Titi Joseph: I love exploring film to change lives
Titi Joseph is a passionate actor, producer and acting coach. She started acting professionally in 2012 and has worked with renowned actors, directors and producers. The award-winning actress has featured in more than a few Nollywood movies including ‘Remarkable,’ ‘Silent Tears,’ ‘Dear Diary,’ and ‘Colour of Rage’. Her most recent works are a web series titled Mascara and a feature, ‘Long Walk to Nothing,’ which she co-produced.
Titi Joseph won ‘Best Female Actor in a Lead Role’ at the Script to Screen High Definition Film Academy Awards and was recognised as the ‘Most Promising Actor (Female)’ at the 2017 Nollywood Ambassadors Awards. Apart from acting she also coached aspiring actors at the High Definition Film Academy, Abuja, for about three years.
A graduate of Mass Communications, from Ahmadu Bello University, Titi is currently combining acting with studying for her Masters in Mass Communication at the University of Lagos. In this exclusive interview with Njideka Agbo, the actress takes Guardian Woman on a journey into her world.
What was growing up like?
I grew up with my mum and two brothers in Ilorin, Kwara State. Growing up with one parent made life a bit difficult for us, financially and emotionally. Financially, my mum was a state’s civil servant and the take-home wasn’t good, but fortunately for me, my mum was a very strong, loving, sacrificial and hard working woman. She did all she could to give us the best even if that meant making snacks and selling other provisions alongside her job to provide for her kids. We also had to help her out, too. I remember joining her to go round hospitals to sell puff-puff like we call it, fish rolls, and other snacks and I was always scared to run into any of my schoolmates. And then I come back from school and sit in front of our house with a small cupboard we had then, to help sell provisions before she came back from work.
And emotionally, as a child, you just wanted to enjoy what you saw other kids enjoying: the love and presence of a loving father. But looking back now, the strength, courage, doggedness, strive for success and happiness all came from my growing up experience. It shaped me into who I am today: God-conscious, strong, independent, determined, a goal-getter and, of course, some of my flaws too.
You studied Mass Communication and came out tops in your class, yet you are not practising. What inspired the focus on acting?
I’ve always loved acting. For instance, I was in the drama group in my church while growing up and participated in cultural activities in my primary school also. But at that time, no one would allow me go to the university to study Theatre Arts, so I just went for another course having in mind that acting would still be a part of my life in a big way. And that’s what it is today.
And yes, I am practising Mass Communication actually, and I’ll always practice because some of my future projects entail that. But right now, I am taking out time to concentrate on having my Master’s degree in Mass Communication from the University of Lagos while still pursuing my acting career here in Lagos. I think I’ll always practice side-by-side acting. I love both.
Who would you say is your greatest inspiration in the acting industry?
Everyone that has made it, and those who haven’t. They have inspired me on what to do and what not to do because I know the category I want to fall into. However, some of the actors I have immense respect for are Viola Davis, Meryl Streep, Jennifer Lawrence, Mercy Johnson, Johnny Depp, Ramsey Noah, and Majid Michel.
What is it about acting that you love?
The fact that I can be different persons, and connect with their emotions while impacting people I never could meet in a lifetime. Film is a powerful change agent and I love exploring that to change lives.
You were a lecturer in the High Definition Film Academy (HDFA). If you were to choose between acting and being a lecturer, which would it be?
Please don’t let me choose. (Laughs) OK. I taught acting for almost three years at High Definition Film Academy, Abuja after I graduated as a student there. Acting makes me a better coach and coaching makes me a better actor. But if I were to choose like you asked, I’d choose Acting.
Lecturing is a huge task, so is acting, how do you manage to juggle the two successfully?
I haven’t lectured in a while but when I was, it wasn’t difficult to juggle because I didn’t have to teach acting every day. It was twice a week and the arrangement I had with the Film School made it possible to be on set when I had to be. The truth is whatever one loves, one makes out time for it. I love both and I can’t wait to get back to class and I really don’t mind the stress that comes with it. I have the grace to multi-task.
