Award-winning actress Bimbo Akintola has spent the last 20 years making Nigerians fall in love with whatever role she has interpreted. From Out of Bounds to The Mourning After, her talent, charm and bubbly personality have lit up the screens.
Often described as the actor’s actor, Akintola, a Theatre Arts graduate of the University of Ibadan, has had an interesting acting career. Having recently starred in Comatose, a movie that was shot and produced in South Africa, the charismatic actress can’t wait to share the experience with fans.
She says, “It’s a drama that seeks to know if it is okay to pull the plug and let someone die. It was a very challenging role and I played the daughter of a woman who was in a coma for two years.”
Even though Akintola’s acting career has spanned almost a quarter of a century, she says playing late Dr. Ameyo Stella Adadevoh alongside Hollywood legend, Danny Glover, in 93 Days, is one of her most intense roles yet. In deciding what roles to take up, Akintola is selective, but when she first read the script for 93 Days, the actress said she was captivated.
“I feel honoured to have been given the opportunity to play such a great woman. Everyone I met had something good to say about Adadevoh, and that helped me to have a good understanding of the character. While shooting some scenes at First Consultant Hospital Obalende, I had cause to pick up something from my car. As I made my way back to where we were shooting , some of the staff who saw me wept. They said I reminded them of her.
“This was because the make-up and costume were so apt. It was challenging having to play her because I had to depend on narratives by people who had personal relationships with her. I wished I could see her and study her mannerisms. Since I had no videos to learn from, I played her strong points; the fact that she was a principled person. I also portrayed her stern yet motherly nature.”
Born into a close-knit family, Akintola who is the third child of her parents describes her early life as exciting and full of mischief.
“I was very mischievous and I still am. Also, I was favoured. My mum was a child when she started having children. If you came to our house, you would find all of us, including our mum,holding a spoon, miming to songs and dancing. Being a disciplinarian, my mother would spank us right there and then, whenever we erred. I call her a super mum and she is one of my best friends.”
In addition, the friendly role interpreter owes her success in life to her mother’s selfless nature.
“I learnt kindness and honesty from my mum. She would pick up every child on the street and every child that the car could take and drop them at their homes. My mum would feed people’s children and these are some of the virtues I hold very dear to heart,” she notes.
The concept of fate comes up a lot while conversing with Akintola. A versatile actress, despite participating in her school’s end-of-year drama events as a child, she still toyed with the idea of becoming a medical doctor.
“As a child, I said I would become a doctor at first because I had a teacher who told me about a famous doctor who was my namesake. I was never interested in sciences and by the time I was in Class 3, I concluded that I was never going to be a doctor. My mum discovered that my strength was in the arts and she encouraged me to hone my talent,’’ she recalls.
But her decision to become an actress was not without some setbacks and challenges. She recollects, “My father was not impressed with my decision to become an actress and you won’t blame him. In those days, people misunderstood actors and their judgments were based on the sort of roles they portrayed. Actors didn’t make much money and my father also wanted me to secure my future. He was that concerned because he didn’t think I would earn a living by becoming an actor.”
Thankfully, his stance became short-lived when Akintola earned critical acclaim for her numerous acting roles in blockbusters like The Mourning After, Owo Blow, Out of Bounds, Diamond Ring and Dangerous Twins.
While some persons go the acting route for fame, for Akintola, it was all about making an impact. She notes, “I didn’t think about the glam when I went into acting. In retrospect, acting is where my passion lies. It is what gives me wings to fly. An outlet, it helps me bring out all of the creativity that is inside of me. If I had to live my life all over again, I would still be an actress.”
Akintola, who has never been one to mince words, has a lot to say about the current direction of her career. She explains, “As an actress, I wanted to play diverse roles because I didn’t want to be stereotyped. Having attained a certain height in my career, I was particular about the type of roles I portrayed. That was one of the reasons I featured in quite a number of Yoruba movies because of the amazing storylines.
