Nigerian actor Tobi Makinde, who is best known for his role as Timini in Funke Akindele‘s series “Jenifa’s Diary,” is a burgeoning talent making a name for himself in Nollywood. He also starred in “Industreet” and “Omo Ghetto: The Saga“. From there, he has gone on to co-direct one of the highest-grossing Nollywood movies, “Battle on Buka Street.”
In this conversation, the star takes us through his journey as an actor, his directorial debut, and working with Funke Akindele.
Hi there, Tobi. It’s so lovely to speak to you! How are you doing? What are you looking forward to achieving this year?
I’m doing very well. I look forward to the great projects that are already in the pipeline, and more groundbreaking records. Movies, series—I’m excited for what’s to come. I look forward to achieving more feats in directing and acting as well. And more awards too.
Before diving further into your professional journey, I’d like to ask you what it was initially that brought you closer to the field of acting. Was it something that was there from the early years of your life, or was this passion developed at a later level?
It was something that had always been there. A huge thank you to my dad, who helped harness that talent. Sometimes, as a child, you just have a skill, but you don’t know how to go about it and all of that. My dad was there to notice the talent in me early, and it was easy for him to groom me and help me nurse the talent because he was already in the field. My dad is also an actor. It was easy for him to just bring me into the field. He was encouraging. Unlike the stories of other people who had parents who never supported their craft, my case was different. The first time I appeared before the camera, I think I was about seven or eight years old, in a movie directed by Tunji Bamishigbin and produced by Ralph Nwadike, “Silenced,” It was first of all an inborn talent, which my dad helped nurture, and then it developed into a passion.
Congratulations on co-directing “Battle on Buka Street.” Did you ever feel nervous about taking on this huge role?
Of course, I was nervous about taking on such a huge responsibility. It was my directorial debut in a feature film. I’d already been directing small projects and series, like “My Siblings and I,” “Jennifer’s Diary,” and a couple of other small gigs, but this was the first time I was doing a cinema movie. I was nervous, but you know, as God will have it, I worked with the best cast and crew. It was sort of like a jolly ride because everyone was professional to the core, and there was communication and synergy among the crew, the actors, and between the director and the actors.
And did you ever expect it to have as much success as it already has?
I never expected that it would have this much success. I went all out, or we, myself and the entire team, went all out to make a good movie. That’s all. We just wanted a good movie. It surpassed our imagination. We knew that, oh yeah, we were trying to tell a story. Make everything as real and relatable as possible. And I give all the glory to God for it.
Acting or producing? Which do you prefer?
I think I’ll take producing. Acting is my first love. Acting is the foundation; that’s where the foundation is. At the end of the day, producing is the business of it. That’s like the final goal. That’s where the money is. I’ll pick producing. But of course, I love acting. Acting is my first love. Acting is something that, if you wake me up from sleep, I will wake up and do it. It’s something I love so much. But yeah, producing it is.
Which of your past acting experiences would you say was the toughest one, and that tested your abilities?
Some of my acting experiences that have tested my abilities will be some of the characters I played while I was in school for some of our stage plays. I studied theatre at the University of Lagos, where we did a lot of stage plays. These were like deeply rooted, culture-based stage plays where you have to take on the character or personality of a deeply cultural person. To take on those roles, you had to go through a process of research into how certain languages are spoken. I remember a time we were doing a special project on French plays, and we had to sound like French actors and stuff like that. We’ve also done some William Shakespeare plays where we had to sound British. Taking on those roles was quite challenging. I think for TV, playing the character of AY Pomping on “Omo Ghetto: The Saga” was quite challenging because that’s a terrain I’m not familiar with. I had to have conversations with people to know what or how to portray that character. And then playing Fever on Industreets as a music producer. I do not know anything about music, but I had to just take on that role.
You’ve been working very closely with Funke Akindele; I’m sure you’ve learned so much from her. How has working with her been for you?
Working with Aunty Funke Akindele has been amazing. It has been spectacular. I’ve learned a lot from her. There are so many things I thought I knew before I met her, but my horizons widened when I met her. She knows the nitty-gritty and the rudiments of filmmaking. And I’m talking from the script development process to principal photography to post-production. She is a genius when it comes to marketing as well. I’ve learned a lot. Before I met her, all I knew were maybe the rudiments of acting and the rudiments of just production. I learned a lot from the way she tells her stories—how closely knitted the story is and how she creates her characters—how there is a different persona for each character, and then how the performance of the story she creates must look. Production design is also one of our strengths. These are some of the things I’ve learned from her. And post-production, proper finishing of a film—all these are things I’ve learned from her. Working with her has been amazing. She’s a very strict person. She doesn’t joke with work. And I’ve also tapped that from her. Putting all this together prepared me for the moment when I had to take on the responsibility of co-directing Battle on Buka Street. Working with her has been amazing. It has been an eye-opener.
What’s the best advice you’ve received?
The best advice I’ve received is to always bring my A-game to whatever I’m doing. Is it acting? Is it directing? Is it producing? I should always bring my A-game and never be intimidated. Yeah, that’s the best advice.
What is one fun fact about yourself that I wouldn’t be able to find in a press release?
Fun fact about myself: What would that be? I don’t know how to swim.
What does the future look like for you? Are there any projects you’re currently working on?
Yes, absolutely. I’m excited about what the future holds. Yes, there are currently a few projects. I think about two or three movies and about two series. This year is quite busy. All these works are in the pipeline, and I’m hopeful that they will be as groundbreaking as other projects I’ve done.
What are some stories you’d like to tell moving forward, and is there any message you’d wish to convey to your fans and supporters reading this interview currently?
My message to my fans and supporters will be to stay resilient, stay consistent, and be hardworking. My story is a tale for everyone to learn from, especially young aspiring actors or filmmakers. I started at an early age, and for me, I thought, “Oh, that was the big break. But then I went back to ground zero. I then started doing auditions all over again. Like a new actor, I wasn’t getting roles. I was getting a few roles here and there. I kept pushing and pressing. You also have to invest in yourself. I decided to go back and get my master’s degree to have better knowledge of what I’m doing so that I’m of greater value. And somewhere along the line, I met a personal helper, Aunty Funke Akindele, and the things I’ve learned from the past, in addition to the things I learned on the job, were the things that groomed me for this moment that I’m in. Stay focused, be resilient, be consistent, be hardworking, and invest in yourself. These are virtues that you must possess. This is my message to my fans and supporters.
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