Akin Lewis is a veteran film actor, director and producer. He was born in Ibadan, Oyo State but grew up in Zaria, Kaduna State. He began his acting career in 1973. In the same year, he joined a drama group led by writer and dramatist, Professor Bode Sowande, a Nigerian. Lewis came into limelight after playing the lead role in a 1980 comedy sitcom, Why Worry. Over the years, he has featured in, produced and directed several films including Tinsel, King of Boys, The New Patriots, Soft Work, Heroes and Zeroes and Silver Lining. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, he shares the secret of his long and enduring career in the entertainment world.
You have witnessed over four generations of the Nigerian film industry. What do you consider the biggest difference?
Essentially, the biggest thing that has changed is money and it has blindfolded many of the young talented people. Today, you have to give me the script first, I read it and I like it. Conversely, we have a lot of instruments these days and a lot of money. Though it is too heavy, I wish it is well spent and evenly.
What do you mean by ‘I wish it is well spent’?
It is because only a few actors have access to those funds and only a few are well paid in the industry. This is an industry that has a lot of young talented people. I have been in the industry for over 40 years. I have been on the mountaintop and it has been awesome. I have also been in the valley. I have been happy and I have been sad. I know the secret of plenty and the secret of the small. That’s just the way life is.
You are always taking on a rich man’s role. Why is it so?
Well, I might have accepted such a role a long time ago but now I look rich and I am rich. So I guess that is the reason I cannot be given any other role to play. Professionally, I can act any role, but also in the professional point of view, it is hard for me to be seen or to cast me as a poor man. Usually I get millionaire and billionaire roles.
Don’t you feel stereotyped?
No, it is not stereotype for me to have money or not to have money. You can have money and be a bad person. There are several other ways by which I can become rich, but in a different character.
You refer to yourself as a premium actor. Why so?
Why I say that is because I am informed, and I am sought after in this profession in which I have been thriving for more than four decades now, 46 years to be precise. Everybody knows where I stand, and I am one of the well-trained actors in this profession. So people look for me and they pay the price.
Talking about pricing, is your fee that high to scare people away from working with you?
No, I have done some jobs where they just fueled my car and my hospitality. It is not that my fee is high, it is because I am the one they need and I have been able to establish that relationship with everyone that needs me. Even if they don’t have money, but the production is a good one, there are ways that it can be done.
How have you been able to manage fame till today?
I think it has to do with experience. You know when you start out, you won’t know how to manage it, but as time goes on, you just want to think of the people around you and how it will affect them. We have gone through a lot, but we have been able to manage it.
You are one of the very few veterans who are active, unlike others who we get to see only when they are in dire need of assistance. Do you consider yourself lucky for this?
To be honest, I can only say I am grateful for life and family. While on this acting job, I have gotten married, I have children, I live in my house, I have my car and all of that. I’m saying this with all due respect and not because I am trying to bring people down. Actors from my set got trained just for the job alone and unfortunately most directors just use you and dump you. I realized this early enough and that enabled me to see the future ahead. That made me to go into the corporate world. I diversified early in my career and I have very good results to show for this.
Are you saying that actors need to foresee the future early?
Yes, you have to think. This job is not as spectacular as other jobs. If you get paid N2 million today as an actor, unfortunately, some people will squander the money the next day. Every actor, including veterans, must learn to save and set some money aside for the future. Yes, you can buy those cars you fancy but don’t forget to take care of your children and your family. I have tried to do all of these responsible things and I am still on this job. Not all actors are irresponsible.
As a thespian, what do you look out for in a script?
There are good and bad scripts. I am well trained to recognize a good script, which must have a beginning, middle and an end. It must be well defined and must have a very challenging role for me. When all those are there, it will be acceptable to me. This comes with my training and should apply to all actors.
What is the secret of your enduring career?
I’m very diligent; I’m first on set. I’ll come, sit quietly in my space. I will do my job, then leave. But I guess I have a lot of grace because there are several superstars out there.