Interviews | 30 April 2007 14:59 CET

I HATE ROMANTIC ROLES-ALEX USIFO

By

Q: With the kind of roles you play in movies, people see you as a mean person. Are you really mean?

A: To start with, my name is Alex Usifo. The dictionary meaning of Alex is the lover of mankind and lover of humanity. Usifo means immortality, everlasting. It means my reign is everlasting, my reign is not a man-made thing, it is by God.
What I'm saying is that as my name implies, Alex is different from the characters he play in films or movies. I'm a lover of God, I fear God, I respect God and I am a born-again Christian by the grace of God. I've been born again about 12 years ago and I'm still growing in the Lord. And according to Romans 16, it says “I'm not ashamed of the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, in the power of God, there is salvation”.

You understand what I'm saying, so I am always proud to tell people that my status in the movie industry is denying me of having a status. So that is the difference between Alex and the characters he has played before. In other words, Alex is a lover of mankind and a lover of God.

Q: You said you've been a born again Christian for the past 12 years and you still play some weird roles in movies. Does that affect your Christian life in any way?

wearing. The clothing are not part of you and are not part of your nature, and after the movie, you have to wear something else.
That is what characterisation is. Each time you play a character you're actually wearing a cloth or dress, except when you're not mature enough, that's when you will allow what you're wearing to get into your head. I control the characters I play, the characters I play don't control me because I accept the character, it's not the character that accepts me. So I'm in charge of the characters I play. I decide what I do with characters and not the characters deciding what to do with me.

Q: Why is it that you mostly play weird characters?

A: Yes, in as much as I have a choice not to play those roles, the artistes don't decide the characters they play. Producers have a story and they say uncle, I have a story o, and there is this character there that I want you to play, so the producer defines the characters I play. He decides the character you play, but I have a choice to say I do not want to play those characters. In every production, it is not the artiste that chooses the role, it is the producer that determines that.
Like now, I already have a script which requires me to play a role of general overseer of a church. So I've already been given a role, I didn't choose it for myself. The only option I have is when I say I do not want to play the role, then I will drop the script.

Q: Should we conclude that your baritone voice is an advantage for these kind of offers from producers?

A: Perhaps. It's not only my voice, what about my face and height. A lot of things could be responsible for that, but I think the producers are in better position to tell you why they have chosen to use me for such roles.

Q: What if you are given the opportunity to choose a role for yourself, what kind of role would you choose?

A: I enjoy playing any good role. In a production, every character, no matter how low, big or small is created to tell a story. Every character in a production is very important, so there is nothing like saying you prefer playing one role to the other. Well, for other reasons, I can tell you that if any role is about pornography or whatever, I won't support it. When it requires you to kiss passionately or whatever, I can give peck, I can hug, but I can never kiss passionately. That does not mean If I want to do it I won't do it, I can even do it more than the people doing it but like I said, for some reasons, I've decided not to play such role.

Q: What if the cash reward is heavy?

A: Money is secondary when I'm talking about my moral reputation. You see, if I had wanted more money, I am sure I would not even be acting, there are other things I can do to make more money. But the issue is not money, it is what I want.... What I feel about the society. I don't look forward to a society of moral decadence. What I am looking forward to is a society where immorality is taken care of. Not a society where people do what they like, carrying out immoral practices.

Q: How selective are you in accepting scripts, do you accept any script as far as the money is good?

A: Naturally, it's a normal thing that everybody works for money, but again, the major thing in my life when I started was that I love acting. I see acting as a way to project the society in a positive way. If I see a script that has good message, I will accept it, but if the message is not good, in most cases I don't accept it. The film may not bring the kind of money I want if the story is very good, but that does not mean money is not important. Money plays a major role here but it does not control my taste, it's what I feel about the story that makes me accept the story.

Q: What about your preference for producers and directors?

A: Well, there are certain producers that I like to work with, producers who don't owe me, there are a lot of producers who owe, they will cajole you to do a job and at the end of the day you don't get your money. So what I do is that I like to work with producers who have integrity, producers who have a name to protect, producers who are human, who will say this person has worked and he deserved to be paid. I will never work with a producer who is a slave-driver, no matter how much he has.

Q: As an experienced person in the movie industry, don't you think there is a need to review the number of actors, producers and directors?

A: The number is not what should determine whether reviewing is necessary. Reviewing can come up due to the fact that we have a lot of quacks in the industry and there is need for screening. I just believe the guilds involved have been trying, at least, some years back we never had an AGN before, but today there is a guild. But I think what we need now is a proper method of screening people before entering the industry.

Q: On your part, how have you been encouraging the upcoming actors to become professionals?

A: If given the opportunity, I will always give what I know. A lot of my fans who are also interested in acting usually call me and say they want to know how to get involved in acting. What I tell them most times is that if you are determined you can do it. Or why do you want to act, do you want to act because others are acting? You should have the flair for it then you will actualise your dream. People need to train themselves in all these things. Like me, I don't need to go for any training because I've gone round virtually all the facets of theatre. So that is why I'm where I'm today and it's also by the grace of God.

Q: Don't you think stage acting is dead in Nigeria?

A: It is not dead but it is close to being dead actually because the attention in that area is very small. And the reason is not farfetched. We don't have many sponsors. No actor will want to do it without being paid well. Our people do not have theatre culture, so these are the problems there. But it's not dead actually.

,b>Q: If you're paid to do a stage play, will you do it?

A: If the story is good and the money is okay. The director and producers too must be very experienced. The story must be good, and the producer must know what he's doing, then the director and cast must be good. And finally, the money must be very attractive.

A: We had one or two good films then, like the Ogunde Film and some others. But right now in terms of quality, I think it is better now. We have better directors, better producers and better story lines. We never had enough infrastructure then, technology has now advanced among other things. So I want to believe we are doing better now.

A: I will give you a funny answer to that (laughs). You see, in that production, I played a dual role. I played a pastor and an armed robber. Now, you did not look at the role of the Pastor, you only looked at the role of the armed robber. I'm expecting you to say “I'm sure you must have been an armed robber before, but I'm also sure you must have been a Pastor before..” (Laughs). So I will want you to judge me on both sides.

Q: Can you encourage any of your kids to act?

A: Well, if they have the talent. Though I'm not sure they have the potential, I can encourage them if they have it.

Other sites The Nigerian Voice