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YETUNDE BAKARE: English actors behave as if they own Nollywood

Yetunde Bakare can be easily dismissed as one of the contingent of young and virile Yoruba actresses but there’s more to the inspiringly bold actress. When YUSUFF ADEBAYO engaged her, she truly had a lot to say about her beginning, filmmaking ethics and more. Excerpts…



How best would you describe yourself and what you do?

I’m an actress, a scriptwriter, a producer and a coordinator. I do more of coordinating jobs for people and I’m very good at what I do because anytime I’m telling a story, I don’t do the regular. I like my stories to be educating, fantastic, interesting, filled with drama and lessons to learn. I know what I want and I go for it. When I’m casting people for movies, I look for talented people who fit into the role not my friends. I actually studied Microbiology but here I am doing what I love to do.

What was your first introduction to acting?

I started from the church. I used to be a Muslim. So, when I got converted, I used to attend a church where we had a drama group. I decided to join the drama group and the choir at the same time because I loved the way they did what they do. From there, we started acting stage dramas. We went for different competitions and church concerts. It was fun and I loved it. So from there, I started modelling for First Weekly magazine. So when one of my uncles, Uncle Kambi introduced me to Mr. Sola Fajobi of Super Mom series, he gave me a script and I joined them and started acting little by little. So it started from the church as a drama group member.

Have you always wanted to be an actress?

I’ll say no. I studied Microbiology. To me back then, if I didn’t end up working as a microbiologist or nurse, I’d rather become a gospel musician because I write songs and poems. I’m just very creative. Drama was just what I wanted to do at my leisure. It’s something I enjoyed doing but not as a profession because my dad is very strict. So, acting just happened and I’m happy it did.

You’ve mentioned that you at some point worked as a model, was that part of a bigger plan or just a means to an end?

Well, modelling was just a means to an end. I didn’t see it as a profession because modelling isn’t welcomed in our society like that. I mean it involves a lot of things. If you’re a professional model, you should be able to model several products including bra, pants, lingerie and the rest of them. I can’t do that and I can’t go nude on a runway. So it was just a starting point in my career.

At what point did you become convinced that acting was what you were truly cut out to do?

I’ll say when Uncle Kambi of First Weekly magazine started telling me instead of doing just church drama, going for competitions without pay, why don’t you do it as a profession. And I was like, why not; of course I can do it. And he said, okay, if you can be a model, you can talk to people, you like going for events, you can as well face the camera. And he told me he knew a few people he could speak to. So, he introduced me to Sola Fajobi of Super Mom series and I followed him to an event and met Yomi Fash Lanso. So it was just like that.

You’ve worked as the producer of a number of films. How difficult or otherwise is it to be a producer in Nollywood?

To be sincere with you, it’s not easy to be a producer. At the moment, the market is not favorable. Sometimes, with all the stress you go through, thinking of how to pay your cast, your crew, renting good equipment, getting good locations, looking for a story that is meaningful and interesting; at the end of the day, you take it to the market for someone to now tell you this thing is not nice; just because they want to rip you off. They’ll belittle your work and you’ll feel sad, rejected and lost. It’s a huge risk. Fine, we are doing this for the passion but I’m not just a producer but a business woman and I’ll like to make money too. Sometimes, after producing, you won’t even make your investment not to talk of profits. It’s difficult and complicated.

Generally, how are things with Nollywood, particularly with the Yoruba genre?

Are you happy with the state of things in that space? It’s not funny! Things are very tight at the moment. We have a lot of jobs but money is not coming in. The film industry is overcrowded. A lot of people want to act thinking there is money in it so they keep coming in. Even our marketers are now producers. I’m not happy with the situation of things. We need more rules and regulations because now anybody can just come from anywhere and say they want to produce movies and boom, they’ve become producers. It’s not supposed to be like that. There should be laws. You can’t produce more than one movie in a year. It would be better.

To what extent do you feel the perceived dichotomy between the Yoruba and English genres of Nollywood?

There are allegations of disparity in recognition and remuneration. How justified is that? Nothing justifies the way things are. Actually, I won’t call them English, they are Igbos. The only difference is they speak English. Most times they feel they are superior to other people just because they speak English. And this thing is getting to us and that’s why you see most Yoruba movies with 70% English. But our audiences are not satisfied. A lot of people think Yoruba actors are not educated. Speaking Yoruba is not a taboo. But these English guys make it looks like it’s a taboo to speak your dialect. And when you attend some events, you see the way they welcome them. Nollywood is Nollywood. Hollywood is Hollywood. Nobody is supposed to be treated like they are not qualified because of their language. It’s not like we can’t produce a movie of N10 Million but if we do, a lot of people are not ready to go to the cinema and watch the movie. Our audience are having inferiority complex. How can I tell my friends that I’m going to the cinema to watch a Yoruba movie? I’ll rather watch an English movie so that when they are tweeting on Twitter, I can say something too. But when it’s about Koto Aye, no! A lot of producers are crossing to the English genre because they want to be treated with respect. And the English actors behave as if they own Nollywood.

You starred in the movie Alani Baba Labake and there is a controversial scene in the film; it was a scene where you had Baba Suwe presumably peeping at your nakedness. With the texture of the scene and general feel of the film, it’s hard to believe that it was all make believe. What exactly happened in that scene?

That’s a throwback. I love that movie. I featured in just four scenes in that movie but it’s not the number of scenes that matters, it’s the importance of the role. Actually, I was wearing an underdress and a spag but I removed the hand of the spag so I wasn’t naked. The cameraman was just showing my legs to my knee and then he was peeping. It was Lanko, my dad in the film that was shouting won ti ri irun Dunni o (they’ve seen Dunni’s pubic hair). That scene was very funny and then acting with those legends was interesting for me.

I’m privy to the fact that you’ve had a supposedly embarrassing moment where you were advised to tone your skin so as to get ahead in the industry. How often do actresses get this sort of advice and what fuels the need for that?

Sincerely, it wasn’t easy back in the days because they’ll tell you light skinned girls are camera friendly and they look good on posters. At a point I was on a location and the make-up artiste told me, ‘why don’t you just use a bit of bleaching cream so that you can get more roles’. They tell you when you use a dark skinned girl, it won’t boost sales. Marketers will tell you people prefer seeing light skinned girls. And a lot of girls started doing it. People will even tell you ‘if you want to play the younger versions of Jaiye (Kuti), Fathia (Williams), Bimbo Oshin, how are you going to do it if you’re dark?’ which is true because we don’t really have dark skinned veterans. All of them are light skinned. But I told them, it’s either I continue like this or I quit. And look at how things are now. Nobody cares about your complexion. Just be talented.

Are you happy with the trajectory of your career so far?

Yes, I am satisfied with the progress I’ve made so far. I believe that I’ve achieved a lot in the little time I’ve spent here because there are some people that I met in the industry that… Well, I’m grateful. It’s been a very fantastic and interesting journey so far. So far, so good, I’m blessed and I’m grateful.

Are there new projects from you that fans should be excited about?

Of course, I do have a new project on the way and you should be on the lookout because it’s not the regular, and this one will definitely blow you off. I truly can’t wait and trust me, you’ll love it.

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