Nollywood actor, producer, director and scriptwriter, Ibrahim Yekini, popularly known as ‘Itele d’ Icon,’ in this interview by ADERONKE ADESANYA, speaks about his career and his journey through the industry.
Can you tell us about your early years before you got into the industry?
I was born in Bariga, Lagos State but grew up in the north, specifically in Kano State, where I had my education. I trained as a professional boxer before I joined the film industry. I fought at different tournaments because I wanted to be well known around the country. I was not a street fighter but a ring fighter.
Was acting ever your dream job?
No, it wasn’t. I wanted to be a professional boxer or a singer but acting has always been part of me . I have always been thrilled with the way I talk.
What inspired you to pursue acting as a career?
I just knew I wanted to be on the screen. I had the talent and I wanted the world to know me for my talent. For me, acting is not a job, it is a lifestyle. It’s something I love. I’ve worked as an actor for a few years and I have had the opportunity to work on a variety of productions, including plays and films. I have also honed my skills in different genres of acting, such as comedy and drama.
How did you find your way into the industry?
I came into acting through a brother of mine. He introduced me to Daddy J, I was mentored by Daddy J and he saw my potential. He trained me to be the good actor.
Did you attend a conservatory?
I went to an acting school named Folurunsho Adejobi Theater group. Film School where I learnt theatre with stage.
How did you come about the name ‘Itele d’ Icon?
I came about the name when I did my first major production titled Itele.
What movie gave you your big breakthrough?
The movie titled KESARI. I wrote, produced and directed the movie alongside the renowned director, Tope Adebayo.
When you decided to go into acting. Was your family in support of it?
Yes, they’ve always seen the potential in me. My family is my number one fan.
As an actor, what inspires you?
The reason I started acting itself inspires me to keep going even when things are not smooth.
What was the most challenging role you’ve ever played?
One role that was particularly challenging and rewarding for me was playing the lead in a play as a stammerer. It was a heavy and emotional role that required a lot of research and understanding of the subject. However, it was also very fulfilling to be able to bring awareness to the topic and connect with the audience.
Was there a time you wanted to give up on acting?
I have never had such thought and I don’t pray to have such thoughts.
What do you enjoy most about your career?
The adventures; being able to act different characters and maintaining my personality. The exposure. The personal growth in script-writing and acting. I love to portray major parts in which I am either the main lead or villain of the tale.
What would you say is your greatest accomplishment as an actor so far?
My fans. It is a dream of any actor to be recognised both online and offline. My profession has brought me many opportunities that I knew I wouldn’t have acquired through other careers.
What makes you stand out from other actors?
My originality. My style is different, my delivery is different, I create my logos for any movie I act in.
The entertainment industry is said to be full of stress and pressure; what do you do to tackle the pressure that comes with your work?
I don’t get driven by pressure, I always maintain my composure whenever issues arise and just find a solution. I can’t be easily controlled by peer pressure. I have goals and I work towards them.
Are there other things you do asides acting?
No I don’t. Acting is my only source of income.
What steps do you take to ensure that your performance is believable and consistent?
Firstly, I make sure to thoroughly research the character I am playing in order to understand their motivations, background, and any other information that can help me bring them to life on screen. Secondly, I practice my lines multiple times to ensure that I have them memorised and can deliver them naturally. This helps me stay focused and consistent throughout the entire production process.
Lastly, I act every role given to like my life depends on it.
Are there any particular directors or producers you’d like to work with someday soon?
Yes, there are some producers I’d love to work with, people like Kunle Afolayan, Kemi Adetiba and Tunde Kilani.
What are the most valuable skills you believe is needed for an acting career?
I think there are many valuable skills needed for an actor: memorisation and the ability to observe, enact behaviours, expressions, tones and gain confidence when performing. It is also useful to have good interpersonal skills and be able to speak and sing in various vocal styles and dialects. I have an excellent memory which is helpful for memorising lines and also my expressive abilities help me to enact characters easily.
How would you react if you received a negative review of a performance?
I try to see every negative review as an opportunity to learn something about my performance and to improve in the future. I don’t ever post comments or public replies, but I’m always thankful for feedback, even if it’s negative.
If there was something you could change about the Nollywood industry, what would it be and why?
I will like to change the way some people view us, people take us as what they see on the screen and it shouldn’t be so. `Don’t judge a book by its cover’ yet people do so. It is extremely wrong. What people see on the screen is just acting we do what we can to entertain our audience. We are all built differently.
What was the biggest obstacle you had to overcome in your career?
That would be bringing my movie to the A list standard, showing people what I can do better.
Did you have any challenges directing your movie the return of president Kuti?
Not at all. God is always in control of my projects because when you put God first, he will be with you in everything you do.
What are your future goals as an actor?
My future goals as an actor include continuing to work on challenging and diverse roles, working with accomplished directors, and hopefully, getting more recognition and winning more awards for my performances.
In your opinion which do you believe is more important: Talent or training?
While talent is vital, it is training and effort that distinguishes a great actor from the many others who attempt but fail in this field. Training, practice, and hard effort make you better no matter how talented you are. There is no such thing as a one-hit-wonder. If you look at any well-known actor’s career, you’ll see that they spend so much time in lesser roles before landing their big break. It was thanks to their hard work and perseverance, not luck, that they were allowed to become stars.
Do you train upcoming actors and actresses?
Yes I do. I run an acting school to train acting (D’Icon School of Performing Art) and I have many products who have graduated and are already doing well for themselves in the industry.
Do you have any upcoming projects we should look forward to?
Yes I do. The continuation of Kesari is coming to the cinemas.
If someone told you they wanted to be an actor, what advice would you give them?
Firstly, you have to learn acting in a proper way by going to school of acting. Secondly, you have to be humble and respectful because that is the key you need to go far in the industry.
What would you like to say to your fans?
To my fans home and abroad, I love and appreciate you all for your unconditional love and support. I will continue to be myself and to always make you happy.
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