Popular Yoruba actor and movie producer, Aina Gold, in this interview with DUPE AYINLA-OLASUKANMI, speaks on his journey to Nollywood and the current problems plaguing his colleagues in the industry
AT what stage of your life, did you decide to take up acting as a career?
I made the decision after graduating from Yaba College of Technology where I studied Estate Management. I started as an Estate Surveyor. I worked with an Onakanmi & Partners for some years before moving to Diya Fatimilehin & Co. After some years with the firm, I started my own firm. The acting thing started since my childhood days. While growing up, we attended First Baptist Church, Oshodi. While there, I joined the drama group. We did stage plays and moved round the country. I attend Daystar Christian Centre and on a particular Sunday morning, Pastor Sam Adeyemi said in his sermon that we had talents which wonâ€™t fail us even if our professions do.
The sermon said apart from our career, God deposited a talent in all of us. I felt I was the one he was referring to. I felt very uneasy and on my way home, I discussed it with my wife but she seemed not to understand. After much deliberation, I decided to give it a shot and here I am today. Officially, I started eight years ago. I started as an apprentice with the Osumare Theater Group. I spent nine months of intense training. After graduation, Mama Rainbow (Mrs Idowu Phillips) took me to the â€˜Odunfaâ€™ where I met some other people. I stayed there for a few months before eventually going into acting for real. So far so good, that was eight years ago.
Looking back, what can you say about your experience as a trainee?
It is not all about money. It is about passion. Having a passion and staying focused will get you there. It is not all rosy. I would have made a lot of money practicing my profession but at the same time, I was not focused on that. My colleagues are doing well. Looking at them sometimes I ask myself if it is not wise to go back. Because I know that this is an assignment from God, I hold on to it. I know that over time, the rewards will start coming.
Would it be correct to say, it is because you have already made money that you are not bothered about the financial aspect of your present career?
No amount of money you make can ever be enough. There is nothing you have in life and not have addition to it that will stay for life. One thing I know is this, it is not everybody that went to the university to study Estate Management that is making it. Same goes for other professions. There are people doing other things that are not making it now but have remained focus. Passion pays off. I must say this; even our society is driving us beyond our level, especially in Yoruba sector.
How do you mean?
They expect so much from us. They have a mindset that once you finish a movie, you must have money. That is making majority of us, to look beyond theatre. I am somebody who is not so keen about money. If I can fend for my family, I know over time it will be better.
How does your wife react when female fans bug you at social events?
I have a wife who is Godâ€™s gift. Before I got into acting fully, she used to admire Ogogo a lot. It is about his acting, persona, charisma and so on. If such person already has this at the back of her mind, she will understand the life of a celebrity in her own special environment. When I started and I get on set with a female colleague, instead of kissing, I would rather peck. On getting back home, she accuses me of not making it real. She used to tell me that kissing an actress will not make her tongue glued to mine. She is coping. I give a lot of kudos to her because we have never argued over such incidents. Let me give you an example.
A lady called from the United States and says she likes me. It started as a fan. Later it graduated to her having a crush on me. I told her, It is quiet unfortunate that I have a wife. I was going out with my wife one day and she called and was repeating the same words. I told her, I was with my wife and she asked me to give the phone to my wife. The woman told her point blank that she wants to marry me. My wife said, but he is married. She replied but he is an African man and can marry more than one wife. The point is she understands how crazy a fan can be.
Do you still practice Estate Management?
You see, acting is a profession that you cannot add any other meaningful thing to it. Even if you are doing other things, you will need to have people managing that. I am a contractor. While in school I did other courses including Civil Engineering. I discovered that Estate Management will take a whole lot of my time. I cannot be in the office today and on location the next day.
I decided to take up the construction aspect. After all, in construction, you have other people who have studied other aspects. When you are not there, they can do the work. So I run an office that is mainly for construction. I have a company called Multi-Gold Construction Nigeria Limited and we have two or three sites. By the grace of God, we have been able to do works to the satisfaction of our clients.
How do you create time out for you children?
I thank God, I have grown ups. My first child just graduated from the university. The second is about getting in and the last is JSS III in Kings College. I still have a lot of time for my family and we still give a lot of treats for ourselves. It is not every time that I am on location and site. I know that without their support, I wonâ€™t be where I am. I appreciate them a lot.
