Veteran Nigerian actor and singer, Segun Arinze, opens up in a new inteview about his career, family, leisure and other issues.
Speaking about his career, the actor revealed the qualities that can keeps an actor revelant in Nollywood. Segun Arinze, stated that role intrepreters has to bring on their A-game, they also need to be focused, know how to relate with people and also evolve, as things change by learning and unlearning.
You have been relevant for decades. What are some of the qualities that have helped you to last this long?
I am not the only one in that category. There is Richard Mofe-Damijo, Ramsey Nouah, Sam Dede, Norbert Young and Keppy Ekpenyong-Bassey. One just needs to bring on their A-game. One has to be focused, know how to relate with people and also evolve, as things change by learning and unlearning. One should know when to sit back or push forward. It is not all about one’s achievements because we would leave everything here someday. One just has to stay humble.
The movie industry is seen as glamorous, making many to want to get into it for the fame. What would you say is the other side of fame?
I need to first correct people’s misconception of the movie or entertainment industry as a place where people just hop in as they wish because they want to make money or quick fame, then jump out as soon as possible. Entertainment is a job for entertainers. Nollywood is an industry, and entertainers are also professionals, just like lawyers, bankers, doctors and journalists. It is a profession; and not a dumping ground for people who were unsuccessful in other fields. This is a serious-minded job, and we are serious-minded people. Our industry is not for layabouts.
What would you say are the qualities that make a good actor?
One is as good as one’s last movie. As an actor, one has to be open to learning. Irrespective of one’s profession, we all have to learn something new every day. One has to keep an open mind. It is bad if one is myopic and shortsighted. One also has to be creative and humble. A lot of people in the industry are not humble and that is because they think they have got to a certain stage in their career where they could misbehave. Many don’t know that an actor is as good as their last movie. It’s like being a football player. Footballers don’t shine on the pitch at all times. Even (top footballers like) Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi fail to score goals sometimes. One must bring on one’s A-game at all times. One also needs luck to be on one’s side to be successful.
How have you been able to avoid/survive controversies over the years?
Controversies would always come, but what matters is how one handles it. The best thing is to keep one’s private life private, and one’s public life should be made public. I am not given to show off. I am old-fashioned. I just do my job, and relate with colleagues one-on-one when we meet at movie sets. I do not bring my private life to the public.
Comparing Nollywood now to when you started many years ago, which one would you say is better?
There is no reason for comparison. What is happening is an evolution. I do not believe in the idea of old or new Nollywood because an industry is an industry and it can only evolve. For example, banks had a way they operated when they started but they have now evolved. As we go on, there would be innovations and one only needs to adapt. That is what would help one stay at the top.
What is your opinion about movies that are considered to be below standard getting on Netflix?
It depends on what the critics mean by a movie being below standard. If Netflix could accept a movie and put it on its platform, it means the company had seen something worthwhile in the movie. Of course, the industry is a marketplace and one cannot please everyone. I will never join people in criticising movies, especially ones in which I didn’t play a part. Some people still like those movies that others have criticised. We all have our choices. I don’t condemn films because one man’s food is another man’s poison. I would never join people to condemn a movie. There are people across the world who have seen those films and love them.
Despite the existence of good cameras, beautiful locations, more investment, and the help of the Internet, many people have complained that the story lines of movies are even poorer than those of old. Do you agree?
Of course, we need to move forward. People who love the old movies should continue to watch them while those who love the new ones should also keep on watching the new ones. People have different choices.
Some have said that people are clamouring for remakes of old movies such as Nneka the Serpent and Aki and Pawpaw because they are losing interest in new movies. Do you agree?
Things like that happen. People revitalise movies all over the world, especially to make them resonate with the new generation. Although it is a trend, it is not a bad one. Some people want to see those old movies, and if one can satisfy that market, nothing should stop them from doing that.
What changes would you like to see in Nollywood?
Changes come as we go along. Change is natural and it will happen whether one likes it or not. When it is time for a change, nothing can stop it. People and the industry would always evolve.
What is your opinion about online skits and how did you feel featuring in some of them?
I have featured in about two online skits and I had fun doing that. It is another way of entertainment; another way of reaching out to people. The more skits the merrier, so long as they make sense. I did a skit with Mr Macaroni and another one with Broda Shaggi.
Some have said that online skits would someday take the place of movies because people now have short attention span. Do you agree?
There is no way online skits would take the place of movies. They are different. Skits can’t replace movies. How would skits, that are on average between one to three minutes, take the place of movies that are full stories? It does not make sense to say that people would stop watching movies because they (people) have a short attention span.
Some have claimed that directors now base their choice of actors on the numbers of Instagram followers they have. What’s your opinion on that?
Good luck to them. They should be allowed to enjoy it if that’s their way of getting the job done. As long as it works for them, there is no problem.
What do you think about uniting the Nigerian movie industry, instead of having different arms?
People mix these things up. Nollywood is the name for the Nigerian movie industry. There are several associations within Nollywood. Having several associations does not mean everyone is not under the same umbrella. There is Kannywood (Hausa), as well as the Yoruba and Igbo sections of the industry. The same way different guilds and associations make up Hollywood is the same way we have ours here. It is not a big deal and people should not make a noise about it. It is not something that should cause controversies because that would amount to making much ado about nothing. What we should be thinking and talking about is how best to work together. Our unity is not affected. Some Igbo actors feature in Yoruba movies. That shows we are all working together. Yoruba actors also feature in English movies and they are doing fine. It is fine by me that we are all working together because the more, the merrier. I love the fact that we are united and we relate well with one another. The sky is big enough for every bird to fly without obstructing one another.
How have you been able to effectively manage your family and career over the years?
I seldom talk about my family because I love to keep my personal life private. I don’t put my family in the mix because I don’t need it. I focus on my work and make it public, and focus on my family and make it as private as it should be. When I started my career as an actor, I did not promise people that I would bring my family to the public glare.
Is any of your children interested in acting?
Some have shown interest. I always encourage my children to do whatever they want to do. I would never force them to choose a career. The only thing I need from them is that they should go to school and get degrees. After that, they can do whatever they wish to do.
Why did you switch from singing to acting many years ago?
I still sing. I have always been a singer and actor. I just decided to focus more on acting. But, around 2005 and 2006, I released an album which was titled, In The Mood, under the imprint of Ojez Record. I still do music but I do it more privately, rather than for commercial purposes. Although I was already acting when I became known as a musician, it was music that changed my name from ‘Segun Aina’ to ‘Segun Arinze’.
How often do you travel outside the country?
I travel a lot. However, I have not travelled in a while since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Before the pandemic, I travelled very often though I never made a fuss about it because I did not think it was necessary to do so.
What is the major culture shock you have experienced in the course of your travels?
Fortunately for me, I have never had a culture shock because I have a broad and open mind. I read a lot as well. Whenever I travel and see some of those things I had read about, they don’t surprise me. I feel that nothing is surprising about culture because it is a way of life. One just has to be observant, learn and do as people do wherever they are. When one is in Rome, one should act like the Romans.
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