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Yomi Fash-Lanso is one of the leading actors in the Nigerian movies indsutry. He has been playing this leading role for so many years such that he has garnered a lot of awards in the process. In this interview with ADUNOLA OLADAPO, he speaks on various issues bordering on
the industry as well as his personal life. Excerpts;
HOW was your childhood like, did it influence your career?
My growing up was fantastic because I had a good upbringing. Playing dirty at times, with my age mates was one of the interesting fun I can remember. My family consists of my parents, three boys and a girl. Being the last child, I was really dotted on.
My brothers introduced me to the cinema house and movies. I became a film freak, in-spite of my father’s objection to watching film, I became an ardent disciple thereby becoming interested in films and motion picture, I believe that was when the fascination began in me.
What were you doing before you got into acting?
I worked in a bank as a banking officer.
What exactly motivated you into acting and when did you kick-off?
The world of ‘film making’ got me, coupled with the innate talent that was struggling within me then. I went through self-teaching and research on what acting was all about, via film watching, review magazines, flipping through articles that bordered on film acting or film making, and when opportuned, visited film sets/locations. I started acting professionally in February 1995.
What other jobs do you do outside acting?
I invest in honest, viable and profitable businesses. I am what others will call a business tycoon. I love to try my hands on any honest, legal thing that will fetch money, I am enterprising.
Which work of yours gave you that break-through?
My first major breakthrough role was as Akintunde, in the film Omolade.
What were the challenges you faced as an up-and-coming actor then?
The first was not being able to negotiate my fee, because the producer sees you as somebody he or she was trying to help. They see the talent but no justification for negotiation.
How did you manage being a prolific and dynamic actor that does not stick to a particular role?
By doing my home work, a lot of research and studying people of different backgrounds and lifestyle I meet closely. Most importantly, I demystify myself before taking a role.
What was the most challenging role you’ve had to play?
Well, I think that should be playing a disabled role in Kunle Alajeseku. I wanted to be in the disabled people’s world and feel what they feel every time. It was really tasking. The pain and agony they go through silently in my opinion can never be measured. I know because I have had a glimpse and believe me they deserve our care, attention and love.
What film have you been most proud to be involved with so far, and why?
Jombo. I was proud to take the lead role in the film Jombo because it gave me the avenue to play a bad guy in a really sadistic way, far from how some actors have played the role in the past. Oh, I love it. And Opolo is another one where I played a real bad guy.
In those films where you played bad, sadistic roles, what has been your children’s comment when they watch them?
As a matter of policy, it has been agreed between me and my wife that the kids don’t watch films where I played bad roles.
But why, afterall its not real?
They are kids and still very young, they don’t really understand it that way. If they watch such roles played by daddy, they may begin to have a wrong impression of the personality of their daddy and I don’t want that. So, my kids have not watched daddy as a bad guy before, it’s a rule in my house.
Did you at anytime thought of quitting acting?
I thought of quitting when I was banned from acting by my association (A.N.T.P) for having the effrontery to query the executive committee for their non-chalant attitude towards our welfare. I also questioned the reason the association (A.N.T.P) was collecting money from producers before he or she could role camera without any support from the association.
I basically felt that the executive ‘ruled’ and didn’t ‘lead’. The issue of members taking work permit before acting was also inclusive. Then I felt like quitting, but again the passion overruled that emotional sentiment. I am still in the profession but will not stop speaking the truth for there to be a change for the better. I am one person in the industry that fears no one to speak the truth and I will keep doing that until we get there. It is all for the good of the practitioners, the industry and the society at large. So, I kept on, because I enjoy what I am doing and it is challenging. Secondly, because I strongly believe that better and brighter days are coming soon.
What if it affects how the jobs come in, I mean if the roles stopped coming?
My dear, it is God that blesses and I don’t beg for roles. As a matter of fact, I have even rejected many for lack of professionalism and societal ideals. My expertise will speak and that is what get me roles. So, I don’t belong to that category of people that see the truth and keep shut because of their bellies, no!
I can say categorically without sounding boastful that I am a pacesetter in the movies industry in Nigeria today. I am one of the few that gave hope and leverage to the young and educated acts we have today, that you can be an actor and be proud of your profession, and be rich and live a good, good life. Before I came in, not many young and educated ones would feel too proud to take up acting fully as a profession but I left banking for acting. Today I am a pacesetter for the young acts in the business.
How important is the Nigerian roots, morals, values, knowledge and wisdom to you and your works?
Everything that has to do with my roots and culture is very important to me because it is what tells the outside world that I have an identity, and I try as much as possible to show that unique identity and wisdom to the outside world through films.
Basically, the three elements of entertainment are to inform, educate and entertain, which we so much keep in our works (films) that anyone from any race would want to learn. The way we dress, the way we speak and the way we relate to our fellow human being are important to me.
