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Kemi Adetiba And Sola Sobowale: The Making Of Kings

Stars are not just made, they have gone through many years of trials, training, and the bold decision to try what seems impossible.

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The beauty we have all seen on our screen, ‘King of Boys’, has left us wanting more and this is the reason we have King of Boys: The Return of the King.

Of all the characters, one name that resonates with viewers is Sola Sobowale, who acted as Alhaja Eniola Salami, a female villain, in the thriller King of Boys. The perfect fit; in a previous interview with Guardian Life, Kemi Adetiba, the producer of the now epic film ‘King of Boys’ said “Sola Sobowale existed before the script existed… a friend of mine mentioned, ‘won’t it be crazy if Sola Sobowale played as some do’ and I laughed ‘like that is ridiculous and I was like wait’ and then I started having ideas and started putting things together and that is how it happened. King of Boys was written around her.”

Three years since the interview and the release of the first KOB, there is no love lost between the two, and their relationship has transcended beyond work to becoming a family.

It is not a surprise that for both talents, family has played an important role in making them who they are today. Sola Sobowale’s parents gave her education as a legacy. As teachers, they brought her up to be loving, and to take a chance on who she wants to be. Kemi’s parents, on the other hand, encouraged her to explore her creativity:

“I grew up in a house that stimulated my artistic senses immensely. From the music my parents played to the films and TV shows they got us to watch, to travel, food, bedtime stories… My parents were constantly painting a world in our minds by what they shared with us. My entire family is quite creative, just in different ways.”

Sola Sobowale is many things, and a mother is one of them. Many people still refer to her as Toyin Tomato, a name she got from her years of acting in Wale Adenuga’s “Super Story”. After gracing the screen for several years, she went on a 10-year hiatus.

She explained she left being an actress to take care of her children. As much as she values her job as an actor, for her, family comes first.

“The moment you have children, then you must be ready to take full responsibility. Education is something that is of priority to me, and that is the legacy you can give to your children.”

After the hiatus, she returned to her love for acting. Given the dynamics of the industry, making a comeback is always a game of dice. However, with Sola Sobowale, when she came back, her nickname changed from Toyin Tomato to Eniola Salami, and now, Laburu, a character in King Of Boys.

Besides Kemi’s certainty on Sobowale, she explained she wanted to do something different; she wanted to tell an authentic Nigerian story. In her words:

“Working with Sola Sobowale on Wedding Party 1 and her intensity, inspired a “what if…?” scenario in my heart. When it comes to casting on any project I have had the privilege to work on, I try to follow my heart. Many times, as I’m writing, I already have some people in mind, and visualising them in the role aids the writing process. I also stalk their Instagrams, and watch the movies to try to see them in different scenarios, or as different characters…

Plus, I really wanted to tell an authentic Nigerian story with no limitations. I wanted to do something different. It was going to be the first production from my production company, so I was ready to creatively throw everything (including the kitchen sink) at the wall.”

The ever-gorgeous Adetiba whose productions, The Wedding Party and KOB, opened and recorded huge successes at the Box Office, further explained that for the successes that she has had, it is because of her focus.

“My entire philosophy is to focus on the work. Just DO the work. People can deny many things, but not the work.”

In turn, when asked what her favourite part about working with Kemi was, the teary Sobowale said:

“Kemi made me stronger, Kemi believed in me. I’ve been around for a while. You know you can do something, but you were never given the chance. I have never met Kemi Adetiba before, I came from the UK for an audition for Wedding Party. She auditioned me, I got the role. After the Wedding Party, I got a call. She said I should come for dinner with her. When I got to Landmark, she looked at me and said we are going to work. Then she gave me the script. I said ‘this is huge’. I asked ‘what am I doing?’ She said ‘you are the king’, I laughed and said ‘you are joking’. She said ‘no’. I said ‘you are putting this responsibility on me, you are putting your life on the line for me, and you believe I can do it?’ she said ‘yes’. I said give me the baton, and said let us run, and we have been running. We will not stop, we are just starting.”

With this dedication and ‘special calling’, ‘Eniola Salami’ has made King of Boys a renowned film, it is only expected that the sequel would be better.

