Behind the scene | 21 November 2008 22:09 CET

My mother frustrated my plan to become a footballer....... Nobert Young

By Nonye Iwuagwu

Since making his debut during the days of the popular soap Checkmate, Nobert Young face has not left the TV screens.

It must be on the basis of his skills and experience that Nigerian Breweries Plc contracted him to be the anchorman of last year's edition of the reality TV show, Amstel Malta Box Office.

Although he was not the anchorman for this year's edition, Spectacles gathered that Young was deeply involved in the selection of the 10 young actors that made it to the AMBO house.

It was at the opening night of the reality show early in the week that Spectacles ran into Young who opened up on what he had been doing and how life had been as an actor.

Concerning his AMBO job, Young said, “It was interesting and challenging. It opened my eyes to some new things in this business. It revealed to a large extent how Nollywood has poisoned the mind of would be actors. It showed me that a lot of Nigerians believe that one can make money without working or without any effort; that you can just wake up from bed and grab money. It showed me also that there is still hope for Nigeria, because there are still people who believe that hard work is the only way to developing a nation.”

Explaining what he meant by Nollywood poisoning the minds of aspiring actors, Young said, “People came during the audition to repeat what they see in Nollywood, as if acting has only one direction. That is a misconception. It is very painful to me particularly because I studied acting. It got to the point that I had to announce to the people before the audition started not to do certain things, because they couldn't do them well. Acting is not an automatic thing. Acting, as defined by Aristotle, is imitating.”

Many hold the belief that Nollywood is the third largest film industry after Hollywood and Bollywood. Does Nobert Young share that view?

“First of all, who is taking the statistics? Who is taking the data? It may be true because we hear about Hollywood, Bollywood, and our own Nollywood. We don't hear about any other wood in the world. So we hear Nollywood, whatever that thing means. It could be that we are the third largest in the world, I don't know and I can't answer that question. We are just producing unprofessional videos. Anybody can take a video camera and shoot anything. That is why we cannot enter for competitions internationally. So what are we talking about?”

In fact, when Spectacles asked him for his views on the Nigerian movie industry, Young was evasive, saying, “Don't ask me. Everybody knows my assessment. Daggers have been pointed at me for prior comments, so I don't want more daggers coming my way. I don't want to speak on this.”

Maybe his stand on Nollywood is the reason why Young's face is no longer seen as frequently as one would expect. He agreed to that, saying, “I don't like what they do, so I stopped featuring in the movies. I tried to correct them so many times, but they called me names like 'Too Know' and so on. I don't have the stomach for what they do. The last time I appeared in a movie was two months ago in Ghana.”

Is that the reason why he features more in soap operas nowadays?

“Soaps are more professional. People who work on soap operas are basically those who were trained in theatre while people who work on videos are those who were not trained at all; they are just into this for the money,” he said.

Away from goings on in the Nigerian movie industry, Spectacles asked Young why he chose to become an actor. He said he would have become a footballer but for his mother who was opposed to the idea.

He said, “I was a very good footballer. My brothers were great footballers as well. But my mother made sure we never became footballers, because the thinking at the time was that footballers were dropouts.”

But he said his mother gave him all the support he needed when he went in for Drama in the university. “In those days, when I wanted to read Drama in the university, it was only my mum that supported me in the house. I went ahead to study Drama at the University of Ibadan. My mother motivated me to pass well. She supported me all the way. But this was the same woman that stopped me from playing football.”

Yet Young says he does not regret leaving football for acting even now that footballers are making mega millions. “ I don't regret it because I still play football even though I'm not earning money from it. And I am doing what I love too and earning money from it.”

The movie industry has made his face popular, and Young says his popularity has been at no cost. “To me, fame is just about paying my bills. Fame has not cost me anything. It is just that people sometimes think that being mischievous is the way to go.”

He does not see the scandals that may have trailed him since he became an actor as a big deal. “Everybody must eat, so if someone wants to make money through you, why begrudge him or her? Let them eat. It happens because I am in the public eye. I should expect that. I have to be careful in what I do. But the public should try to understand that I have a right to live.”

And because he believes he has a right to live his life the way he wants it, Young says he does whatever he feels like doing, not minding his celebrity tag.

“For example, if I'm in a traffic jam and I need to get somewhere fast, the society says I'm a star so I should not do certain things like parking the car somewhere and picking a bike just to make sure I meet my appointment. In that scenario, I'm not a star; I am an actor. I will take a bike. My lecturer used to tell me that stars are up there, and you are down here. I don't have high standards; I'm a real person. I don't flaunt any ego about myself. I'm the boy next door. That's the way I live my life, and that was how I was brought up.”

Asking him personal questions is one thing Young detests. But then, Spectacles asked him why he chose to marry an actress and Young said it was because he found love in the acting profession.

“In theatre, we say that acting is one big lie, and we also say that the actor does not lie to himself. It was in the world of make-believe that we found love. I couldn't lie to myself and she couldn't lie to herself. That was how we found love.” On the romantic roles his wife plays in movies, Young said he does not mind them at all.

“ It is entirely at her discretion. If she feels comfortable with it, fine; it has nothing to do with me. If she has a script that says she has to kiss a guy and she asks for my opinion, I just tell her to go ahead, as long as it does not go beyond that and she feels comfortable with it.”

Talking about life as a young boy, Young said he grew up in a very strict home, though life was interesting. “My father was very strict. He used his knuckles to punish us by giving us knocks on the head. He did not talk much. I was very young when he died. But I remember particularly that when he was in the house and you spoke or pronounced a word wrongly in English, and he heard it, what followed would be a knock. I'm the youngest in a family of eight children. I learnt from my elder brothers and sisters how to avoid daddy's knuckle punishment.”

Though his father died when he was young, Young said his mother managed to train all her eight kids. “My mother managed everything after my father's death. That's why I call her the best manager in the world. All of us went to school. We did not hawk anything to make ends meet. We were very lucky.”

Young has a vision in life: “I want Nigeria to be a nation that would grow on principles of integrity, honour and discipline; a country where the young ones would not think that becoming rich is a matter of sleeping and waking up and bragging; a country where we will stop respecting thieves; a country where thieves will be brought to book. Then we can begin to talk about what nation building is, and take Nigeria to where it is supposed to be. Nigeria is a great country; we have everything it takes to make it better.”

Young may not be a fortune-teller, but he knows that he will remain an actor till he dies.

“An actor stops work at death. I will only stop acting when I die. As for politics, it is not for me. We have many well-meaning Nigerians with integrity. They can go into politics. But not me, because I can't stand being lied to or even lying to anybody.”

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