Your job is no doubt very taxing but do you make out time to relax?
Oh yes, I do. Or else I wanted to kill myself then. I relax by watching movies, hanging out with friends, reading, gisting etc. I also make out time for my family whenever I am free. We have our place of recreation which we secretly go to relax outside the prying eyes of people. And don’t ask me where because I’m not going to tell you. But I do relax.
So, since you started out in Nollywood….
(Cuts in…..) There is no Nollywood anywhere or you tell me, where is the Nollywood? No Nollywood, no industry, where is it, where can you get?. In America, there is Hollywood, it is visible, same as India, there is Bollywood but in Nigeria there is no industry and no Nollywood, so let us stop fooling ourselves.
But there is the movie entertainment industry called….
(Cuts in …….) No, no, no. There is no Nollywood anywhere, it is just people saying Nollywoood. Okay, where exactly can you take me to in Nigeria that is called Nollywood where movies are shot? Nowhere. It’s just a borrowed idea, there is no Nollywood because there is no industry.
In America, they have associations as well as an industry, a physical Hollywood structure but what do we have here, just associations. We do not have an industry whatsoever, it’s only when there is an industry that we can begin to talk about Nollywood.
No American producer or any foreign producer can come here and say I want to go to Nollywood or where will you take him, nowhere? What we have is Kanohood in the north, Enuguhoood, Southwesthood etc in the same country. In America, do they have Califorhood or NewYorkhood? We are not uniform, there is no unity at all in the movie business in Nigeria so there is no industry. We should face the reality and that is it.
So, what exactly is the problem, is it lack of unity …
Cuts in…. that exactly is the problem. Until we start seeing ourselves as brothers and as one irrespective of where you come from. What we have instead is everybody doing what they like and this is so, because there is no regulatory body.
Here, there is no code of conduct, no discipline. You’d see an actor collect money and won’t show up for the job, you can’t do that in Hollywood or Bollywood. If you misbehave over there, it is your personal problem and you get your lawyer and redeem yourself, but here it is not so.
So, what will you call your industry then?
I say we do not have an industry. We are hustlers trying to make ends meet.
Why are you still in the profession with all the complaints?
Because I want to make my money. I am in it for business, so I work and make my money.
You see, there is no difference, everybody is making their money and that’s why there is no growth?
I am different from others who are not talking because I’m making my money and I’m talking. Everybody knows Fash-Lanso will always say the truth and reality. Unless we address this issue, we are not going anywhere, we are all just movie businessmen operating without an industry and that is very dangerous.
Would you describe yourself as just an actor or a producer, director or more?
I have never produced a movie of my own, though I have directed and helped with productions, scriptwriting by infusing my professionalism but I have not produced my own movie before.
Seriously, after all these years in the business, why?
But what is the big deal in being a producer? Many actors are richer and better placed than some producers, so what are we talking about?
I can say that I am far more comfortable than many movie producers. I am a professional. You see, that is one of the problems in this business here in Nigeria. Everybody wants to be a movie producer.
One actor with some cash will just produce a wishy-washy film and calls himself a producer. I’m not like that. However, I am ready to produce my own film and trust me it’s going to be a chart-buster.
I am ready now because I have achieved the goal I set for myself. I have got the necessary awards both locally and internationally.
These are awards that I merited, not arrange award. Infact, I didn’t know about them, I was just called to pick up the awards.
Recently, I got the best actor award in Nigeria. I can say without being boastful that I am one actor who has refused to produce a movie over fourteen years in the business and I am living far, far better than most producers, yes! You can live well without necessarily producing. I set target for myself in life and I feel yes, I have achieved that much and now I can produce my own film. Don’t even think it was because of finance, oh, far from it. I have the money to produce but chose not to because of my target.
Where do you see the Nigerian movie industry in the next couple of years?
If all fractured associations could come together under one umbrella, then the sky would be a stepping stone not the limit to our peak.
Who are your role models in the acting profession?
Whao! There are so many of them from different continents. My Nigerian influences were Moses Olaiya, Ade Love,, Hubert Ogunde, Lere Paimo, and Jab Adu. I also liked watching Jim Kelly, Jim Brown, Franco Nero, John Wayne, Leon Green, Fred Willianson (American actors); Fu Sheng, Cheng Sei, Carer Wong, Jackie Chan, Lo Lei, David Chang, Chen Kua Tai, Chen Kua Chun (Chinese actors); Amitabh Bachan, Dhamendra, Pran, Vinod Khanna. Vinod Mehra, Ferozkahy, and Sunil Dutt (India actors). Mind you, I love Indian films and Chinese films.
Is there any international actor you will want to work with if the opportunity comes?
Yes, Morris Chesnut, Denzel Washinton, Shemar Moore, Martin Lawrence, Jamie Fox, Samuel L Jackson.