…”I once took a break because I was a bit frustrated”
Toyin Alausa is a renowned and celebrated Nollywood Actress who has played a lot of prominent roles in various movies in Nigeria, one of which is the famous Omotara Johnson—a movie which brought her to limelight in the entertainment industry. In this Interview with our Editor,Tosin Adesile, she talks about her career and the movie industry in general.
Sparklightnews: A lot of your fans know you as Toyin Alausa. What are the other things that your fans don’t know about you?
Toyin Alausa: I am Toyin Alausa, but my full name is Oluwatoyin Elizabeth Alausa. I came from a polygamous family in Ijebu-Ode, Ogun state. I have been into the acting profession since I was eight years old. I schooled in Ijebu-Ode, but I dropped out to have my baby and then went back to complete my O’level, after when I did one year at the Ogun state College of Education. It’s been acting for me all along and all my years. Although I diversified into a business or two, but I came back into acting, which is what I am still doing. That is pretty much about me.
Sparklightnews: How many movies you have singlehandedly produced on your own?
Toyin Alausa: None. I have not produced any movie yet, but I am about to do my first production. Meanwhile, I have starred in several movies, series for Africa Magic and local stations.
Sparklightnews: Having stalked to acting as a career, how have you been able to manage the pressure from the society, family and friends, considering the present age of social media where stories about actors and celebrities easily get blown out of proportion or twisted?
Toyin Alausa: What I will say is this: at first, I didn’t know that being an actor would expose me to the limelight, because I was a child. I was just enjoying the passion of the talent I have and the freedom that came with it. When the era of home videos came and we started going for auditions, it became challenging. It was at that point that I realized and said oh! Now, it has gotten to a state that I need to prove my worth in any character that I am given to play. That was when it became something like, we are fighting for something. I am not your kind of a competitive person. I really do not like competition, but because I knew that I have this thing in me and I knew I was very good in it, I made up my mind that, come what may, I will give it all my best, putting all my energy into it. I said to myself, this is what I want to do and I know I am good at it. Therefore, they have to give a chance. But you know, because the executive producer, the producer, director will have their slots, their candidates, we realized that it was different from what we had expected, as it was no longer ‘come and do this or that’. You have to prove instead that you can do it. So, I practically struggled for some years before I finally became a face to be reckon with. Yes. People know my face and my name, but the big break like, I am an actor and have done the jobs. So, people should relate with me based on that, took a while. But, I thank God that all that is history now. But I can tell you for free, it was not easy because, first, in the era of home videos, there was the issue of tribalism. You are Yoruba. You are Igbo. Most of the directors and marketers were Igbo and most of the home videos were Igbo based and the actors were more of Igbo. So, I had that challenge. In fact, there was a time at the National Theatre where there was a joke that the Yoruba actors were being asked to adopt English names and, I was like, my name is Toyin and I am not going change to Sandra or something else in order to start getting movie roles. I won’t say it caused a setback, because it has been a good journey.
Sparklightnews: You mentioned that you started acting at the age of 8, if you were to do a major celebration this year, how many years of continuous acting will it be?
Toyin Alausa: Like I have said, I took a break because I was a bit frustrated. The competition was very high and a lot of ladies were into acting. Some that could act and some that had something to offer for acting, which I didn’t have. So, I looked at it and said, ok, this thing is not going to work, so let me go and look for something else to do. That was how I went into catering, as well as buying and selling. If I have to celebrate my years on screen, it will be 32years or thereabout. My first appearance on TV was on Drama Showcase.
Sparklightnews: There are many associations in the film industry such as TAMPAN, AGN etc. What has been your relationship with the industry actors, as well as your opinion about these actors?
Toyin Alausa: I think it good that we have guild. In fact, we should have more guild to tend to the welfare of movie practitioners, actors and actress or filmmakers, generally. I started off with Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) while I was in the English genre. But I moved to the Yoruba genre and first was ANTP. But, right now, I am a member of TAMPAN. I won’t tell you that the umbrella TAMPAN is not doing great in the area of members welfare,they are really doing well. And I am sure all other sub-guilds are doing their best as they can for their members. For me, it is a good thing. My relationship with my colleagues is cordial. No permanent friend, no permanent enemy. I know that we all have our differences because everybody can’t like you just you as a person can’t like everybody. I will say that I am just me. And that is not to say that we do not have one or two differences during the course of our work. We disagree to agree. I am not one that will just blow hot on someone unnecessarily, or a controversial personality. I relate with everyone, both the junior and senior actors, and when my job is done, I go back home. And it ends there.
