Tayo Elesin : ‘Playing Sarah Forbes would be the highest passion and achievement for me’
Nigeria-born British stage and screen actress, Tayo Elesin, is in town to network and raise funds for her period drama film on Sarah Forbes Binetta. Best known for screen and stage hits including Jujuman (2022), Honeymoon (2019) by Amy Aniobi, Overnight (2018), The Gatehouse (2016), The Journey of Alfred Small (2015), Amazing Grace, by Jesse Lawrence, Race by Steve Macaulay and Our Husbands have Gone Made Again, by Lookman Sanusi, Elesin, a trained Barrister and middle Templar who also runs a charity foundation: Elesin Foundation, works in London as an actress.
Although she is a Briton of Nigeria descent, Elesin has lived in London all her life. The pretty and amiable actress studied Law at the University of Cambridge and trained at Greenwich Musical Theatre (Trinity College of Music) and Drama Centre, London. Moviedom caught up with the star actress and she speaks of her ‘home coming’ and more…
My Fourth Time At ‘Home’
IT is my fourth time here in my adult life; was here when I was a child too. It has been beautiful, lots of new things that I didn’t see before; some good, some bad. Landmark beach is just lovely. Seen lots of nakedness on the streets too, which I never used to see in Lagos – or perhaps I wasn’t looking hard enough. It could also be because I am in the Lekki area. I suppose you might not see some of that in Mushin, I don’t know.
We used to be generally a conservative country or so in dress sense or so I thought, there’s a shift taking place. I hope we don’t lose some of those values. And I love food. So, my trip is always full of food, strictly Nigerian food; from pounded yam, edi kang kong to beans to jollof, been munching it all.
Meeting Tayo Elesin
I have in the past referred to myself as Brigerian. It is a strange term that helps me to organise the two countries I feel most allegiance to; born in one, raised in the other. Sometimes, my heart is English, and my head is Nigerian and vice versa. I have to say though, and I will probably get slack for this – England has done for me what I wish Nigeria did for me.
England gave me education, possibility, hope, the English language, equality of opportunity through meritocracy (not perfect, but functional). If Nigeria gave me these things, my allegiance would be strictly Nigeria. But here goes the dichotomous nature of the British Nigerian dilemma or the Nigerian British, however you want to put the horse before the cart.
Training – well I studied musical theatre first, then Law and English, then straight acting at Drama Centre. Whilst I studied, I worked professionally. My first job was a musical; then, came a commercial – a Vodafone commercial to be specific. Then, a TV series. Then, a play. So, from the beginning – 2003 onwards, I have done all forms of acting. Funny enough, the only thing I have not done is a radio play. I have done voice over work too. I also have an MSc in Business management. At a point in my life, I think I had that very Yoruba desire for prestige through education – honestly speaking!
Next Project And Playing the Titular Role Sarah Forbes
Playing Sarah Forbes would be the highest passion and achievement for me. Sarah like me was from Nigeria and grew up in English court in Great Britain. She was a Christian and deeply intelligent and well achieved – all of which I am too. I am also a fighter and deeply committed.
Despite hardships growing up, I took everything Great Britain had to offer me. Right now, I am looking for serious investors to partner. The film is big budget and costed at £10 million. It’s inspired by Sarah Forbes Bonetta’s life. God gave me the vision 7 – 8 years ago when I saw a picture of the woman. God told me to do it. I was initially looking for a writer, but God used a BAFTA winning director to tell me to write it. I wrote it; wrote two versions in fact. I want creative control and I now also believe God wants me to direct it – so I want to put majority of the money down.
Where possible, I want majority of the money to come from Nigeria, or Africa. I have put so much of my money, time and effort into getting it as far as I can. I am looking for serious investors now so we can go into production. I believe this film will be the greatest English period drama and it will be led by me. I want to work with the finest of English actors and Nigerian actors, as this period drama is an amalgamation of both worlds. It is a story of forgiveness, love, betrayal and hope.
Impression about Nigeria’s theater and motion picture industry
In 2013 when I had my first and brief incursion into it, I thought it was amazing and growing. Fast forward to 2022, we have outdone ourselves. Whilst quality has vastly increased, storylines seem to have decreased. I actually used to think we had better storyline here, because people are not bogged down by identity politics in their art (the need to push racial and sexual agendas).
I think it is exciting that streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon are sniffing around the Nigerian industry. I just pray they don’t force feed us agendas that are destroying the west and that stories are left to be stories. But I look forward to doing some work here pretty soon. I am in talks with a Nigerian Canadian producer to play a leading role for a TV series here. I want to work with Kemi Adetiba too. I envision a film in my mind starring Omotola, Genevieve and myself in the leading roles. A true female heroine story that sees real women doing great things without the rigmarole of toxic modern day feminism. So, any screenwriters and directors out there, please be in touch; let’s make this film happen.
To make my Sarah Forbes film imminently within the next 18 months. Praying for supernatural intervention regarding the £10million. And I pray the Lord who has kept the project for me for 7-8years, will keep it for me to make. It’s a sacred project to me and I don’t want the story bastardised to fit into the current trending identity politics, which is destroying western civilisation slowly but surely.
After I make this period drama, if I decide to live in Nigeria again, I am going to build a bigger theatre/artistic space than what Bolanle Austen Peters built in Terra Kulture – and I am going to do it in a quarter of the time it took her. I would want this space to function as a major film studio and theatre space. It will happen for me. In addition to this, I wish to work with the best directors in the world to tell great stories.