Kemi Akindoju: ‘No work of art especially storytelling is greater than the script’
Kemi Lala Akindoju is an actress, producer and casting director. She runs The Make It Happen Productions (TMIHP) targeted at telling African stories through all mediums, especially film, television and stage. Born into a family of four children, the native of Ondo State had her secondary education at Queens College, Lagos. After obtaining her West African Examinations Council certificate, she proceeded to study insurance at the University of Lagos. She also obtained a master’s degree from Pan-Atlantic University on Media and Communication. Akindoju began her acting profession in 2005 when she featured in the stage play, All I Want For Christmas. She has since featured in over 70 stage and film productions around the world. She was part of the team of actors selected to perform at the Theatre Royale Stratford East as part of the cultural events at the cultural Olympiad during the London 2012 Olympics.
She is a member of the faculty at the Lufodo Academy of Performing Arts (LAPA) where she is a facilitator and teaches improvisation drama. She recently directed and co-produced Ada The Country, a stage play. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, Akindoju shares her passion for arts.
What stands the theater out, as we know that there is not much of it in the industry compared to films?
It is a lot of work to achieve theater and thankfully the laws on COVID-19 have been lifted and we are glad that more people can come together. It took a lot of convincing to get people to come out. A lot of them have missed the human connection through sitting close together. That is the thing about live theater, virtual doesn’t give that human experience; it is not something you record but something you experience in real time.
The play Ada The Country is on its second run. What necessitated this move?
Like any work of art, you cannot over tell it. You can watch a firm up to ten to 20 times, so there is no special reason beyond the fact that these women portrayed in the play exist and we need to continue to sensitize people about the fact that the woman you see everyday these are her struggles. Then from the theatre angle we need to get to a point where plays are running back to back for a long period. That’s how to build the industry, that’s how to get everybody to see a play when it runs and runs for a long time.
What are some of those things that you as an expert are putting in place to ensure that theatre stays alive?
It is alive already. One thing for which I celebrate the Doyenne Circle production house is their ability to create excellent shows. My mantra is that I will always put up a show that will be worth seeing; if my name is on a show, it will be world class. That is my commitment. Now, when you have done the hard work, and for me, you now need to let the world see it and that is where collaboration comes in.
Between theater and film, which do you consider your strength?
They are different from each other. I always say this question is a trap because in the last three years, I have done more film work consistently and both are really hard. Filmmaking is hard, creating theatre content is hard; for each one I take, I focus on it and conquer it.
What interests you in a script?
The development of the story and the characters attract me to a story especially when the characters are well developed. No work of art especially in storytelling that is greater than the script.
How is motherhood treating you?
I am taking it each day as it comes; there is no manual to it.
When you are not in the theater, what is Kemi doing?
I am on a movie set, or involved in Automated Dialogue Replacement (ADR), I’m having a meeting, I’m casting for a firm, I am reading a script, I am at home on my couch, with my child. I am watching TV or sleeping.
What changes do you look forward to seeing in the industry?
I am tired of saying we need government’s support. If they are not waking up to their responsibilities, we are doing it ourselves.
What is your style?
My style is timeless, comfortable, and elegant
What is your favourite food?
I eat mostly local food. I like Amala.
What is your advice to younger people who look up to you?
Channel your vision on your dreams and always ask yourself what you are willing to sacrifice to achieve your dreams, because it is hard to make sacrifices. It is a hard long road though it is worth it at the end. But then, I am not even at the end yet, I am just starting.