What are the things you don’t like in the industry that you’d like to see changed?
The Nigerian Film Industry is globally recognised as the second largest film producer in the world, and said to be the second largest employer in Nigeria employing over a million people. An industry of such enormous potential deserves to be well-structured and have the full backing of the government and other stakeholders. If the industry can be given attention such like what other sectors enjoy and the right structure put in place; challenges such as financing, copyright infringement, marketing and distribution plaguing the industry can be tackled head-on.
And making reference to PwC recommendations, the Nigerian government and stakeholders in the industry should learn from India and work on encouraging more foreign investments, digitisation, and capacity building. The truth is the industry has come a long way, it’s a moving train that can’t be stopped and its future is evidently brighter. So personally, I’d say in an era where the government is looking to diversify from too much reliance on crude oil revenue, the entertainment industry should be given a chance. The government keeps talking about agriculture, the truth is agriculture worked in the past and could probably still work now, but we also need to start giving other emerging fields a chance.
Since your last movie ‘Remarkable’ in 2016, we haven’t really seen you on the screen, is there anything we should look forward to this year?
After Remarkable, I’ve featured in some films like Dear Diary and Colour of Rage, Somewhere in Abuja, Relapse and lots more. Some of these are yet to be released. However, my most recent works are a feature film titled Long Walk to Nothing co-produced by me and coming out a few months from now, and a series titled Mascara produced by Taiwo Shittu. We shot that this January and hopefully coming out this year, too.
As an actress and a coach, are there instances from your career that stand out as ones that helped you develop into the person you are today?
There are standards in every industry. Physical appearance is very important on the screen. Most filmmakers would just prefer that you are attractive with fine skin tone, curvy, sexy and though it’s not all about height, I still believe height could be an advantage, too. Well, since God didn’t give us the opportunity to mould ourselves, with my short legs, Christian background, and my conservative self, the challenge at first was how do I remain me while still making compromises to look the part, dress the part, walk the part, talk the part? How do I not get lost while chasing after what I love?
That was when I discovered Titi Joseph – my other personality that isn’t shy to do what she loves to do, acting against all odds. Titi Joseph became my screen name. That’s why when you see Titi Joseph, she is entirely different from Titilayo Ipinjolu. Titi Joseph is more of what I do, a brand I’m building for myself while Titilayo Ipinjolu, is who I am. Most times I feel like if you know Titi Joseph and not Titilayo Ipinjolu, you really don’t know me.
So while Titi Joseph is all out there, being fierce with all the make up and all dressed up, on heels to elevate my height, conscious of how she walks, what she eats, always trying to be cute and on top of her game, Titilayo Ipinjolu is just really homely, that simple girl who would rather go out without make up, simply dressed, eat on the street and so on.
I generally hate restrictions that don’t make sense, like being told how you can’t wear covered shoe on a particular dress, or one colour doesn’t match with the other, I’d rather be on flats than heels. I love being, comfortable but you can’t eat your cake and still have it right. Honestly, both have impacted on each other and I wouldn’t give up any of my personalities. Yes, acting and coaching test your perseverance, self-esteem, confidence, patience, courage, integrity, passion and the likes. The more you live up to the tests, you discover yourself more, and the more these virtues become part of you and you just become better and stronger for it, if you allow your journey shape you in a positive way.
In taking up acting roles, what are the specifics that you look out for?
I look for a story that impacts and a character that challenges me.
Asides acting, what other activities do you engage in to unwind?
I watch lots of movies. I enjoy swimming, too, and travelling when the opportunity presents itself.
Who is Titi Joseph?
Titi Joseph is God-loving, simple, dogged, loyal, friendly, smart, hardworking, independent and a realist. In all, Titi Joseph is working hard to be a consistent force of good to the world.