Although she has not featured in too many home movies, Iretiola Doyle is unarguably an exciting and talented actress. Her roles in several award-winning TV series have, indeed, made her one of the favourite Nollywood stars. In this interview with MERCY MICHAEL, she talks about the rumour that trailed her role in Tinsel and her idiosyncrasy and daughter’s impending wedding, among other issues.
IS there any particular reason you prefer to wear your natural hair?
I just got fed up. I cut my hair for several reasons. First, I was bored. Second, we were all beginning to look alike: if someone was tall, slim and had her back to you, you could mistake her for someone else. And then, my character in Tinsel, Shila Ade Williams, was coming back after a long break and I wanted her to look different. So, I said, okay, let’s chop it off a bit.
Most women seem to be embracing the natural look…
(Cuts in) Personally, the older I get, the more I feel the need to do things more natural, instead of exposing myself to chemicals and other substances that one really doesn’t know their origin or what has been added to them.
A lot of people, especially in entertainment, find it hard to come to terms with their complexion. But I wonder why you don’t seem to be toeing the same line?
The truth is I grew up a tomboy. At the time my mates were learning how to do eye-shadow and lips, I couldn’t be bothered. So, I’ve never really been into ‘feferity’. And when I did begin to do ‘feferity’, I’d come to terms with my looks. I think I look just okay. I don’t think that having to go three shades lighter is necessary for me. I am self-assured. I know that who I am is not necessarily based on how I look, but what is inside of me and what I can bring to the table at every given time.
Having said that, do I take care of myself? Yes, I do. I wear sun screen, use moisturiser and scrub my body. I’m an actress; so, what am I selling? This is my tool and I have to take maximum care of it. I have a problematic skin, so I go the extra mile. I do facials and I know what works. That era of trial and error is long past. I like to keep it simple. I think all the other things you have been given, like makeup ad clothes, are only to enhance what you have naturally been given. I like what I have been given. I have been given a lot, so I don’t like to cover that up with too many extras.
What has been happening with Oge?
Thank you for asking this question. We are in production. We have already shot materials for five episodes, but we are going for 13. The fact that I’m producing hasn’t stopped me from taking on other commitment; so, I’m joggling the time. But hopefully, after Hear Word!, I have a wedding. My first daughter is getting married, so I’m planning that. After Hear Word!, we gonna have a really lovely wedding. Thereafter, I can focus just on Oge. Hopefully, before the last quarter of this year, Oge will be back on air.
So, you will soon be a grandmother?
Yes, that’s cool. We will redefine the word grandmother.
How does it feel to know your daughter is getting married?
My daughter is 27. She has done all things well through Christ Jesus. If she wasn’t getting married at 27, you won’t say she’s too old, so to speak. But how does it feel? My real emotion is gratitude. I just wake up every morning, put one foot in front of the other and thank God that I am here, doing all of the things I do. So, my main emotion is that of gratitude.
What will you describe as the toughest part of bringing up a female child?
I thank God she is a graduate. She is a stylist with Ruff and Tumbles. She is a good girl. She has her own business that she’s been running, since she was an undergraduate. The most difficult thing, for me, in raising a young girl is allowing her to be that person she has been called to be and moulding her in such a way that she has the right set of value – and not putting shackles on her at the same time. The truth of the matter is that a lot of our culture and tradition are designed to put shackles on our girls and I will not be a party to that.
Could you explain better?
My mother and I are two different generations. Therefore, her way of talking and method of raising children were rather different. In their time, they did the best they could do, given the tools they had. But this is a whole different generation. I made sure that I put the burdens of communication on me. I am the one with the message that I need to communicate, so it’s completely up to me to deliver that message in a way that my children can receive it. I made talking a very important point in my home. We talk about things.
The only person who gets spanked anymore really is the little girl – she is going to be 10. And I can’t remember the last time she actually got spanked. We engage in open communication. Besides, I’m not afraid to apologise to my kids, if I feel that I have been unjust or unfair to them. For me, what is most important is achieving my mission. I don’t want to be right; I want peace. I want well-behaved children, so I am going to find the best way possible to achieve that. Having said all that, when it is time to use the big stick, I no dey fear that one too.
So, acting-wise, what have you been up to?
You haven’t been watching the right movies. My last film was about a year ago. It was nominated for several awards across the line and I actually got the Best Actress award for it last year.
What movie are you talking about?
Was it at the cinema then?
Yes, it was in the cinema for a month. It will soon be on DVD any moment from now. Torn was produced and directed by Sneeze, better known as Moses Inwang. The plaque is resting on my mantle at home. It was from Golden Icon Academy Movie Awards (GIAMA) in Houston.
But before Torn, not much was seen of you. Is it that you have been very choosy these days?
Now, I am; but initially, I wasn’t. This question comes across all the time. It’s just that as fate would have it, my acting credentials are mostly earned on TV and stage as opposed to films. But I’m open to doing movies and the people who want me in their films come to look for me. So, that is how it works.
Are you working on any at the moment?
