Deyemi Okanlawon: People Claimed I Was Too Expensive to Be Hired



Deyemi Okanlawon is one of the actors in hot demand in Nollywood at the moment. Adored by movie lovers, the graduate of the University of Lagos, who is best known for his role in the TV Series Gidi Up, has won himself several awards. Many see him as a sex symbol and one of the leading hunks in Nollywood but Deyemi would tell you he is just an actor who strives to interpret his roles as best as he could. In an interview with Timilehin Ajagunna, the talented actor talks on his career

How did acting start for you?

My first memory of acting was from about the age of 5 in primary school after which I featured in every school play until I left. I remember vividly how being on stage made me the feel the happiest and alive. I went on to join and lead youth drama groups in my church.

You could have done something else why acting?

I was actually doing something else. At first, I thought I was going to be in the Oil and Gas industry (I have a BSc in Chemical Engineering from the University of Lagos) and then when my first job out of University was as a sales and promotions manager I went on to spend years in corporate as a Sales and Marketing Manager. So for a long time acting as a serious hobby, my ministry if you will, however, it would seem while I had other plans for my life acting as a career literally came and chose me

Which movie would you say brought you fame?

While I was working in corporate I found time on the weekends, holidays and leave days to act in a few short films and web series as well as a few small roles in feature-length movies. The most viewed was GIDI UP and BLINK (both on my YouTube channel) and some other prominent ones were ZR7 and JOURNEY TO SELF.

When you started, what plans and goals did you set for yourself?

I had various goals – some involving the kind and level of impact I wanted to have, the quality of work I wanted to be associated with, excellent minded people I wanted to work with, and also as I was leaving a pretty well-paying job as the Head of Marketing for an international online company one of my topmost priorities was to first match up with and then surpass my corporate income. Let’s just say, as always, God has been overwhelmingly faithful.

You’ve featured in so many movies. Which will you consider as the most challenging of all?

Getting into a new character is always going to be a challenge. However, one of my more mentally and physical challenges was the short film BLINK where I played a psychotic husband who was stuck in a torturous dream world. It took watching loads of videos to study mental health patients and understand the character’s situation as well as 4 weeks of deep sea diving breath exercises to be able to hold my breath long enough to shoot underwater scenes.

How do you intend to keep sustaining your relevance?

As a lifelong learner and an avid reader, I’m constantly consuming resources on acting and every part of the production process, to understanding the psychology of my craft and the business of part entertainment. My goal is to constantly be the very best I can be with respect to my work, industry and community. Hopefully, relevance to the audience I entertain, producers I work with and brands (such as Cars45 and Imagine Lenders) I identify with will be a byproduct of the work I put in.

What is the worst rumour you have heard about yourself?

I have heard rumours about some producers or production companies saying I’m too expensive to hire… don’t mind them o. I believe it’s only fair to demand a reward that’s commensurate with the value I consistently strive to add – before, during and after production.

What is the best way to manage scandals?

Don’t manage scandal; avoid them by staying in your house.

What is the best way to balance your marriage as a celebrity?

By understanding that being a celebrity has no place in a marriage, park the accolades and adulation outside your door and give priority first to God; then to your immediate family relationships before anything else.

What is the best lesson that marriage has taught you?

That the Bible was 100 per cent correct when it said – I paraphrase – ‘When you are equally yoked, iron will sharpen iron and two will chase 10,000.’

How well has your wife been coping with you as a celebrity?

Please, when you see her ask her.

Who are the actors you draw inspiration from?

Denzel Washington and Richard Mofe-Damijo are two out of the tons of actors across Hollywood and Nollywood who inspire me not just with their craft but with what I have observed about their lives off the screen.