Best described as a bundle of talents, Iretiola Doyle is an actress, presenter and producer with a lot to look forward to. In this no-holds-barred interview with
CHIOMA GABRIEL, she talks about her marriage, career and of course, the premiere of her first movie which holds today.
It appears you are more on Tinsel than any other movie?
My commitment to ‘Tinsel’ is on a first-call basis; which simply means that the production is considered above any other work commitments I may have. Professionalism, integrity and plain common sense dictate that I would not play a character similar to Sheila Ade-Williams in any other production. Besides, what would be the artistic challenge in that? If I find an interesting character in a project that can accommodate my commitment to ‘Tinsel’, I’ll jump at it. Fortunately, there have been a few.
In the last one year I’ve been busy. I was a member of the star cast of the 2013 V-Monologues in May. I’ve shot three movies. One, ‘The Gods are still not to Blame’, has been released and just concluded its cinema run. Another, ‘Torn’, will premiere on the 27th of July and will screen in cinemas across the nation as from the 2nd of August. The third is in post-production.
Aside these, I present the weekly show ‘NIMASA This Week’ on Channels TV and also a Hausa talk show ‘Toron Giwa’ that airs on the DSTV Hausa Channel, not to mention my engagements as an MC. So , Tinsel as consuming as it can be is not the only thing I do.
Would you run for public office if given the opportunity?
Am I likely to run for public office? I’m not sure. It’s not something I am consciously thinking about talk less of working towards. However, I am deeply concerned and have very strong views about the state of my nation. I often voice these views in my weekly column here in Saturday Vanguard as well as in a few other socio-political gatherings where I have been invited to speak. Should the opportunity present itself, though, I would like to think I have the strength and courage to step up to the plate.
I have no intention of starting up an NGO, although I do have my own personal CSR that I engage in. I work with young ladies wherever I find them. As it turns out, the industry I thrive in is thronging with them. When I say ‘work with them’ I mean like a big sister: Provide a listening ear, guidance and sound advice and sometimes when necessary, a stern talking-to.
For some, it is financial assistance, for others it might be opening a door that had hitherto remained shut. Young girls are drawn to me and find it easy to talk to me about sundry things, some of them excruciatingly personal. I, on the other hand, had made up my mind long ago to do whatever I can to make someone else’s journey a whole lot easier.
The Lord has found diverse ways to put that desire to use. Will this ever develop into a full- fledged NGO or something like that? I doubt it very much. Besides, the biblical injunction is that your right hand should not know what your left hand is doing. In terms of ‘giving’, my default mode is to be unobtrusive; a paradox, given my chosen career – though I have toyed with the idea of holding a public lecture for young ladies where we can sit and talk to each other about self-esteem, making good choices and the need to understand who we are from an early age.
Something like an annual event to coincide with my birthday perhaps. We could call it the ‘Iretiola Doyle Annual Lecture For Young Ladies’. The idea popped into my head around my birthday this year. I thought maybe I’d visit a couple of secondary schools and start from there. However, my commitment to the stage play(which, incidentally, was performed on my birthday) ensured that this year at least, it remained just that – an idea. Let’s see what happens next year.
Many of your colleagues are brand ambassadors, what about you?
Endorsements are not something you pursue overtly. There’s a whole marketing strategy behind picking a brand ambassador that goes beyond your competence in your area of endeavour, even though it all begins from there. It has to do with your level of visibility, how the public perceives you, etc. I’ve had a few offers, that they did not come to fruition simply means along the line we found we were not a perfect fit. It’s the law of averages… At some point will come a brand and it will be a match made in heaven.
These days, a lot of Nollywood stars are dying, some due to carelessness. What are you doing to curb stress and avoid hypertension?
May the souls of the faithful departed rest in peace. The only thing you can do is to respect and take good care of the body you’ve been given. The older I get, the more cautious I am of what goes into my mouth. One tries to do all things in moderation. I try and get a lot of rest when I am not working. I try not to expose myself physically, mentally and even emotionally to undue danger. And I get regular medical check-ups.
I also actually ‘listen to my body’. If there is some inexplicable pain or swelling etc., I try and get it checked out as soon as possible. When I do take risks, they are calculated. Those are the things you can control. For the things that I can’t, I simply place my trust in my Lord Jesus Christ from whom comes my help and salvation.
I notice you now play romantic roles in ‘Tinsel’. Hope there are no complaints from your husband?
Nope, there are no complaints whatsoever.
How do you combine marriage, career and motherhood?
Pretty easy. I’ve always worked, so my family is used to me having a busy schedule. I have faithful staff and a hands-on partner who makes things very easy to manage. Besides, my kids are all grown now and can look after themselves for the most part. Then of course grace – which is the key factor.
I read an interview sometime that portrayed you are impatient and quick to anger. How true is that and what are you doing about it?
