Anthony Ogbetere fondly called “Big T” by his friends and fans is a well known face on TV around the continent of Africa, especially Nigeria. He has been involved in several productions and has carved a niche for himself. St. Hilary’s crew sat down with him and had a chat with him. Here is how it went.
SH: Could you please tell us about yourself considering your early life and growing up?
Anthony: My parents were both teachers. My dad is retired now but my mum is still teaching. I was born and bred by teachers. As part of my growing up, I moved around to places like Warri, Ughelli, Okwagbe, Ozoro and various places around then Bendel State. So, I know how to speak various languages. Urhobo, Ika, Isoko et.c. So, I can’t buy into hate.I see everyone as the same. I went to Notredame College Ozoro and Government College Ughelli and from there to University of Ibadan.where I got my first degree in Political Science and then and my MBA in University of Benin.
I am Originally Isoko, my dad is from Ellu and my mum from Ozoro both in Isoko North Local Government Area of Delta State. People think I’m Urhobo and some think Ijaw but I’m actually Isoko.
SH: How did you get into the field of acting?
Anthony: It started at Notredame College, Ozoro. I was in class one and the literary society was trying to stage Ola Rotimi’s “The God’s are not to Blame”. They called for auditions because the cast was huge and the members of the group were not enough. So, in Government College, I joined the same group. I loved it. So, when I got to the University, music took centre stage and I joined a group called Rockforce Organisation. But I was already miming in Government College, miming various songs – by the way, Rockforce produced Dr. Sid. I developed interest in rap and was miming. So, when I graduated, I had entertainment in my psyche. I knew if I didn’t promote, I would do something attached to entertainment. When I was in my NYSC, I happened to stroll into a rehearsal. They needed a drama skit to entertain the then Director – General of NYSC. So, they wanted two people to be involved in comedy. So, I stepped forward and I was asked what I studied and I said Political Science and they were like are you sure you can do it? So, one Ogbonna guy and I did something and it came out very nice and our slogans and statements were used by everyone on camp. So, when I left camp in Yola, I was involved in a lot of shows, doing comedy and I was still doing my miming thing along side.
When I came to Lagos, I went to FESTAC for a demo. I was told it would cost me N7,500. I went to Ikeja and I was told I don’t need a demo but I could record directly and Benson and Hedges would promote but I would have to pay N75,000 and I was like , wait a minute, why is seven and five always showing up? So, I left and thought to revive my acting skills.So, I was watching TV and there was Baboski, a film producer on TV and he mentioned his office address on TV. So, I went the following day to see him. I met a lady who asked me what I wanted, I told her and she said to me “because he gave his office address on TV doesn’t mean you can just come and see him”. She then told me to keep my ears open for auditions. So, I did that and went for an audition. It happened to be in Baboski’s office. He then called me and asked me my name and I told him where I’m from. So he called Charles and told Charles and I to stand side by side and said there is something African about us and said he’d like work with us in a movie (Picadilly) so I went for my audition and was successful and I got my first movie.
I played the role of the wounded man. Robbers came to rob and I was there and was beaten up. So, it was just two scenes. I was beaten and went to report to the police and they ran into the bush. Then, in 1997, Beyond Our Dreams gave me the real break and popularity where I acted the role of Parker. When I travelled, people saw me and called me.
While acting, I didn’t throw away my certificate. So, it wasn’t long before I got a job with Exxon Mobil in 1998. So, I jumped at it but I couldn’t act the way I wanted. So, I became an executive producer and started producing. Instead of going to do five weeks abroad and spend two million, so; I decided on two weeks on a set. So, in 2001, I did Dirty Diana. It was the starting point. Olu Jacobs was on my set and played my in-law. So, he challenged me and said there’s a lot from old Bendel State and advised I get something from there. So, I looked at it and discovered pidgin as peculiar to my area and so, I made a movie called The Prodigal Brother where I acted Mudiaga. So, that was what gave me my break into Nollywood and made me more serious. It was a very good comedy and still sells today since 2003.
Behind the Magnet, One outage too Many, What Goes around Stay around, Men Who Cheat on their Wives and piracy came in and made me experience losses. So, I went into acting.
SH: You’ve been on very many productions, tell us the one you enjoyed best and why?
Anthony: The one I enjoyed best is David’s Fall I had worked with several Nollywood Directors and their attitude was a particular way. So, I was working with a Director who allowed me to own the role. He allowed me be myself. When I’m done, he says “weldone” and makes his suggestions. He had been telling me of somebody I remind him of on set. On the last day of the shoot, he told me I remind him of the actor Al Pacino. He said to me that Al Pacino and I act alike. He also told me he never knew he was on set with an international standard actor. So these words of his were big confidence boosters for me. And since then, I never looked back. So, David’s Fall was it. Another thing that made David’s Fall special was the fact that I just left Exxon Mobil at the time after spending nine years there. Getting compliments from Mak Kusare, the Director of David’s Fall, energized me and the production told me I was back in the business for good.