I have one that has been hanging mid-production. We have been going back and forth. The location is in Calabar. I don’t know if it is half-way done or not. But we shot some scenes. Are there more movies in the pipeline? Well, what you should be looking out for are television series. Before the end of the year, you will see me in about three other television series. The one you should look out for is called Diary. It is written, produced and directed by Victor Tenchent, who is also a Tinsel director and writer. It will make its debut on EbonyLive on May 31 at 10:30pm.
What movie actually brought you to the limelight?
You see, I’m fortunate and that is the part I cannot take credit for. I can’t take credit for this part. The opportunities I have been given in this career have been amazing. Then, some of the biggest opportunities are ones I didn’t even go looking for. I’m just fortunate to have been part of some really great productions that stick in people’s minds. Before I shot Torn, the last one I did was think Sitanda. Maybe I had shot two in-between, but they haven’t come out. But they are just evergreen movies that stick in people’s minds. Would I say that I pick them? No, I didn’t.
This is the era when actors are turning producers/directors. Are you looking in that direction?
I’ve always been a producer. I have produced my own programme. Oge is my production. Will I produce a drama or something to do with drama? Yes. But that’s all I’m going to say about that at this point.
What inspired the concept, Oge?
Oh, it is fourteen years now! Fifteen years ago, my executive producer and boss said to me, “You know, we’ve been commissioned to produce two shows; so, you go and find out how you are going to design a fashion show.” That was the brief. But a few months into producing the show, it opened my mind to the amazing things being produced in Nigeria by Nigerians. And this was the time when both Ankara and Nigerian designs were looked down upon.
These were the days of Laballena, Rose of Sharon, Frank Oshodi, Jimmy Delaja and Funmi Ajila. I was like, how can we have all of these big names and people don’t appreciate them? So, it became an exciting thing for me. Oge became the platform to promote Nigerians who were doing great things. And from there, it became a sort of inspirational piece for young Nigerians. I then realised that creativity wasn’t necessarily dead; I could actually make a living from being creative. First, it was just a job; then, it became a passion that we needed to expose some of these things to the rest of the world.
How did it influence your own sense of fashion?
It made me further embrace the distinctiveness of being African. Frankly, prior to joining Tinsel, the way I wore my hair was in braided all- back-Ghana weaving. That was my personal style; and it was so beautiful. You walk into a room with an outfit and everybody feels that has to be a Nigerian. So, it gave me more confidence in being an individual and embracing what is ours.
You rarely grace events; so, are you a ‘home girl’ of sorts?
Frankly, I am a ‘home girl’. But the truth of the matter is I work long odd hours. Every Tinsel night, everybody who is on Tinsel, especially the lead characters and the crew, work long odd hours. So, if it’s not an event that is either being hosted by a dear friend or someone I respect a lot or I have been paid a lot of money to be there, I would rather be at home with my kids.
Again, you and your husband rarely appear together at social events…
We are both busy people. In any one given weekend, we are both invited to three or four different events, so we share it. If you have seen one, you have seen the other. That way, everybody is happy. Where is Oga? He couldn’t make it, but I’m here and the same thing goes for him. So, we just have to balance it out.
What was it like working with Victor Oladokun on Tinsel?
My ‘husband’ (laughs).
At some point, it was rumoured that you had left your husband for him.
The rumour generated after we shot and aired the marriage scene. That was one of the most- talked about situations in the entire series. It was so well done. Even my husband’s friends were calling him and asking him what happened between you guys and he would be like, ‘no, it’s drama’. The fact that people think we are actually a couple just buttresses the fact that we’ve done a great job. Working with him is fun. We are partners in crime, we are partners in success, and he is my friend.
Did the rumour make you bond more?
If you are expected to play someone’s spouse, it makes sense. You will be wise to find a way to bond with that person, so that the chemistry is real and you can get the job done. We are very good friends and his wife is my colleague and sister too. In fact, his wife is a costumier in Tinsel.
So, when the rumour started coming, how did you both feel about it?
We are professionals. Even with the person you are not playing spouse with, when you see a funny scenario, you laugh and talk about it. We roll with the punches and we do what is expected of us.
What would you say has kept your marriage going all these years?
It will be 20 years, next year, since we got married.
Would that be coming with a big celebration?
Maybe, maybe not. Maybe we’ll wait for another three years.
Don’t worry! When the time comes, you will know.
So, what’s your winning formula in marriage?
In marriage, I don’t have a winning formula. I really don’t like being put on a pedestal because it takes grace. We all have where the shoes pinch us. It’s not perfect all the time; it’s grace. So, you don’t point fingers at people. If you don’t walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, you may not understand what the person is going through. So, I will just thank God for His grace.
But what is your own contribution towards the success of the marriage?
You have to be patient, you have to be open-minded and you have to stop having a knee-jerk reaction to some situations. It is wrong to react to everything that happens. When something happens, you think it through. Sometimes, things are not always what they seem. Open communication is important. You have to build a bridge of open communication. Marriage is a decision; otherwise, there are 10,000 and one reasons to leave a marriage, from something as stupid as snoring at night to something more fundamental as being beaten.