Sparklightnews: Any unforgettable experience that you have had in the course of acting, that even if you find yourself somewhere else you will still not forget?
Toyin Alausa: There are a few of them, but I will remember one particular one that happened while we were filming Omotara Johnson. I remember the fight scene between Bukky Wright and I. When the director called for action and Bukky charged at me and we started fighting, a man who was passing by thought it was a real fight and he ran in to separate us. Even when the people at the other end of the camera were telling him it was a movie being shot, he still pressed forward because he didn’t hear what they were saying. And because of his persistence, we stopped filming and explained to him that we were acting. That was when he said oh and apologized…laughs. That was really a funny moment, and it does happen at times. I have also had a scary experience when I played a character that died. At a point, I had a chilly feeling like, can this be real? It was like something left me. Although I know it was psychological.
Sparklightnews: At the peak of the covid19 pandemic there was scarcity of sets. How did you cope during that period?
Toyin Alausa: It was just the blessings of God, I won’t lie to you because, during lockdown, it dawn on me that we are nothing without God. Everything was grounded, not just in Nigeria, but all over the world. And, just like you would say you don’t have, your neighbor doesn’t have. But, God made a way somehow. Honestly, I will just say it was grace and mercy. I never lacked, and I was able to even share.
Sparklightnews: In light of the changes that covid19 has brought to everything including your industry. With the advent of online streaming media like Netflix and the likes, what would you say the future holds for the Yoruba movie industry, as well as the difference you will bring, considering that you are about to go into movie production?
Toyin Alausa: Honestly, I am not here to run anybody down, but I think a little extra to the ordinary will make whatever project we do extraordinary. Now, time is of importance and everybody is running against the time. Finance is also of importance, too. It depends on the substantial amount you have that you are working with. Most people work with a very low, tight budget and, as such, they don’t have the luxury of staying long for post-production, or staying long on set and what have you. Everything is rush, rush and rush, with no time to double-check to see if the editor make a mistake or the subtitling was wrong. There is no time. They just want to cut, cut, cut and everything is over. You mentioned Kunle Afolayan. Kunle can actually take a whole year to film a movie and still take another 6months to review the movie, even calling external reviewers to look at the movie before releasing it to the public. Uncle Tunde Kelani is a don.
Sparklightnews: Now, can we have a Toyin Alausa movie like Tunde kelani’s,Kunle Afolayan’s etc.?
Toyin Alausa: By the grace of God, why not? I wish and I aspire to be better than what is obtainable right now in the society. Like I told somebody some years back, all my colleagues are producing. Why haven’t I produced, is there any major reason? I just want to be a successful actor. Let me be a world-renown actor. I just don’t want to be an actor that you cannot push to the back. Let me be a leading actor. I want to succeed as an actor, first, then I can say I want to become a producer. I won’t say because everybody is producing. That you are producing doesn’t make you a producer. There is a difference. That you want to turn around money, you want to blow your face and become popular. Since they are not giving you the opportunity, you want to do it yourself is different from going into proper filmmaking. You want to do something nice. You want to do something of international standard. You want to make films that you can take to film festivals, then you need to put a lot of energy. Work on the details. It is easier said than done. I have seen producers cry on set. I have seen producers rap up sets because they can’t continue. I don’t wish it on myself and I know it’s also a setback for them, because people invested on the movie as well. So, I am hoping and praying that by the grace of God, from my first production to subsequent ones, I can do something that the industry can be proud of.
Sparklightnews: How do you relax, do you watch Yoruba movies that you produced?
Toyin Alausa: I sleep. I love music and I try to watch some of the movies. I love cooking. I am not such a fantastic reader, but once in a while, I pick a book and read.
Sparklightnews: What advice do you have for Nigeria, as well as your colleagues, especially the upcoming actors?
Toyin Alausa: For Nigeria, I will say let God just intervene because it has come to that point. We are blessed with everything except good leadership. In fact, Nigeria’s matter is tiring. And for the upcoming actors, let them do something by themselves. Don’t say you want to do it in a certain way because someone else is doing it that way. Carve a niche for yourself. Trust in God and pray. May God bless our hustles.