Veteran actor Akin Lewis has seen it all. He has worked in the top echelons of the corporate world. He has been a top executive in an advertising company and a director in telecom company Globacom. He has also been at the bottom of the mountain. All these experiences moulded the man he is today. He will be marking his 50 years on stage in four years’ time. Yet, the actor who recently featured in ‘Your Excellency’ carries no air around him. The Interview encountered him recently at an event.
How do you feel about your 46 years on stage?
I’m grateful. I’m not scared. In four years’ time, I will be marking 50 years on stage. It’s a feat I’m looking forward to. I think I will just enjoy it. But I’m grateful.
What are those transformations you have seen in the film industry over the years?
I have seen a lot of technology; equipment, that will make you happy to shoot films.
I have also seen a lot of charlatans, wannabes, and all of that.
And of course, I have seen very good movies, well made.
And there is a lot of money around now. Only that is tilting towards one end, it’s not well spread at all. I will love to see more people in the movie industry.
There are a lot of talented people who want to make a movie but do not have that type of money.
What do you think is responsible for that uneven distribution of wealth?
Well, this is Nigeria. There is the rich and the poor. That is how it has always been and will probably stay that way, unless we become a socialist state.
There’s been a lot of talk about how new Nollywood movies poorly reflect the Nigerian identity unlike the early days. When do you think that disconnect happened?
I honestly don’t know. This generation is money eccentric.
In my days we were passionate about the job.
It was art for art’s sake.
We would even work for free. But these days, it is all about money and when you have people like that, you lose a lot of things.
Perhaps what we need to do is to put our culture in our films like the food and we have very beautiful Nigerian dresses. Let every scene have something about our culture, otherwise we will just look like a copycat of Hollywood.
How do you balance your fictional and real life?
I’ve been around for a long time so my two feet are firmly placed on the ground.
I know who I am. I am Akin Lewis, I came into the industry with my personality intact and I will leave that way. I live a very private life.
I’m not a noisemaker. Most people forget who they are and along the way they get into serious accidents. That’s the first thing they will teach you in the school of drama; never forget who you are.
Will you say that the definition of celebrity has become ubiquitous in this age of social media?
I think the word celebrity is an aberration.
First of all this a job. People easily forget that and when you do so, you end up where you don’t want to.
In a nutshell, people make you the celebrity that you are because of the work you did so be grateful and humble. Some people forget that and act as if they are born a celebrity.
Then they start to misbehave and give a bad name to the industry.
The thing is that when you act all haughty, at a point you become irrelevant because people wouldn’t want to work with your ego. I have a cause to celebrate but I don’t think I should run it in people’s faces.
With your experiences in the corporate world, why are you still in the movie industry?
Well, since I retired from the corporate world, I have free time to pursue my passion. I’m now fully involved in the film industry. I’m not swayed by anything and I would like to retire as an actor.
Any plans to produce a movie?
Definitely. I would like to make a movie about myself. I have lived a checkered life.
If I write the script of my life, directors will beg me to do a film.
I have been an executive, a manager and a director in the corporate world. I have been a missionary, been in war zones where they will cut off your hands if you don’t follow the rules.