Popular Nollywood actress, Bimbo Akintola, in this interview with TUNDE AJAJA, talks about her growing up, career and her much talked about single status
Your last movie, ‘93 days,’ brought a lot of things to mind, especially the character you played, late Dr. Stella Adadevoh. Was your selection based mainly on the fact that you bore a resemblance to her?
I must say it was an honour to have played that role. What the director and producer did was to pick actors they felt look like Dr. Adadevoh and they invited all of us for an audition. They also had an open audition for anybody to walk in. I went for the audition and luckily I got it.
Given the circumstances surrounding her death, how challenging was it playing that role?
It was very challenging, because there were no videos of her and I was required to portray a real person, unlike the ones where characters are not real. It was a real story; she was a doctor, married and had a life before the incident. I never met her , yet I had to portray her appropriately. I put myself under so much pressure and I was so scared and worried at the premiere, because I knew I had to paint the picture of this woman who was loved by the people. It was my most challenging role, because I was standing for someone I never met and I wanted so badly to portray her character. She was indeed a superwoman. I felt so bad that I never met her; I felt like I missed out for not meeting her, given all the stories I heard. The only other time I had felt like that was when Fela Anikulapo Kuti died. He was someone I wish I met. When you listen to Fela’s songs you would realise that he saw what a lot of people didn’t see. So, when 93 days came out and people saw it, I was so relieved with the feedback I got.
I have never been that relieved in my life.
How did your acting career begin?
My mum told me I had always been dramatic, since I was very young. So maybe it began from that time. She said one way or the other, I was always involved in acting. When I was in secondary school, I was also into dancing and at a point, I joined the choir, even though I didn’t stay long. I don’t think any profession would have appealed to me apart from acting. Even the other things I do, like singing, writing poems, etc., are hobbies. Acting is one thing I’m extremely passionate about. When I chose Theatre Arts as the course I wanted to study in University of Ibadan, my dad didn’t understand it for a while. He just felt you can’t make money from doing stuffs like that. He felt why not go and study something else so I could have a degree I could fall back on. I was a stubborn child, so I said no, I must study Theatre Arts and I did. He finally agreed with me.
What fond memories of growing up do you still have?
Growing up was fun. My mum got married at about 17, and at 18 she had her first child. As a young mother, she was a disciplinarian but loving. My dad was a Customs officer and he was posted to different places, so he only came home on weekends or fortnightly. Then, in the evening, we would sit outside in the balcony and my mum would tell us stories and teach us songs. And anytime she was cooking, everybody; male or female, would have to be in the kitchen with her. While cooking she would be singing and we had to join her as well. I was a tomboy and I liked to climb trees and jump fences. As a result, I always had bruises on my chin. My mum just couldn’t understand it so I was chastised every day. Over time, she couldn’t stop me from climbing trees, because I was a real tomboy. After a while, she got used to it.
You’ve been going to the gym a lot in recent times. What informed that move?
I go to the gym and do exercises because it helps our overall health and helps us to look younger. But it’s about health. Now they say the life expectancy in Nigeria is 50-plus. People die in their 40s and 50s and it’s something to be worried about. If that is not a call to every Nigerian to live healthy, I don’t know what else can be. So, for me, it’s all about health and not just about losing weight, looking good or younger. If you just want to look good, you can do surgery, but for me, it’s health, being healthy and living a healthy life. It’s important.
Talking about living healthy; some people say you smoke. Are you considering dropping the habit, if truly you do?
If you are asking if I smoke, I don’t. It would interest you that people who say I smoke have never seen me smoking before, yet they say it with assurance. I don’t mind people talking about whether someone is smoking or not, but they must have evidence. You must have evidence to say certain things about people. If you ask me if I drink, I barely drink now. Smoking and some other habits people engage in are not good for the health. And I’m of the view that people who smoke should quit.
Some reports online even rank you as one of the top actresses who can’t do without smoking. Does it bother you sometimes?
I’m not bothered. Anybody can write whatever they like. And this has been happening for the last 20 years. I have read many stories about myself online that I don’t even know the person they are talking about. I’m not bothered because I know who I am; my parents know who I am; my family and friends know who I am and when people who don’t know me meet me and have a conversation with me, they change their mind. So, I’m okay with that. There was a time I was outside the country and some persons wrote that I was in Ogba doing something funny. I laughed deeply. And that was about 15 years ago. The truth of the matter is that people want to read weird, funny stories and unfortunately, there is a huge base for stories like that everywhere in the world. So, that is why stories like that would never end. So, I’m not bothered.