Interestingly both Kemi Adetiba and Sola Sobowale never thought that there would be a sequel, because as Sola Sobowale said, “we thought every aspect had been touched” Even the owner of the film, Kemi Adetiba shared the same thoughts as Sobowale.

“Everyone thought I would do a second part… Except me.”

With the recurring comment being ‘it just cannot end here’, Kemi Adetiba was motivated to work on the sequel, and 3 years after, ‘The Return of The King’ is ready.

Speaking about the pressure that comes with working on the sequel, Sola Sobowale said:

“There were lots of pressure to outperform the first one. When we did the first part, I thought everything had been touched… I remembered the first one, I almost fainted and I felt if 1 was like that, I am wondering how the second one would be like. When I saw the script, it doubled the first one and I was speechless. We did it and yes, the first one was a child’s play, compared to this one.”

Sola Sobowale noted that even when sleeping, the lines for King of Boys kept playing in her head.

While Sola Sobowale brought the main character to life, Kemi wrote the characters to existence and writing the perfect story, she reveals, took her almost a year.

“At one point, just before we were due to start pre-production and principal photography, I fell really ill for about 6 months, and everything needed to be put on hold. When I got out of the hospital, I got new inspiration, and re-wrote the entire script within the next 2 weeks.”

Like the popular saying, ‘Nothing good comes easy’, filming King of Boys: The Return of The King met with lots of difficulties, especially during the pandemic. Kemi Adetiba opens up about these challenges, in her words:

“We shot through the pandemic, partial lock-down, 3rd mainland bridge closure, The END SARS riots, and the eventual 24-hour lockdown that arose after that. To say it was grueling would be an understatement. But we looked at ourselves like soldiers going to war… and we had to WIN. That mentality got us through the very rough days.”

While Kemi faced these challenges in the film’s making, Sola Sobowale said it was challenging interpreting her role as the king of boys. She said:

‘It took sweat, time, hard work, reading, acting like a madwoman, talking to yourself alone, putting your soul, mind, past, and present into it. You spend time, it is energy-sapping.’

This dedication requires a mental balance, and a deliberate attempt to cater to mental health. For Sola Sobowale, she takes lots of water, fruits (bananas), and when she is not working, she rests.

For Kemi, however, her mental health journey has not been totally smooth.

“I think I’m still finding my feet with this one. Being a creative, one has to delve into emotional parts of oneself which others are afraid to go to or unable to – just to bring this work of art out so it hopefully resonates with people. One thing I’d like to do better is eating healthier while on set. I think it would go far in aiding my general well-being. But it’s SO hard while shooting.”

If you wonder who Sola Sobowale is outside being Eniola Salami, she is many things Eniola Salami is, without the violence and killings. Revealing how she sees herself as a powerful woman in a male-dominated society, she disclosed to the Guardian Life team:

“Some of the things I do in films are natural to me. I am a mother as seen in Wedding Party. As Eniola Salami, Sola Sobowale would not take no for an answer, Sola Sobowale would not want to be cheated, Sola Sobowale is principled, I call a spade a spade; Eniola is a killer, I am not a killer; Eniola is a liar am not a liar; Eniola is forceful, I am not.”

The most interesting aspect about this sequel is that it is a 7 episode series, a deviation from the norm. Kemi explained the reason for this:

“Coming back with another instalment from the KOB Universe, it was imperative that I was given enough leeway to tell the full story without time limitation. I’m grateful to Netflix for seeing the vision and truly collaborating in every sense of the word. I had no creative handcuffs on.”

Explaining how she got the Netflix deal, she says that it was a phone call that sealed the deal, and she is grateful to be collaborating with Netflix.

“Their sense of collaboration, and just being able to be part of this huge machinery and seeing how it works. It’s a big organisation with various departments, and there’s a lot of trusts that each department is on the money with the job they have to do. It’s truly magnificent to watch. It’s inspiring to play on this level. I’m looking forward to even greater heights, by God’s Grace.”

King of Boys: The return of The King has not been a walk in the park, it is filled with people’s sweat, dedication, talent, sleepless nights, and much more. In the words of Eniola Salami:

“Everybody that prays for Laburu will see Laburu, everybody that wants to see Laburu go down will see Laburu, Laburu is God’s worst punishment in a person.”

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