SH: You are on a popular sitcom called Squatterz, What is the story?
Anthony: Squatterz is another program that has started a watershed in my life. I have always wanted to get to a point where I can do any role. But interestingly, when I went for the audition, the Producer told me I was a spy and didn’t want me in his production. Luckily for me, someone among the crew members knew me very well and told him that I’m not that type of a person. It was then he gave me the script to read and then asked me to choose the role that best suits me. That I did. The role is an interesting one that I’m very proud of. The Producer, Seun Arowojola is also a very good person and has very good listening ears. I’m also very proud of him too.
SH: Your role in Squatterz.
Anthony: Olabode (Papa), everyone knows Papa. He is a guy who was in the street. Got to go to the University and came back and got to open a book store. During the time Papa was in the street, he met a group of street boys who wanted to experience street life. So when he got out of school, he met with them again.. one of them inparticular, Segun, gave him a 3 bedroom apartment to stay in his father’s compound. So, he (Papa) moved in with Danjuma and Buchi.
SH: You seem to be more on TV than movies, why is it so?
Anthony: Ok. That’s one aspect of my career; let me put it this way, when I left Mobil, all the offers I got were for TV, David’s Fall and others. You need to be on ground to be in the movies. Recently, that’s 2014/15, I realized that cinema is gradually taking over. I did AMOR (Africa Magic Original films) while you Slept with Ini Edo; The Guardian with Daniel K. Daniel and Yvonne Jegede. I just produced Santa Alabama. My people, please look out for the person who killed chief. There is also Parallel Paradox and Second Chances.
Santa Alabama was originally written for AMOR but for nine months, nothing was happening. So, I called a friend but he told me he was busy. Suddenly, he told me he would do something and told me to send the script to his email. I was shocked the next morning he called me and told me he was coming to my place and that he had already fixed a date and we only had to meet to decide what we should do.
We only shifted the date by a few days and we started shoot on the 4th of May, 2016. That’s how Santa Alabama came into existence. It actually came out better than we planned it. It is the best production I have been on.
SH: You have a huge fan base. What do your fans think about your acting roles?
Anthony: Lately, my fans have been encouraging me to do more of comedy. They say I would do better with comedy. So, in the year 2017, there would be more of comedy because my fans appreciate that more. My fans say right now the country is too serious, that they need comedy from me.
SH: Have you had cause to have something with a female fan since your career began?
Anthony: No. I don’t know if that is how it is with other actors. But for me, the moment you begin to discuss my career with me, I can’t be personal anymore. I think if I have something with you and eventually it doesn’t work out, I have lost a fan. I don’t date someone on my street, in my office or on set. Right now, anything I do could become news. Not having anything with a female fan is a matter of policy. Some get angry and tell me I am arrogant. They inbox me all kinds of things but I ignore. The mature ones later apologise.
SH: Do you have a girlfriend?
Anthony: Yes. Of course I do. She’s very private so I wouldn’t want to invade our privacy. She doesn’t want me to take things about her to the public domain and I respect that.
SH: Your plans on settling down?
Anthony: Most definitely, 2017 is the year. I have done overtime. I ought to have done it since 2006 but I had some trust issues with the lady. But I have since moved on and next year, 2017 is the year. I need you to pray it happens quickly.
SH: Before I forget, you’re also a blogger. Big Tony’s Blog. What is it about?
Anthony: it is about relationships, life, health, business, family and a whole lot of other things. Sometimes, I write political articles. I do plenty of photo journalism as well. The biggest post I made this year was a picture I took on Benin where a compound was terribly flooded and the ground floor was submerged in the water. The people upstairs had to put a ladder to get to their own flat.
SH: What is your advice for upcoming actors and actresses?
Anthony: My advice for them is Passion. You need to have the passion. When you start out and the money doesn’t come in, you get frustrated and you get to leave. If we were after money, we probably would have been out of business long ago. It is the passion that kept us going. It is hard work and discipline. Acting is not a place for quick money.
SH: What have you learnt?
Anthony: Consistency pays. Just do what you’re doing consistently. Don’t compete with people. Don’t want to be somebody. If you’re the type that look at others and want to be like them, you would crash. That’s what I have learnt.
SH: Traditional paperback reading or online reading which do you prefer?
SH: Facebook or Instagram?
SH: Chat or calls?
SH: Thank you for your time sir.