“I got more stories from the Yoruba movie producers that I connected with. In Nollywood, I was viewed in a certain way and the scripts I received where nothing but a variation of the same roles I had portrayed in the past.
Even though a certain school of thought is of the opinion that Akintola is not celebrated enough, the actress begs to differ. She says, “I am extremely proud of all I have achieved. What is most important to me is being able to affect lives and change. I don’t know about being under celebrated but I have a feeling of satisfaction with every project I have been involved in. I can understand why some people think this way. It is because I’m not a very public person. I don’t attend every event and I’m not at every red-carpet event; it’s just not my idea of fun.”
Do her characters ever stay with her? She says, “Not really, but becoming a character gives me the thrills. In a play called Death and the Maiden, the character suffered so much that I couldn’t understand or deal with it. The character was tied to a cot and raped over a spate of six months. The character tortured me and I don’t think any role can be more challenging.”
Currently sporting clearer skin and a trim look, the actress says fitness and exercise have become second nature.
“I decided to lose weight based on the experience of a close friend. For me, weight loss is not about being skinny but living and feeling healthy. I have been 15kg overweight for the last 15 years and it was time to get rid of it. People say my fitness regimen is tasking but I say otherwise. I am in the gym for two hours daily from Monday to Friday. I watch what I eat and I am still working on my body.
“I don’t have a target size. All I want is to have a certain feeling of lightness. I am not looking to be a size zero because I can’t be a size zero. People say I’m doing it so I can be beautiful but it is not about being skinny or being fat. Being skinny doesn’t make you look better and if you are not careful, you will look ugly and unhealthy.”
As an actress, Akintola is thankful for the life she shares out of the spotlight with her family and close friends.
She says, “I tend to stick to old friends and I have stuck with certain friends for as long as 20 years. I have never been one to have many friends even though I get along with everyone. Maybe because I have many sisters and brothers, I don’t really see the need to have many friends. In my industry, Joke Jacobs is my aunty, while Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett is my mum. I have ladies in the industry that I’m particularly proud of.”
Aside from acting, she enjoys singing, acting and writing poetry.
“I sang as a student and it was not easy. Music is a huge part of my life and you learn so much from it. The process of music involves creativity. I have a particular friend who will never allow me keep my poetry to myself. She has published three of my poems. When I write poetry, it sheds too much of light on who I am and what I want people around me to know about,”she states.
When it comes to style or fashion, Akintola admits that it is usually an afterthought. She states, “I’m not very fashionable, so I wear what I like. When I see extremely fashionable women, I wish I could be like them because they make it look so easy. I am an emotional person on so many levels and I wear what pleases me. The likes of Ade Bakare and Ituen Basi style me whenever I have award ceremonies to attend. People like that save me all the time and ensure that I don’t look dowdy.”
For Akintola, no question is out of bounds, save for her personal life. Although she is single, she would rather not speak about her status. She says, “Circle of Three which is produced by me is a story I am very passionate about because I think it’s a story that needs to be told because of the way women are treated when they are still single after a particular age. It is very wicked and honestly, it shouldn’t be allowed. It’s comforting when women out there find out that they don’t need to listen to everything that is said, especially the negative talks.”
So could this story have been inspired by her experiences? “Now we are talking about my personal life and I don’t talk about it. I try to keep certain parts of me that I consider private away from the public. People think they know stuff about me but they don’t really know me. They speculate a lot of stuff about me but 90 per cent of what I read about myself is false. I remember reading that I was seen coming out from a hotel with a sheikh. I was astonished because I was holidaying in Germany at the time. All these do not bother me because my upbringing keeps me grounded.”
From that little girl who bagged her debut role in the Yoruba film, Owo Blow, in the 90s, Akintola has no doubt come into her own. Indeed, after 20 glorious years in the industry, she is looking into the next chapter with great expectations.
“I’m going to act forever because honestly, I can’t imagine not acting. I mean, what will I do aside from acting? I want to be remembered as one who affected lives. I have been in the industry for two decades and the next phase is to continue to affect lives through my roles,” she concludes.
Culled from Punch