Tomiwa Tegbe: I play characters that resonate with audience
Tomiwa Tegbe is an actor with over a decade experience on screen. He is popular for playing memorable characters, including bubbly and mischievous ‘James’ in family sitcom, My Siblings and I; rascally ‘Wasiu’ in international educational drama, MTV Shuga; Jude in the Paradigm Initiative short film, Training day and ‘Effiong’ in the movie, Kasala. The graduate of Environmental Management and Toxicology from the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta (FUNAAB) discovered his love for acting at an early age. He started his career as a screen actor while in school after he got his first lead role from his first ever audition and hasn’t looked back since then. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, Tegbe speaks about his passion for telling original stories and creating memorable characters that resonate with the audience and reflects our reality.
How did you find your passion for acting?
It started since childhood, to be honest, because as a kid, I have always been very curious about people. I have always been this kid who likes to observe people do things, and always taking interest in mimicking people. In my family, I used to be the go-to guy for imitating family members and friends. It just started from there, and also stemmed from my love for watching movies. Each time I watch movies, I always tell myself that ‘I think I can actually give this a shot’ – that was as a kid. I starred in a few church dramas and headed the drama unit. It started officially for me when I entered the university. I joined my theatre troupe in the university, and then I attended my first ever audition while I was in the university in Lagos, and I got my first lead role. That was literally all the conviction I needed to have that it was right for me. When I attended my first audition and got my first lead role, I felt like it was a pathway God intended for me to follow. I just kept on going and now I am here. I decided early in my life to choose this path. Before I graduated, I already knew that I was going to be an actor. I knew I would have my certificate and keep it, but I was going to go into acting.
You studied Environmental Management and also a member of your acting troupe while in school. How did you juggle that?
It wasn’t easy to be honest, but then again, young people always have their interests away from their academics. Apart from acting, I actually draw as well. Most of my interests revolve around the arts. I was shuttling from school to Lagos to attend auditions. I was missing classes and tests. It wasn’t easy, to be honest but I am thankful for the journey. I would say it was for character building, and I am grateful.
Tell us about your role and involvement in MTV Shuga
My journey into the Shuga Universe started in 2017. Being a part of MTV Shuga is a dream come true, in whatever capacity. To be given that opportunity at that point in my career was just a huge deal for me. I had no idea that in my character journey, ‘Wasiu’ was going to go in this direction. I had no idea that my character was going to progress in the Shuga Universe in this fashion, and I am just so grateful that my character has been through so many phases. I am really honoured and humbled to be able to bring this character to life that resonates with the audience and represents a huge section of our society.
How would you describe your growth so far and how receptive has the industry been for you?
When I started, in my very first audition, I got my very first lead role. At the time, that was my introduction into the Nollywood industry. I had no idea that after that, I would have to still keep auditioning. I thought that was going to be the big break for me, and I would become a household name. I had no idea that I would keep going for auditions to keep proving myself. Unfortunately, the movie never came out, but I am still thankful because of the contacts I made and the few people I was able to prove myself to from that very first experience. So, that gave me some leverage moving forward. I would just describe my journey in the industry as paced, just following my bliss, because right now I am fortunate enough to be a part of really amazing and meaningful projects. Projects that people would always remember the character. I have been given the opportunity to play characters that resonate with your audience and invoke certain emotions in the audience.
What characters do you look forward to playing?
I love pushing myself. I love portraying characters that are socially important. Moving forward, I would love to be given the opportunity to play a mentally troubled character, because the country alone is enough to make the average citizen mentally troubled. We go through a lot in this country.
I would really love to play a complex character that has complex relationships and a complex mental illness, how he navigates it through life and how it affects his relationships and all of that. I would love to play more lover boy roles. I have had the opportunity to play a few in the past, and it was fun. I would love to play that as well. Just any character that is socially important that would resonate with audiences, that is multilayered. Count me in, I will give it my best shot.
What does fashion mean to you?
Laid back, casual; just being very comfortable, anything that makes me comfortable.
What is your favourite local dish?
Amala and Abula.
How would you rate the industry today?
Since the moment I started on screen in 2011, which was actually my very first outing as an actor, the movie industry has really progressed. We have been able to record tremendous achievements and feats in the industry. There has been technical and creative advancement. I can’t place a score but definitely there has been huge advancement, and in this day and age, it is really an exciting time to be a part of the industry because so many things are happening, so many deals are being signed, so many projects are getting off the ground. We have streamers, we have amazing stories out there, we can tell our original stories and it is exciting to be in the industry as a creative. The industry is broad right now- content creators, a certain type of filmmakers. They have to also be acknowledged, recognised and rewarded for their efforts because it’s all entertainment.