Malice is a poisonous emotion. Now I recognise it for what it is and on the very rare occasions it does rear its ugly head. I work assiduously to rid myself of it before it takes root and begins to fester.
I am still an impatient person, but I think I’ve learnt a bit more tolerance. You can’t be a team player if you’re not tolerant. And you really can’t excel in this job or in life in general if you’re not a team player. Plus, it is only a foolish person that will grow to be middle aged without learning that while you may disagree with another’s views, that’s no reason to disrespect them. So you learn to accommodate. And where accommodation is impossible, you learn to get your message across without malice. Where that might be difficult, you learn to walk away with grace.
Who are your friends in the movie industry and what endears them to you?
I have many friends and associates, but the two people I am most intimate with in the industry would have to be Najite Dede and Kate Henshaw. What endears them to me, besides the very high level of professionalism they bring to bear on their craft, is that they understand the meaning of friendship and loyalty.
Why did you stop your TV Fashion Show?
My fashion show ‘Oge with Iretiola’ aired for 10 years. I took it off air because we had done the same thing almost the same way for a decade and it was time to revamp. As it turns out, this coincided with the time my character on ‘Tinsel’ grew big. I was working 12-hour days, some days I had 20 scenes; there wasn’t the time or energy to do anything else. However, in the last several months, we’ve been working on bringing it back. This time, we’ll launch it as a web series for two reasons – first being that this will give us a global audience and secondly, it is to circumvent the astronomical cost of airtime. It will eventually find its way on to some cable stations as well as TV stations where the cost of airtime still makes economic sense.
Is it true you had a child at 17 outside marriage? Where is the child now and what is he doing?
I got pregnant at 19 and had my baby when I was 20. She’s doing great! She lives with me, she is a graduate of Economics from OAU and is now working.
What’s your biggest regret about life?
Regrets? No. I consider ‘regret’ a waste of time and emotion. Are there things I wish I had done differently? Perhaps. But what’s done is done. I learn from my mistakes, move on and try not to repeat them. I certainly do not carry them around like baggage.
What is the secret behind your successful marriage, especially at a time many Nollywood marriages are crashing?
Being patient, tolerant, learning the rules of engagement as regards marriage, not having a knee-jerk reaction to issues and circumstances and learning how to compromise.
After many years, one would have thought you would be bigger in the industry. Is marriage weighing down your career?
It can be challenging, even though there are also moments of sheer bliss. The key is learning how to prioritise your time and realising you can’t pull it off alone.
There’s now a collabo beween Nollywood and Hollywood. What’s your take on that?
I think the ‘collabo’ between us and the rest of the world is a good thing. It will affect quality control and to some extent, ensure that what we churn out meets global standards. However, I hope that in our bid to be ‘accepted’ by the rest of the world, we don’t lose what sets us apart – our ‘Africanness’, our culture and traditions which also inform our value system.
Movies are now getting premiered in cinemas. What’s your opinion on the development?
Now that’s exciting. It brings our movies closer to the public in a comfortable setting. It will also affect quality control. I don’t see any cinema serious about staying in business showing sub-standard movies. Plus, it’s another distribution channel that completely side-steps the ‘almighty marketer’. It’s an avenue for the producer to reap further financial gain from their labour. I wish there were many more cinemas across the nation.
When do you plan to quit acting and what next after that?
Quit acting? Not in this lifetime. That’s the beauty of this business. I’m going to be acting until I am old and frail. And even after that, for as long as I have my faculties in good working condition, I will still be involved in communication in some way: writing, producing, radio show hosting etc.
The next is all happening right now. I’m a budding farmer. I’ve always wanted to own something that was 100% mine, which could not be affected by someone else’s whims and caprices. I also strongly believe that in the years to come food and water will become a major deal. I started out with a tiny snail farm in my backyard. It was an experiment, to see if I could do it and if it was something I could sustain.
Today, I’ve acquired a nice parcel of farmland in a farming community somewhere around Ewekoro. I’m currently putting up the infrastructure. There, I intend to rear snails, fish, do some animal husbandry and whatever else catches my fancy. I’m pretty excited about it. Not only is it being set up as a commercial venture, it’s my little getaway.
You and your husband were handling ‘Today on STV’. Why did you quit?
When my husband was commissioned to produce ‘Today on STV’ I wanted that job badly and he told me pointblank to forget it. He didn’t want to be accused of nepotism. Less than a week into the show, the presenter went on leave, and suddenly out of the blue, I was asked to stand in for her. I stood in for two weeks after which Mr Ben Bruce asked that I remain a permanent fixture. That is how I became lead anchor on the show for two years. It was a fantastic run, and I enjoyed the job and myself tremendously. Along the line, there was a misunderstanding between my husband and the owners, details of which I’d rather not go into here. Suffice it to say that when my husband left, I had to leave as well.
What would you change about yourself if given the chance?
Not a thing. I’m perfectly and wonderfully made by God.