it’s a good project and I am not exactly buying into it, she sits me down and tells me the reasons why the project is good. It’s a very open relationship that I have with my parents; I have the most amazing parents in the world. I know you’ve heard that a million and two times, but I wouldn’t trade them for anything in the world. They’ve just been so supportive. They are the number one reason why I am doing what I am doing, I am just thankful for that. I hope they can’t stick around to see the end result of all their hard work.
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