A lot has been said about your love life and some have said you should be married by now. Would you say the society is mounting pressure on you as regards marriage?
I guess these questions arise because of the country we live in and the kind of people we are. It’s also something I think we need to look at critically, because it seems we are creating more trouble for people, as marriages are now crashing within six months or even less. This is partly because the society puts a lot of pressure on people to get married. Shouldn’t we take a step backward and ask ourselves what we are doing wrong. It’s not about how soon, but how well? I think it’s time we realised that marriage is such a serious thing. Shouldn’t we allow people make their choices by themselves, without pressure? Parents should stop putting pressure on their children. Many women are divorced now and in some cases, there is serious fight and both of them would be fighting over the custody of the child. We need to start changing the way we look at marriage. It’s important we get married but marry at your own time.
You once said you love kids, and with the way people are embracing the option of child out of wedlock, popularly called baby mama, is it something you could do?
Of course, I can. Definitely I can do it because I don’t see anything wrong with it. Things are changing in the world at large. If you look around, you would find a lot of women are having babies and taking care of themselves. It’s everywhere. There are women who are not actors but are single mothers, and for a lot of people I think it’s about their biological clock. Instead of waiting for manna from heaven and you know there is no manna, and you feel the need to have children, then do it.
But the Yoruba culture makes it look like a woman is incomplete without a man. Does that not bother you?
We have to change our thinking, due to the time. You can’t be rooted in the past when the present and future are a totally different place. If you look at what is going on now, there are women looking for husband but can’t find. So would you now say because of that they shouldn’t have children? That’s unnecessary and it’s like making them suffer twice. I think for anybody that wants to have children, as long as you know you are capable of taking care of them financially and emotionally, why not.
As a good-looking woman, how often do men approach you?
(Laughs…) Every day that I go out. It’s a normal thing every day; from younger men, to people of same age and of course older men. It’s a regular thing. If it is not happening, you have to worry about yourself. Because of what we do, people want to date actors.
Can you date an actor?
I’ve been in the entertainment industry for over 20 years, so there is nobody I want to date in the industry, except such persons have not come into the industry yet. I know everybody and there is nobody I’m interested in dating. That is the truth. Most of them are like my brothers, and maybe it’s because of the work, because when I’m working, those things don’t even occur to me, so by the time work is over, I already see you as a brother or colleague. For me, I have never been interested in any actor. Never!
If you work closely with someone for a length of time, are you saying you have never had feelings for any actor in the line of duty?
Never! It has never happened to me, personally. I don’t look at anyone except from the angle of the character the person is representing. I could talk with the person before or after, but at that point, you are probably entering the brother or friend zone. I’ve worked with the finest men in the industry and I have not felt anything like that before. I worked with RMD, and that was even when I had just started acting. I worked with Ramsey Nouah, Desmond Elliot, Emeka Ike, Kanayo Kanayo, Fred Amata, etc. they are all like my friends and brothers. Even the directors, like Jimi Odumosu, Lancelot Imasuen are like my brothers. So, for me, I have never had an attraction for an actor.
Some reports say you are in a relationship. Is it true?
I’m an actor and because of that people are curious about my life, but I like to keep certain things to myself.
When you are not on set, how do you relax?
I go out with my friends once in a while. Or when I’m not working, I’m at home. I like staying at home, or I take my niece and nephew out to cinema. Then, I cook a lot; I love to cook and I cook every day. So, I don’t eat out. Cooking is amazing, and there is nothing I don’t cook, including Nigerian, Indian, Italian, Chinese dishes, etc.
What is your favourite meal?
I don’t have favourite meal anymore. I just like good food that was properly cooked. For me, cooking is not about the favourite, it’s about the quality, the mixing of different ingredients to achieve a particular taste. I’m a real proper foodie and cooking makes me extremely happy.
The Nigerian Association of Christian Journalists has nominated you as one of the recipients of its Integrity Award. How did you receive the news?
It was a huge surprise; I wasn’t expecting it at all. For a lot of us who are in arts, we do what we do, hoping that we are touching lives. So, being given an award like that is just like people saying they see what you are doing and you are doing a great job. And once in a while, you need that, like a pat on the back, saying well done.