In this interview, with The Sun, accomplished writer, actor, producer and presenter; Iretiola Doyle, opened up about her life, career, and the joy of being a grandma at 51.
People say you are too principled, a no nonsense person even outside movie locations, is that who you are?
There is no such thing as being too principled. You are either principled or you are not. And I don’t know how you can become middle aged without acquiring a few principles here and there. Am I principled? Yes. Do I have professional integrity? Yes. Do I believe there is time and place for everything? Yes. If it’s time to play, kick off our shoes and laugh, you will find me there. Ask my close friends; they will tell you that I can be the life of a party. However, am I a reserved human being? Yes, I am. I make no bones about that.
Would you say you are a strict person?
It depends. If you are asking if I am strict with my children, I will say sometimes. Am I strict with my personal space? Yes, all the time. I am an actor. I respect people that appreciate my work. As an actor, people see you on television all the time, and sometimes that gives them the misconception that they know you and they want to relate with you like that girl they see everyday. No sir, no ma, you do not know me. I do not expect what I do not give. I will accord you the same level of respect that I demand. I will not assume that because we greet each other, I can walk into your personal space and begin to chore through your life. I will not do that and therefore, I will not condone it from anybody.
You’ve had 15 years of acting experience before joining Mnet; tell us how this journey has been?
It has been wonderful, absolutely wonderful. Every actor will tell you that, you only struggle in the early years. You have to hustle. You have to go through the auditions, you cannot get every role and you will get passed over. There was a time in my career that I got things like being passed over, but no, I see them as the high inside, because I discovered that my career was being shaped in a way that afforded me the opportunity to own other skills like TV presentation, production, and writing. Perhaps, if I had gotten the big break back then, I wouldn’t have had the need to tap and discover all these talents. I had the opportunity to produce my own television show, ‘Oge’ for 10 years. This is because I needed to fill the times and do other things to pay the bills while I was waiting to become a successful actor. Those 15 years were 15 years of learning for me. They helped me acquire the skills that made me the fantastic actor that I am today. So, no regrets.
Speaking of writing, do you intend writing a book?
May be, but rather than a book, I’ll love to teach. I will like to have one on one interaction with young people. Let’s share ideas and rub minds. Rather than write a book, I will put it in a television show. I am a communicator, so I am not going to say a complete ‘no’ to writing a book. Writing comes easy to me. It helps me articulate my inner thoughts so, who knows? Never say never.
In your secondary school days, did you see yourself where you are right now or did you dream of being an astronaut or engineer?
Never an astronaut but my very first conscious thought of what I would be was the PRO of a multinational company. In fact, I said I would be the PRO of Chevron. I was always good at talking. I told myself that I was going to have a huge career in public relations.
You once said you started acting because of incessant strike actions in the university back then, how true was this?
It just happened a whole lot faster because school was always on strike and I didn’t have anything else to do. It was a burning passion in my belly. I seized the opportunity and spoke to somebody that spoke to somebody until God, fate made a way for me.
Before then, was acting something you wanted to do for a long time?
Yes. It came to me naturally. I don’t know how it did, but I just found out that if there was a performance to be done in secondary school, I was always involved in it. And if anyone was to be called to speak it was me. I think Checkmate was the first Nigerian TV series I fell in love with. I used to hurry back home to watch it. Then, there was Mind Bending, a TV series produced by Lola Fani Kayode, which starred Joke Silva at the time. There was a particular scene where ‘Aunty J’ took me through an emotional journey. I looked on so steadily at her, as she tugged at all my emotions. After that scene, I knew that was what I wanted to do. It may sound weird, but it was a light ball moment for me.
When you first got the news that you are a grandmother at 51, how did that make you feel?
Blessed. That is the word. I am truly blessed. Having a grandchild is completely different from having a child. If someone had said that to me two months ago, I wouldn’t have understood what he or she was talking about. You look at yourself from a different perspective. Now, you have two generations looking up to you for directions, for legacy. Come on, I am someone’s grandma now.
Does it make you feel old?
I don’t feel old. My mum is late and I am a grandma. I realised I have more people coming behind me than ahead of me. You are an elder. Your decisions must come from a much deeper place.
This takes me to ‘Omugwo’, which is taking care of the mother and her new baby as a grandma. With your tight schedule, do you think you will be able to take off your nails and your hair to pound yam as well as bathe the baby?
They are in the US and I am in the process of going to see them. I want to go and see the baby there before they come back. When my plan becomes concrete, I will take off my nails, put my legs in a bath, put that baby on my lap and bathe her. I consider it a right of passage.
As for pounding yam, I cook when I want to. What I mean by ‘when I want to’ is that I am 51, and this has nothing to do with being on television or being a movie star. Most women at this age, if you are lucky and you can make those choices, you tell yourself that you have done this for 21 years, and you don’t want to cook any more. You do it at your leisure. There is some of that in me. Two, I am a very busy person. I cannot wake up at 4am and come back at 7pm to cook for someone. No, I won’t do that.
With the advantage of your resume, do you think much progress has been made in area of authentic story telling in Nollywood?
Things have improved a lot. Everybody is proudly Nigerian. Everybody is trying to tell the Nigerian story. There is, however, no one particular Nigerian story. We are all coming at it in different perspectives. And it is okay for some people to stamp their personal perspectives on what they think is the authentic Nigerian story, but we must remember that we are very cosmopolitan. There is nothing happening in Nigeria that hasn’t happened anywhere else in the world. Our story is a collection of the universal story of mankind. I think we are doing a better job of telling our own story. And I also believe there is a need for improvement.
After Wedding Party, what did you take away from your role that continues to influence your other roles?
I won’t say learn, it just reinforced what I have known for a while: continue to do great work. Like somebody always says: continue wearing your best shirt, sooner or later the right person will notice you.
One always sees you crisscrossing two genres of drama. If you are to choose between stage and screen, which will you prefer?
It’s stage because it keeps you on your toes. You can’t take the theatre for granted. There is no ‘cut, take 2’. You have to deliver on the spot. And there is a certain energy rush that I get from the exchange between the actor and a live audience that, given the choice, it will be stage all the time. But unfortunately, the cash is not as heavy as television and film.
Do you have plans of reviving your TV show, Oge?
Yes. It would soon be back.