A lot of people don’t Believe I neither smoke nor drink —Actor Olamilekan Ayinla Open up on why he had Black Lips

Though, he went through an Arabic school, Nollywood Actor, Olamilekan Ayinla has no formal education but has been able to carve a niche for himself in the movie industry. The movie producer, director and scriptwriter in this interview by FEMI OGUNTAYO, talks about his fast-rising career and some of his experiences.

Let’s start with your alias, 220. How and where did you get that name?

I got that name when I was at the Arabic school (Ile Keu), it was my exam number and before I knew it, people started calling me by that number – 220. Then, I told them I didn’t like it but because when they wanted to call us, they call us by our examination number, not by our name, that was how people started calling me by the number – 220. I later fell in love with the name – 220 and I adopted it as an alias.

How and when did you join the movie industry?

I joined the movie industry about 15 years ago, I cannot remember the exact year now but I am sure it has been over 10 years since I joined the industry.

How would you describe your journey so far?

Glory be to Allah. The journey wasn’t smooth at the beginning, I faced a lot of challenges, a lot happened to me, but with God, I was able to overcome. It is not that I have it all now, but once one has God, one has it all.

Can you tell us a little about these challenges?

They were the normal challenges faced by actors and producers in our industry. When I started, some people will tell producers or directors not to cast me, that I couldn’t play those roles, even when some people were already noticing me and knew I could play those roles, there were some antagonists that would say ‘don’t give him the role’ and all that. As a producer, I have produced a lot of movies and I haven’t even released them yet, because they didn’t meet up to the standard I wanted for them. I love doing something great but there is no money, no sponsor that can fund my projects. I hustle hard to produce my movies and I don’t want to engage in illegal activities to make money because I value my name. Another challenge is what we face in the hands of area boys. They ask you for money anytime they see you just because they see you in movies, unknown to them, even you, are still hustling to get that money but one just have to give them money, because they will never understand that you don’t have much too.

What is it about your look? Especially your beard, are you part of the ‘beard gang’? What is so special about the beard for you and why did you make it that long?

I am not part of the ‘Beard Gang’, though some of them have called me to come and join them but I haven’t because I have to be sure about them before moving closer to them, sorry to say. Then on my beard, I just love it. Whenever I have any work and it requires that I clear it, why not? I have done that before, on the set of the movie ‘Hatred’ directed by Seun Olaiya. He just called me that he needed me for just a scene and it will require that I clear my beard. Unknown to me, I would be playing a lead or sub-lead role in the movie, I just loved it.

You are also a scriptwriter, where do you get your inspiration from?

I cannot say really. I am a deep thinker and I bring great things out of my deep thinking. Once I pick up my pen, I just keep writing, it will just be coming. I like walking around to get my inspiration too and I also like exploring. The thing is, I didn’t go to any school, not even primary school. No one can say he or she taught me how to read or write a script or anything. Allah taught me everything; I get my inspiration from Him.

Because of the kind of roles you play in movies – the bad boy roles, don’t you get some awkward moments when people take on you in real life for the roles you play in the movies?

(Laughs) it happens a lot. A lot of people always believe I am a bad boy, I can kill, I can destroy and all that, but I am not like that, I am a gentle guy to the full. There was an experience I would like to share. I once followed a friend – a lady, to see a man who wanted to fund her project and when the man saw me, the man just said, ‘no no no, I cannot do business with this man’. This man wanted to give this lady about five million naira to fund her project and I was to package the movie for her. The man said he wasn’t going to give the lady the money because he ‘cannot do business with this smoker. This guy is a bad guy; I have watched a lot of his movies’. The lady had to tell the man that I wasn’t that kind of person in real life but the man refused. I had to excuse them that day and told the lady I would wait for her in the car. You can imagine, the man said that just because of the roles he saw me play in movies. I thank God today, I now take up more decent roles and I can play all roles. People need to understand that as actors, we can play any role and that does not necessarily mean that is who we are in real life.

Putting the record straight, who is Olamilekan Ayinla in real life? Do you smoke or drink?

Olamilekan Ayinla is a cool guy, a religious guy and I don’t smoke or drink, I am just natural.

On not attending any school, have you ever regretted not having a formal education? Are there plans by you to one day go for your formal education?

Yes, I regret it sometimes. Whenever I hear some of my colleagues talk about their school life, I feel bad that I do not have stories like that to tell. Sometimes, I think maybe I would have gone far past this level if I had a formal education but one day, I believe, I would still go.

How would you describe the movie industry currently, especially the Yoruba aspect of Nollywood?

All I can say about the movie industry is that it is great, just that once you enter into it, you are in trouble. If you don’t have money, they would frustrate your life and even if you have money and fame, you have to beg God to help you manage what you have. For the Yoruba aspect of Nollywood, we need to step up our games and not just believe we are there yet. We should see beyond what we are doing and go out and see where and things we still need to improve on. I can say we are doing well, God helps us.

If you have the opportunity to change anything about the industry, what would it be?

Firstly, I would reduce the number of producers we have in the industry. I would also stand on my feet to say, if you cannot shoot a cinema-standard movie, do not shoot at all. I would also advise all the stars and leaders in the industry to give room to upcoming stars to shine too because if no one gave them chance to shine, they wouldn’t be where they are today.

Some words for your fellow actors.

I would tell them to keep doing good because whatever you do today, you will account for it tomorrow no matter what. They should respect the elders in the industry and believe in the upcoming actors.

When was the moment in your career?

That would be during my birthday last year, it was a surprise birthday organised for me at Omole. I didn’t know people love me so much, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I saw a lot of celebrities turned up for me and I cried like a baby. The other day would be when I lost my father, may his soul rest in perfect peace and people also turned up without even calling anyone, I became so emotional that day too.

Lastly, what are your plans moving forward? What should your fans and lovers expect from you?

I have been working on a lot of projects I just pray God provide the funds to produce them. One of them is ‘Oba Mile 12’, another one is ‘Allah’, a very great religious concept; another one is ‘Ifa’. I have a lot of projects I am working on. So, by God’s grace this year, I believe I should be able to produce at least one of these projects. My fans should expect great movies from me.