Nollywood actor, Bobby Michaels’ flair for entertainment is remarkable. On stage, he is admired for his acting prowess; off-stage, his fashion sense is adored. He broke into the entertainment world as a musician and super model before carving a niche in Nollywood. Bobby talks to Chinedu Ibeabuchi, about his career, style and up-coming projects
You have a rich entertainment culture in your family, with your parents being entertainers also. Tell us more about this?
I was very lucky to have been born to parents, who were entertainers from the very start. My late mum, Chief Charry Adannaya Onwuguzo, was an actress, singer, songwriter, poet and novelist. She wrote over 30 books for children and adults in her life time and she greatly impacted me as her son. My dad was a DJ and actor and he also ensured I had basic training as an entertainer during my growing years.
Was it always your dream to become an actor or your parents influenced your career choice?
From my early years as a little child growing up, my parents had noticed the passion I had towards the arts. They saw in me what they didn’t see in my siblings. I have three other siblings who are not arts inclined in any way. So it was simply natural for me to finally become the entertainer I am today. It wasn’t my parents edging me towards entertainment, it was my nature that brought me here today.
Having followed your parents’ career footsteps, is any of your kids following same line?
Well, my daughter Pearl likes to draw and paint stuff. Paris likes to dance and my son MJ is a footballer. The thing is they are still very young and I don’t know what the future will bring eventually but I know they are all very well gifted children and I won’t be surprised if they turn to entertainment at any stage in their lives. My twin girls, Pearl and Paris are 13 and my son Michael Jnr. is eight.
Having tasted early marriage at 22, what’s your advice for youngsters aiming same direction?
My advice to young people is to be very careful when choosing a life partner. I strongly also believe that people must be mature before venturing into a lifelong project as getting married. Getting married too early in life isn’t the best idea. I did that and the rest is history. We must all live and learn.
You were once into music also. Have you finally retired from your music career?
My first call as an entertainer was my music. Music is me and music is my world. I took a break from music to pursue my acting career not because I am done with it. I only took a break to reinforce my musical style and come back when that type of musical genre would be very acceptable in Nigeria. The music isn’t over, there’s a planned 3rd album coming in 2019.
After a career break, you returned to Nollywood few years ago. What do you think has changed since your return?
Basically, I didn’t really take a break from acting. I only took a break from acting in Nigeria. I wasn’t living in Nigeria for a couple of years, so my focus was the amount of work I was doing in Europe, South Africa and America, among other places. When I finally came back to Nigeria four years ago, I once again rejoined my colleagues to continue to showcase my talent in Nollywood.
What projects have you been involved in since you came back?
I have done quite a lot of movies since I got back. Some notable ones are Lagos Cougars, Devil and The Red Sea, Kiss n Tell, Tailor My Heart, Grape and so many that I can hardly remember. The list is endless. Then I made my debut as a film maker with my self-produced movie, deep fever.
You love to look good. What drives your fashion sense?
I got my fashion sense from my dad. I think looking good is very natural to people in my family. My mum was a very fashionable woman and my dad is perhaps one of the best dressed men I have ever known. Looking good is also very important in this business of showbiz. I take it very seriously and that’s why I am able to stand apart from a lot of my peers. People would sometimes say stuff like, if you want to look good and charming, go look up Bobby Michaels.
Guys who dress to kill are often thought of as a gimmick to attract the opposite sex. Do you agree with this?
I don’t believe in that. I think looking good is a lifestyle. Why would I want to look bad at any time? The truth is, the way you present yourself to people on first contact will be the way they will value or look at you for as long as they continue to engage with you at any level.
Which are you more comfortable in? Western or native attire?
I am very comfortable in both. There are no preferences. I used to be a super model a little way back, so I wear or I wore just about anything good.
Which of your works would you say has given you that utmost feeling of a ‘pat in the back?’
Honestly, that’s a hard question to answer because every movie I have ever made, I have gotten accolades for each of them. My character definition has been the reason why I am still very relevant in Nollywood today.
How would you describe your reception since your return to Nollywood given the notion that you are more popular in Ghana and South Africa?
Well, Nollywood has been great since I came back, but it doesn’t mean I haven’t been very happy with the organisation here. There is still a lot of work to be done here to put Nollywood on a bigger scale around the world. I have had my good moments and very bad ones, but in all, I am glad I am here. Maybe with time, there will be positive changes
How would you describe Bobby Michaels brand?
The Bobby Michaels brand is a very special one. It’s a brand that breaks boundaries. A brand that can change the game in entertainment anywhere in the world. It’s a world class brand with experience that can be of value in Nollywood or Hollywood. I am not like any other actor you know… There’s only one Bobby Michaels…and that’s me.
Producers aren’t really satisfied with Nigerian cinemas business model. What ways do you suggest that this can be made better for both parties?
I think it also stems down to greed. A lot of producers are not happy with the returns from the cinemas because a lot of them borrow from banks, friends and relatives to make films. So I think, the cinemas should in turn give the producer a break with their business ideologies. The split between ends is too much of a crash for the original producer. And again, I think producers also should step up their game when producing. They should ensure that their movies pass the q and A. That way, they will be at least guarantee that other avenues of interest will come for the movie after it leaves the cinema.
Tell us about your latest or upcoming project.
I am currently working on a movie written by my late mum in 1982. I expect to be in studio filming early February of 2019.
If you aren’t acting, how do you relax?
I travel a lot. I like to view the world. I love to see other people and other cultures of the world. I love to have a good time. People who know me know I am a movie and cinema addict. This things are my vices as I don’t smoke or drink.
You seem to have done quite some works with Charles Uwagbai. How would you describe him in the industry?
Charles Uwagbai is a phenomenal modern day director. He is one of the very few that I have great respect for. Charles is very imaginative and very creative. Working with him makes my work as an actor and producer very easy. I would work with him any day, any time
As a fashion icon, any plan to launch your own label soon?
Yes! In 2019, I intend to launch BM Clothing Nigeria. It’s been on the pipeline for a very long time and after so much pressure from business like minds, we decided it’s about time Nigeria had a taste of Bobby Michaels.
Veterans are dying as paupers. Does it ring bell to stars like you?
It all boils down to that adage that says, man shall not live by bread alone. I wish that the veterans of the past had delved into other businesses to support their income and to prepare for retirement at the time when they were very active, the industry was not a very profitable one. Most people did what they did at that time simply because they had the passion and the drive for it. At that time, it was passion first before anything else, but now, it’s pretty different. If your passion can’t put food on your table, you may have to look for another avenue to support yourself, your family and your passion. I am one of the new day practitioners who are urging the government and corporate bodies to please come to the aid of our veteran entertainers who need financial help because they were the ones who opened the doors for us to have an Industry in the first place. So I think the industry should support them now that they are in desperate need for help.