Actor Bolanle Ninalowo talks his journey to Nollywood, with ROSELINE NYA

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Once upon a time, you were told your body type wasn’t agreeable with Nollywood. What changed?

I guess time changed and God showed up… I think the time wasn’t right, so God injected that excuse to keep me grinding till the right time. Thank God for grace.

At some point in your journey you delved into music production, but that didn’t quite work out.

Yes, I did. I believe that experience, along with others, prepared me for today. With it, I was able to study and understand the dynamics of operating within the Nigerian society; how we think and behave here. I must say, this society isn’t for the weak. To excel, you must be willing to give all. Those days are the best part of my life. The failure and lessons. They challenged me so hard and I chose to break a record with it.

How did you discover your talent?

I relocated to Nigeria from Chicago, 10 years ago, in pursuit of self-discovery, but now I see that you don’t discover talent, it discovers you, as long as you set yourself on the path and you are ready to fail over and over again and get up each time. All you have to do is remain dogged without the thought of giving in or up. They say the one who fails over and over is more likely to get it right at the end. If you want the benefits of something, you also need to want the costs. You can’t shine without the grind.

Your role as ‘Jobe’ in ‘Picture Perfect’ is incredibly Lagos and generally human. Filming must have been exciting.

It was a challenging, yet exciting experience for me. I remember reading the script and deciding I was going to pass up on the audition, because I had almost no idea how to bring the character to life. It was something totally out of my comfort zone. But when I thought deeply about it, I decided to use that as the deciding factor. I’ve always told people that growth resides outside our comfort zones, so I had to live up to my words… I called Biodun Stephen; the writer and producer of the movie, and practically begged for the role and she decided to take the chance on me… A lot of effort went into playing ‘Jobe’. I had to go to Ojuelegba to learn how to slip on the role. I met
the kingpin there who received me and tutored me on the basics of the personality. I drove the bus from Ojuelegba to CMS a few times, and took the conductor’s position as well. I guess from there on, I started to learn the mannerisms needed to execute the role. We got on set with everyone still skeptical, except myself. There, I demanded for action and here we are.

There seems to be a segment, of the Nigerian population, who are yet to be appreciative of Nollywood. What do you think they are missing out on?

They are missing out on the growth of an integral part of their existence. Our work is an art which depicts who we are as a people. Not being appreciative of Nollywood is you not appreciating your heritage, culture and values.

You make reference to God a lot in your statements. Is that a strategy seeing as Nigeria is, basically, religious?

Strategy you say? Now that I think of it, God is the greatest strategy there is. He was all I could turn to when all I was seen as, a failure. The bible became a manual for me to become wise and get equipped for the challenges I was facing, plus the ones ahead, because sustainability is a tougher task. I know how I got here: I searched for Him, reached out day and night, in joy and pain, and His Grace, mercy and favour got me here, and that’s the only way I can remain and sustain.

Not that this is relevant, but audiences, everywhere, feel closer to an actor they think they know. So, could you tell us more about your relationship- if you’re in one?

I am separated from the mother of my kids. I have an 11 year old girl and a nine year old boy from her and they live in Atlanta. We met here in Nigeria, when I visited 12 years ago. I took her, with me, to the States and filed for her (married her on paper) with the hope to someday get married officially, but things took the wrong turn. So, for now I am married to my hustle.

Would you tell us about some of your upcoming projects?

I have a lot of new film projects in the works. And I just became an ambassador for the Oud Majestic perfume brand which will be unveiling its latest campaign soon (as at press time).

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