Why have you not been linked with the likes of Yinka Quadri, Ogogo?
When I started, it was on stage and in the church. There was nobody to record us. I must tell you, we took it then more like a hobby, not profession, going from one church to another, travelling to different places. It was just like the case of an upcoming musician. Going from one show to another, he or she will hardly be known. It was when we started going to these places that we got known.
Have you produced any movie of your own?
Yes, I have produced about three movies but the experience I had with marketers will not permit me to talk about them. Iâ€™ve not been able to recoup my investment. But that is one of the things killing the industry. I keep on saying that it is not when you produce that you become a professional.
A professional actor does not produce. You leave the production aspect to the producers. The work of the actor is to go in there and get a role from a producer. I have produced movies in the Yoruba sector. The only thing they drum into your ear is if you have not produced, you are not there yet. But now I am facing acting fully. The three movies did well; I got a lot of fans, got more popular, but I didnâ€™t get the money. I think it is one of the sacrifices we have to make.
To what would you attribute your steady rise in the industry?
I have nothing else to attribute it to other than God. He brought me to this industry and has kept me here till this moment. Special thanks also go to my boss, Femi Phillips, who is in London presently, for believing so much in me. He gave me my first major role and I remember him telling me that I was going to play the lead role in his movies, Erukeru and Alapatira. I was surprised because it came quite earlier than I expected but I took up the challenge. In essence, God brought me this far, but special credit would go to Osumare and Odunfa Groups because they really shot me to limelight with the roles they gave me.
What was your experience on set for the first time?
I had a tough time interpreting my role because I worked with a top professional in Ajoke Ashewo To Re Mecca. Toyin Adegbola complained bitterly about me because she played the role of my wife in that movie and was not really comfortable with me all through. I kept apologizing but I did not lose focus. I guess that has helped me a great deal even till this moment.
How have you managed to avoid controversies?
I may not have had my fair share of scandals now but I donâ€™t deceive myself thinking it wonâ€™t come. When I asked my senior colleagues how they managed scandals around them, they only asked me to avoid issues that could attract scandals. That has helped me a lot over the years. To say that I have completely avoided scandals may not be right because I have had some issues which I was only lucky did not find its way into the pages of newspapers and magazines. Scandals are part of our lives and any celebrity who says he or she doesnâ€™t expect it is deluding him or herself. Life is full of ups and downs and such things should be expected.
Why do Yoruba actors feel that the English counterparts are better off?
We give glory to God. No Yoruba actor will tell you that he is adequately remunerated compared to our English counterparts. There are so many factors responsible which I canâ€™t readily explain now. That is why you still see some of our stars on commercial motorcycles. It is very rare to see any Yoruba actor buy a car with the money made from acting. We are grossly underpaid.
The men especially arenâ€™t lucky enough to get helpers like the women. They are more outspoken than we are. For example, I am on location and I am given a stipend. The first thing I think of is going to drop it with my family. That is why most of us donâ€™t do interviews. It is not like we are shy; most of us donâ€™t have time. You jam pack the location because you pick the peanuts together. We remain focused; believing that over time things would get better.
With this scenario, how long do you see yourself in this industry?
By the Special Grace of God, Iâ€™ll be here for as long as Iâ€™m alive. I canâ€™t retire for whatever reason because itâ€™s what I have great passion for. At a point, I might have to stop Estate Management but definitely not acting. Presently, weâ€™re planning an estate even as Iâ€™m on location and it has been my dream over the years. I know itâ€™ll surprise my noble colleagues in the Estate Management field that this man still does this even while acting.
How do you unwind?
I socialise a lot o. In fact, I have a colleague by the name Prince Adeyemo. We go out a lot. He is my close pal. Not that we just go anywhere. We have our own private place where we go to hangout. Donâ€™t be surprised we go to club, though he is an Alhaji.
Do you have any of your children showing interest in acting?
I donâ€™t see anyone of them leaning towards that direction now. If later they choose to, fine. My first child is already a graduate and he studied Banking and Finance. The second one just gained admission to study Business Management while the third is just in Secondary School.