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Monday, 8 July 2013

Interview: "I changed the face of comedy " - Mr. Latin



What is the difference between the personalities of Bolaji Amusan and ‘Mr Latin’?
Bolaji Amusan is a responsible citizen of Nigeria, a family man and the head of a company, while Mr Latin is a comedian and actor who strives to preach anything positive to the society, through his job.

How did you come about that name, ‘Mr Latin’?

Chief Akin Ogungbe actually gave me that alias. I remember we were at a location then in 1991 and while I was delivering my lines, I mixed the touch of both French and Latin; and when he wanted to call me and couldn’t recall my name, he opted for ‘Latin’. And that was how the name came to being.

When exactly did you choose acting as a career?

That was in 1988. There was no means to further my education when I finished from secondary school. I was learning a trade when a friend of mine introduced me to theatre, because I had always been a jovial person. So, I was introduced to a theatre group in March 1988 and since then, it has remained my passion.

But why comedy?
Well, I didn’t start out with comedy; rather, (I started out) acting normal roles, but I picked up many of my acts from my landlord back then. He used to behave like that; so, I picked these traits from him. Whenever I was with my colleagues, I used to tell them the things (my landlord) did and I was told to come act it out so that people could see and learn from it. Over time, that character became a part of me.

What was the first major role you played in a movie?
Coincidentally, my first major role was comedy. The name of the movie is ‘50/50’, by the late Chief Akin Ogungbe in 1990.

What was the most challenging role you’ve played?
That would be the role of Mr President, which I played in 2003. It was challenging because I wanted to act like the former president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo. I had to study him for six months; trying to emulate how he talks, walks and acts generally. I did this by listening to the news regularly, being conversant with current affairs and surfing the Internet to get more details about him.

It was rumored last year that you were dead. What could have prompted that?
I believe that there are some people that take delight in raising such rumours, and I wasn’t their first victim. Such rumour had been raised about Sola Sobowale, Babatunde Omidina and a lot of other people. I wonder why they do that.
It was May 7, 2012. I was in Abeokuta that day, scheduled to travel to America the next day. I was packing my luggage when unusual calls started coming in. Senators, governors and a lot of people called to confirm if the news was true or not. The likes of Chief Gani Adams, Governor Ibikunle Amosun and many other dignitaries called that night.
I received over 3,000 calls that night, and I continuously charged my phone to keep the line on. It was later that I had to come out on the Internet that I was very much alive.

Which movie would you say made you?
My rise to stardom was gradual; but the movie that really nailed stardom for me was Talongbemu. The acceptance was really great, and I loved it. 

What would you say are the challenges facing the Nigerian movie industry?
To start with, I would say finance and piracy. These two things are really killing the job.

You were the immediate past governor of the Ogun State arm of the Association of Nigerian Theatre Arts Practitioners (ANTP). What are your roles in the association now?
Often times, I play advisory roles. As a non-executive staff of the association, I bridge the gap between the executives and the members and also, I try to guide the leaders now into doing the right thing.

Abeokuta, in recent times, has become a preferred choice for movie locations. How was this achieved?
This was achieved when I was the governor of the association. I used my influence to call our other colleagues to come down to Abeokuta and shoot their movies, promising them that they would enjoy the peaceful environment – which is paramount for filmmaking – and also help build the youngsters here in Abeokuta.

The likes of Sanyeri and Kamilu have changed the face of comedy in the industry. How has that affected you?
I changed the face of comedy in the (Nigerian movie) industry. I changed so many things, from the costumes to the make-up. The first comedian to play a lead role in a movie was Baba Suwe – with his movies Kotansibe and Baba Londoner. After him, I was the next person to do that, with my movies Mr President, Omo Ode De, Talongbemu and the likes.

But people feel that with those two in the industry now, the rate at which you feature in comedies has dropped…
I don’t believe that; we all play different roles. Also, I am an educated comedian; I don’t just play any role. Sanyeri and Kamilu are doing wonderfully well and I pray for them to continue to flourish. Everything has its place and time. We have done our part and we have to allow the upcoming comedians also to rise. I am proud of them and we relate very well.

How educated are you?
I was not privileged earlier to further my education, not until about two years ago when I gained admission into a university in London, where I am currently studying Tourism. So, by saying I am an educated comedian, I meant I changed comedy from the stage where actors used to stuff their tummies with costumes or overuse make-up. I brought reality to comedy. There is no denying it. I changed the face of comedy industry.

What’s your take over the recent ruling of the court over Baba Suwe’s case?
I’m neither a lawyer nor a judge, but I observed that the High Court approved the money to be paid to him, while the Appeal Court disapproved the payment. I believe maybe the case would still be looked into, and by then, maybe there is much that could be said about it then. I called Baba Suwe immediately after the news and we believe the best would come off it.

What is your foundation about?
It’s called the Mr Latin Foundation, tagged ‘Save a Soul Today’. It encompasses a lot of things, like assisting the underprivileged, helping the widows and organising enlightenment programmes on HIV/AIDS, kidney failure and the likes.
And I’ve been travelling a lot across the world, propagating the foundation. The organisation was established two years ago and it has been doing just fine. K1 D Ultimate is the grand patron of the organisation, while Mrs Funso Amosun is the grand matron. I have patrons across the world, and also with a lot of people showing interest in the foundation.

If you had not gone into acting, what else would you have delved into?
 I would have been a footballer. Football has been a career of interest for me since I was a youth. My role model is Chief Segun Odegbami. I love the way he played and almost everything about him.

What words do you have for your fans?
I appreciate and love them for being there, and I would love if they continue to criticise us constructively.