Ayo Lijadu was very active in athletics. He representedÂ his school, Kingâ€™s College, Lagos, and Lagos State, in the middle distance races up to the national level. Today, heâ€™s moved from athletics to the Klieglights. Armed with experience spanning over 40 years on set, lights, camera and action craft, he has seen it all. His vision of cinema as a veritable medium for propagating morally sound and acceptable societal values has not changed. The Stanislavskyâ€™s Method of Acting-style veteran is excited by roles that challenge his skills, creativity and experience as an actor. He speaks with Adedayo Adejobi on the price he is paying for fame, the acting roles that excite him and his spiritual inclinations
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What influences the kind of roles you accept and play?
Script content, vis-Ã -vis quality of writing and overall message. These play an important part in deciding the kind of roles I accept.
What types of role excite you?
The types that will challenge my creativity, my skills and of course, my experience as an actor.
After so many years in this industry, how do you approach each new role?
I approach each new role basically on the premise of my understanding of what the writer and director want that role to achieve as a unit; working within a whole. And yes, it is possible to become and stay excited about new projects, otherwise this profession would be a boring chore.
Many actors, act according to a certain style or method theyâ€™ve developed over the years. Would you say youâ€™re an actor of method or style?
I will say I am more of a method actor, having been trained in the Stanislavskyâ€™s Method Acting style which also has its varieties expounded and developed by other acting teachers of the early 20th century. But by and large, I will say with experience, I have also learnt to experiment and adopt other styles as occasions may demand.
Some things have changed in the business since you first started your career. But how has your vision of the cinema changed?
Certainly a lot has changed in the television and film industry since I started my professional career as an actor, a little over 40 years ago, especially when you consider the vastly improved quality in every aspect of the production value chain. So we are getting better quality production now than we used to, say, about a decade ago. In all of these changes, my vision of cinema as a veritable medium for propagating morally sound and acceptable societal values has not changed.
Whatâ€™s different now about performing and say 20 years ago?
What is different is the experience that has been packaged in between the 20 years. That is what age and length of time does for anyone who has consistently kept at practicing his craft. Experience teaches you ways and means to navigate areas of practice which otherwise you found hard and tortuous before.
How do you think the changes being made in the way people see movies,Â changing not just the roles but the industry?
If by this question you mean how the improvements brought to the various areas of production, whether technical or artistic, have impacted on the overall quality of work we now have in the industry, I will say, quite positively. The average Nigerian viewer is now much more sophisticated and critical of local content than say, 10, 15 years ago; especially given the fact that he has many more sources of accessing entertainment. So our local television and film content producers are challenged not to produce anything lower in quality than what they have seen is acceptable to the viewing public. So, all these improvements are bound to affect, in a positive manner, not just the kind of roles actors get, but the industry in general.
Popularity, great roles, awards and so on. Is it like living in a surreal world?
That depends on the individual. How well and how realistic he or she is able to handle these things, that is, popularity, great roles, awards.Â I am a thoroughly down to earth person. I donâ€™t see myself as an extraordinarily different human being from another person who is equally engaged in work he was trained for just because I am a popular actor. If these things come with the profession, glory be to God, who is the Giver of all good things. I never allow these issues to get into my head. .
Were there moments when your parents were unhappy about your career choice?
No. At no time were my parents unhappy about my career choice.
Stardom comes with a price. What is the price you paid?
I have never considered myself a â€˜starâ€™, at least not in the context in which it is being used, not just in Nigeria, but all over the world. Application of such adoring words like star, superstar, idol, celebrity and so on to artistes and entertainers generally, to my mind, is responsible for what has made so many talents in my industry to lose focus and see themselves as extraordinary human beings who must be worshipped and adored by other human beings. So they elevate themselves to that surreal world you mentioned earlier, with often devastating and destructive consequences. Examples of artistes who have experienced self-destruct as a result of inability to handle the so-called â€˜stardomâ€™ or fame, are too replete all over the world. So I will rather answer your question in this manner; the price I have had to pay for â€˜popularityâ€™, so to say, is loss of privacy. That, to me, is a big price.
Whatâ€™s your take on sex scandals rocking American film producer and former film executive, Harvey Weinstein?
I have no comments. As a rule I donâ€™t engage my precious quality time porring over stories and gossips of other peopleâ€™s private lives and escapades. Time is too precious to be spent in such ventures that deliver no real value at the end of the day.
What kind of a father are you?
I wouldnâ€™t know what you mean by â€˜chilledâ€™ or â€˜hyperâ€™, beyond the ordinary dictionary meaning I am familiar with of those words. However, I would like to think of myself as a responsible, loving and caring father to all my children and whose sole desire, efforts and goal is to bring them up in the fear and ways of God and as responsible citizens of their country.
What gets you out of bed in the morning?
The desire to optimally use the hours of the day available to me, with the satisfaction at the end of the day that I have done all diligently in clear conscience to God and to self.
If you could only choose one song to play every time you walked into a room for the rest of your life, what would it be?
If you could be remembered for one sentence, what would it be?
â€˜The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.â€™
If you had a choice between two supernatural powers-being invisible or flying-which would you choose?
Those abilities are not part of what God physically and naturally endowed man with. Anyone desiring such is asking to take on mystical powers; neither is a choice for me.
What were you like as a child?
Like any other child, with natural, childish attributes that pertain to children at their different developmental stages.
What were you like in high school?
Like any other high school boy, I guess. Except that I was very active in athletics and represented both my college, Kingâ€™s College, Lagos, as well as Lagos State, in the middle distance races up to the national level.
Do you prefer sunrise to sunset and why?
I donâ€™t have any preference out of the two since I acknowledge that each one of them has its proper place and role to play according to the cycle of life. It is for each individual to make each of these works of nature work to his or her own advantage.
If you were a brand, what would be your motto?
â€˜Always be a worthy example.â€™
What are your greatest strengths?
My faith and conviction in God is my greatest strength.
What are your weaknesses?
I would rather keep those to myself and work on them.
How honest are you?
As honest as I know God wants me to be.
What is one of your favourite quotes?
â€˜The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.â€™
If you could choose to stay a certain age forever, what age would it be?
When you have 30 minutes of free time, how do you use it?
Meditating on God and eternal life.