Binta Ayo Mogaji is one of the few actresses who need no introduction in Nigeria’s movie industry. The actress who is fondly referred to as Igbanladogi,a name she got from her role in Late Toba Opaleye’s chart busting film titled ‘IGBALADOGI’ years back, in this interview speaks about her career and other sundry issues.
What have you been up to lately?
My acting is still moving on. I am still the same old Ayo Mogaji. I am still working and not yet tired. After my movie “Jombo” in 2006, I have not produced any other movie. I have stopped producing because the market is not encouraging, so I am just a working actress. If you can pay for my job, I work with you. I just returned back to the country. I am moving in and out of Nigeria by virtue of marriage. My husband is British and it seems like everyone knows about that. He’s Dr. Ayodele Oduleye, a psychotherapist and British by birth. He lives there. I just came back from USA where I went to anchor a show.
You went off the scene at a time, why?
There was never a time I went off the scene. The only issue was I decided to limit some of my activities, because I can’t get lesser pay or do anything substandard. This is the only career I have got so if you are under paying me or not being reasonable with your offer, I move out of your job. I didn’t go anywhere; I was still in the country, I was still working. As we are talking right now, this year they have released several such as “Igba’bajo,” “Towotomo,” “Moberu,” Arinzo 1&2. Just at the tail end of last year, they released “Moberu.” While I was in the US, they released a couple of movies like “Mama Insurance.” So there has never been one time I rested on my oars. I also featured in soap operas like “Tarima.” I also used to do “Nowhere to be Found.” What I’m saying is that even when I am not in the country, you see me on your TV screen every now and then.
You’ve been around for many years. Do you have any plan to retire at all?
I love acting and this is the only thing I have done most of my life. I have been an actor even before home video came. People paid to see me perform on stage. We started on stage when the commercial viability of the acting business was not as it is now in Nigeria. Therefore, we had to do quite a lot of things to sustain ourselves. We were into radio; we were also into TV play. TV was very popular back then. I was on “Village Headmaster,” “Anter Theatre,” “Koko Close” and quite a number of other TV programmes. My major TV plays then were in “Koko Close,” “Village Headmaster” and “Den Set.” There were a lot of other series, which I acted in but I can’t remember them all anymore. We were not getting paid so much, but there was job satisfaction. We were quite happy with what we were doing. At that time, if you were a regular TV actor you were very lucky because some money would come out of it at the end of the month. So, without being immodest, I have been a household name before the advent of home video. So this is what I love. There is no age limit to acting.
You said marriage makes you travel more often now?
I am a house wife where I am coming from, and this is where my career is. Like I said, I don’t live in the US; I just try to shuffle both. If anyone needs me to do a job for them they pay for my ticket and all that comes with the job.
You play comical roles more often nowadays, why?
I play according to the character role I am given. There is a director that would tell you this is how he wants his script played like I did in “Igba’Bajo.” That was how they wanted their character to be played out. I want to believe that they specifically picked me for that character because they know I can give them what they want. My character in “Towotomo” and “Arinzo” was not comical though. There are several movies in which I didn’t act comical roles. I play my part according to what you want me to do.
Considering your status in the industry, how do you feel when you are being asked to act the role of a house maid?
I don’t have to play the lead role. If I act as a maid, that does not bother me, as long as I act my role and get my professional fee. I just believe most of them know that Ayo Mogaji would interpret the role given to her.
Most actors fight for the lead role. What do you have to say about that?
Well, I don’t know about them, I can only speak for myself.
You said earlier that the last time you produced was in 2006, why?
Not that I have stopped producing. I have produced just once and I produced the film to make a statement.
When do you intend producing another movie?
I don’t intend producing anyone anytime soon. Everybody is a producer right now and I don’t want to join the bandwagon. What prompted me to produce the movie and make it a standard one is because there is a lot of gate crashing in the industry. No one knows and understands what the criterion of a producer is and what qualifies you to be a producer. I am an actor right now and when the time comes for me to be a producer I will produce.
How do you feel when you are addressed as a Yoruba actress?
I will never accept such because I am an actress not a Yoruba actress. If you call yourself an actress, you should be able to interpret any role being given to you in as much as you understand the language. I will use the word Nollywood actress for me rather than being referred to as a Yoruba actress, because I do act both in the English and Yoruba industry. So, I feel so sad when you say Ayo Mogaji is a Yoruba actress.
What’s your most memorable day as an actress?
The day I had a show at the percropatric theatre. The title of the play was “Offensive,” an American play written by Hubert Wilson. I played a role in it. There was a particular scene which was very emotional. The play was directed by Chuck Mike. It was a collective artiste play. After I played that highly emotional role, the then American Ambassador came back stage with a can of Sprite and asked me, “Are you alright” and he handed me the Sprite. That was a long time ago, but it was the most memorable day of my career. That Ambassador name was Princeton Rillyman. I had to cry in that role and the whole crowd cried with me. Immediately I finished playing that role and took a bow from the stage, the American Ambassador came to meet me back stage. I mean, it meant so much to me then.