Veteran actor, Akin Lewis sure knows his onion in the creative industry having begun acting in 1973, the same year he joined a drama group led by Bode Sowande, a Nigerian professor, writer and dramatist.
It is pertinent to note that Akin Lewis graduated with a First Class in Dramatic Arts and also bagged a Master’s degree in the same course. In this chat with OMONIYI ALLI, he spoke about his booming career, playing the rich man role amongst others
Why is it that you don’t take up any other roles except the rich man?
Well, I might have accepted such role a long time ago. But now I look rich and I am rich. So I guess that is the reason I cannot be given any other role to play. Professionally, I can act any role, but also from the professional point of view, it is hard for me to be seen or cast as a poor man. Usually, I get millionaire and billionaire roles.
Don’t you feel you are being stereotyped?
No, it is not been stereotyped for me to have money or not to have money. You can have money and be a bad person. There are several other ways, that I can be rich, but in different character.
Having witnessed over four generations of the Nigerian film industry what would you consider to be the biggest difference?
Well, essentially, the biggest thing that has changed is money and it has blindfolded many young talented people. Today, you have to give me the script first, I read it, and I like it. Conversely, we have a lot of instruments these days and a lot of money, though it is too heavy and I wish it is well spent and evenly.
What do you mean by saying you wish it was well spent?
It is because it is only a few people (actors) that have access to those funds and only a few are well paid in the industry. This is an industry that has a lot of young talented people. I have been in the industry for over 40 years. I have been on the mountain top and it has been awesome. I have also been in the valley. I have been happy and I have been sad. I know the secret of plenty and I know the secret of small. That’s just the way life is.
What is the secret of your enduring career?
I’m very diligent, I’m first on set. I’ll come, sit quietly in my space; I do my job then leave. But I guess I have a lot of grace because there are several superstars out there.
Most time you refer to yourself as a premium actor, why so?
Why I say that is because I am informed, and sought after in this profession that I have been doing for more than four decades now: 46 years to be precise. And everybody knows where I stand, and I am one of the well-trained actors in this profession. So people look for and they pay the price.
Talking about price, is your fee that high that scares people away from working with you?
No, I have done some jobs, where they just fuel my car and my hospitality. It is not that my fee is high, it is because I am the one they need and I have been able to establish that relationship with everyone that needs me. Even If they don’t have money, but the production is a good one, there are ways that it can be done.
How have you been able to manage fame till now?
Well, I think it has to do with experience. You know when you start, you won’t know how to manage it, but as time goes on, you just want to think of the people around you and how it will affect them. I do solid interviews; I don’t run after interviews for interview’s sake. Yes, we have been through a lot, but we have been able to manage it.
Is it because you have been in the corporate world in the past, that you have been able to avoid bad press?
Well, I don’t have any scandals or anything to hide. So I guess that is the reason some people stay away from me. And that is the way I want to live my life; scandal-free, and neat. But for actors that live on scandals, I believe it is because they are still young. By the time they get it right, they will know that it does not pay.
So why did you leave acting for the corporate world?
No, I never left. I go to the office during the day and then go for movie shoots at night. And I did well on the job; I never used my employer’s office time for acting. I would shoot movies on weekends, when on holiday and during my annual leave. Apart from the talent, you need to be disciplined as an actor.
Having gone into the business world and sat in the boardroom as a director, I can tell you this for sure.
Don’t you consider yourself lucky as you are one of the very few active veterans; while we only get to see others when they are in dire need of assistance from the general public?
To be honest I can only say am grateful for life and family; to this end, in this acting job have gotten married on this job, I have children, I live in my house, I have my car and all of that. I’m saying this with all due respect and not because I am trying to bring people down. Now, actors from my set got trained just for the job alone and unfortunately, most directors just use you and dump you. I realized this early enough and that enabled me to see the future ahead fast. That made me go into the corporate world, I diversified earlier in my career and I have very good results to show for this.
Are you saying that actors need to foresee the future early?
Yes, you have to think. This job is not as spectacular as other jobs. If you get paid N2 million today as an actor, unfortunately, some people will squander the money the next day. Veteran, and in fact, every actor must learn to save and set some money aside for the future. Yes, you can buy those choice cars you fancy but don’t forget to take care of your children and your family. I have tried to do all of these responsible things and I’m still on this job. Not all actors are irresponsible and yes acting is a serious job.
As a thespian, what do you look out for in a script?
There are good and bad scripts, and I am well trained, remember I said that. And I recognize a good script; which must have a beginning, middle and an end. It must be well defined and must have a very challenging role for me. When all those are there, it will be acceptable to me. This comes with my training and should apply to all actors.