Aisha Lawal is not a newbie in the film industry, having been featured in over 100 flicks in the last 10 years. The actress and film producer might not even come across as a lawyer, but she studied Law at the Lead City University, Ibadan, aside from being an actress and businesswoman. The award-winning actress in this interview with ASSISTANT ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR GBENGA BADA talks about her career, marriage, and how she handles advances from men.
You studied law, would you at any point decide to take it up and defend cases in the courtroom?
Never say never you know; but for now, I like my job because it’s like being paid for your hobby. It can be stressful but it gives me joy though Law gives me joy too, I will stick to acting for now. Maybe later in the future, at a particular age, I might return to law as an academician to teach but not appear in court.
You were recently named as one of the casts of Biodun Jimoh’s forthcoming film, Luwo Gbagida, what do you look forward to seeing on the set?
The truth is that there is a difference between an epic movie, a traditional movie, and a historical film. When it becomes historical, it becomes challenging because you are wearing another person’s shoes in another era far different from yours and the good thing is that it’s a story many people don’t know about.
For instance, if I was acting Efunsetan Aniwura, a lot of leading actresses have taken up the role and you will be compared to this or that or those who have read book will have a picture of who they feel Efunsetan should be and you might not meet their expectation, and that is the major challenge. But again, I started as a stage actor, which has made me more flexible to take up any challenge. It’s easier when it comes to historical or traditional films, so I look forward to surmounting the challenges with my mind and focus all on achieving a great result.
How supportive has your husband been?
Ah, men, always claiming they are supportive but it’s the other way round, but we thank God. He knows the nature of my job but once in a while he just calls to say I’m taking too long on the set or what have you, but I try to find a way of balancing it so that no side lacks the attention needed.
Tell us your love story and how you met your husband
There’s no love story and I am not romantic. I don’t discuss my husband in the media. It’s a no go area for me. I apologise, no comment on that.
How do you manage advances from men despite being married?
It’s always been like that and even the fact that you are married attracts so many people more to you because when I wasn’t married and had not had my daughter, I think some people might be afraid of you tying them down with pregnancy but now, the society is corrupt and it’s a general thing not even a film industry thing. Dating a married woman kind of gives some men peace of mind because they feel she won’t leave her husband to come and disturb yours and the act is so aggressive these days. I get compliments from men saying I look so beautiful even after having a daughter and I just mock them. I ask them to inform my husband that they want to marrry me, and they simply back off.
Would it be right to say you reside in Ibadan, Oyo state?
No, I grew up in Ibadan and after my marriage, I relocated to Lagos, so I shuttle between Lagos and Ibadan especially when my husband isn’t in town. I stay in Ibadan so my mum can help with my daughter when I have to go on set or my mother-in-law can stand-in.
So, how do you cope with a long-distance marriage?
That has never been a barrier, flying is my hobby. The reason we haven’t seen for a while is because of the lockdown occasioned by the pandemic. Once international flights resume, we are just a flight away from each other. I like flying a lot and I could travel like five times in a month just to be with my husband.
Can you share the names of some of the directors you respect their work and wish to work with in the nearest future?
The first director that I yearn to work with is Niyi Akinmolayan. I have seen his movies and they are awesome. I saw The Set Up on an international flight and I was wowed. I had to send him a DM to appreciate his effort. I also like Kemi Adetiba, she’s doing a fantastic job and the fact that she’s a female makes me appreciate her more. Kunle Afolayan is another person. He’s a brother but I have not worked with him yet. There are other people, but I like people who go out of their ways to do great things because we know how harsh it can be working in this environment and not get accolades for your efforts. But these people go out of their comfort zones to break new grounds. Same thing I like about Abiodun Jimoh.
Looking back now, what would you say has changed significantly in the industry?
The acceptability from viewers has changed and is more encouraging. We have wider and broadened viewership from different spectrums of life. The complaints they had about the quality of the movie and some non-reasonable make-believe scenes are no more there because we see Jackie Chan or other actors do things we all know aren’t possible and people don’t crucify them but when we do, they say Nigerian films or Yoruba films, you people don’t do big movies.
If we have to say, for instance, Africa Magic premium that takes big-budget Yoruba films, we would be made to work harder. But when you do a movie of N60 million and you want to rate it with a N600K movie, there would be a big difference. Again, there’s a language barrier, it’s your fault and mine. My kid speaks English and these kids grow up to young adults and working-class and when they have to see a film in the cinema or at home, they won’t opt for a Yoruba movie because they don’t even speak the language, so why would they go and see the movie? And the cinemas won’t even take it. Some renowned filmmakers have tried it and they saw the outcome.
I tell people to stop sitting in the corners of their rooms and criticise without coming into the sector to see exactly how things are being run. It goes way beyond all the talks, I know we are not giving it all that is expected to take but we need more market and bigger challenges. When you see the Survival of Jelili on Netflix, then you can be assured that you can do this too.
So, personally, what has changed about you significantly since you began acting?
I am wiser. I learned a lot in the past, I am still learning in the course of my career. I have learned and still learning from the media, you guys have taught me a lot. I learn from friends, family, and colleagues. It’s a journey into oneself, it’s a discovery of yourself because you are actually on your own. You don’t get to attend family functions as expected, you don’t get to visit friends often and if you are not careful, you will get lost. And you have to also cut down on the job you do.
Would it be right to say you decided to keep your family away from the public because of your career?
Yes majorly and then they don’t like it even my siblings. Recently, my brother had his birthday and I posted his picture just to celebrate him and just before we could say jack, someone had already gotten all my family pictures and my brother didn’t like it. So much that he had to tell me not to put up his pictures again, it was not my fault but he doesn’t like it and for my husband, he doesn’t have a social media account. I am in the midst of such people. One time my husband wondered how I got into acting because I’m not a social media freak and I try to keep my personal affairs away from prying eyes. It’s so bad that I even forget to post pictures on my social media accounts.
How has it been after COVID-19?
It’s like new dawn, like we are evolving. You know when the westerners came to teach us new things we didn’t know about, that is the way I see it because it’s becoming a default setting with nose masks, hand sanitisers, and all that. I see everything new like we are all starting again. Then I think things more seriously, my horizon has become wider and my perspectives and views on things have changed greatly and I am more attentive to things in my surroundings and grateful for life.
What did you fall back on as COVID-19 ravaged the land?
I have a business. I have always been business-oriented aside from the obvious fact that I studied law and public relations before I joined the film industry. I have always been selling fabrics in wholesales, tailor materials, interior decors, and all sorts. And during COVID-19 lockdown, it was a blessing for the society because I did my quota for the people without attracting attention. After all, it’s not my style.