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With Timini Egbuson, it’s a case of true love. Studying Psychology as his dream course at University of Lagos didn’t deter the strong attraction he unconsciously had for acting from a young age.
Mentored by his superstar sister, Dakore Akande, the Bayelsa State-born actor ventured on a personal quest to hone his acting skills. After several auditions, he landed a role in the long running Mnet’s TV series, Tinsel as Dozie, and ever since, his face has been a staple choice for directors.
A part of the returning cast on Shuga season 6, Egbuson takes us through his world of acting, passions, challenges, Nollywood and lifestyle in this chat with TS Weekend.
You got called back for MTV’s Shuga season 6. Was it something you were looking forward to?
Actually, what happened was that when MTV Shuga went to South Africa, I kind of forgot about it, because obviously, they did two seasons in Kenya and then did two seasons in Nigeria before moving to South Africa. I thought Shuga had done all it could for me and I was really contented with what had happened. When I got the call that they were coming back for a sixth season, I was really excited. It’s like when you feel something has done the most for you, and you are content and then you hear that it’s back again. It was a feeling of joy all over from the beginning again.
Three of the cast members were called back, you happen to be one of them. How did this resonate with you?
I felt really lucky. At the end of the day, it’s God. The way the season was, they could have decided to go on anybody’s character, but because of where they are trying to take the story to; they happen to go with Jemima, Sharon and I. So, yes! It’s great. If I wasn’t called back, I would have still been excited because Shuga is back; and I know for a fact that it touched a lot of lives in Nigeria primarily. So yes, it’s a win-win.
Do you think your character is a strong one for the series?
Yes. When the Nigerian series came out, my character was one of the characters that people related with the most, because Tobi was that guy. A lot of things happened: he lost his virginity on the show. He started from being very timid to becoming outspoken in the next season. Also, I guess maybe the way I portrayed the character, it got a lot of love.
What effect did Shuga have on your career as an actor?
It has a really positive effect. Before Shuga, I have been acting. I was in Tinsel, done a few short films, gone for auditions but nothing can compare to Shuga because of its reach, 720 million homes. The reach was astonishing and it’s a good opportunity to show myself to a lot of people, because a lot of people watch Shuga. So, from there, I hosted EbonyLife TV show, The Spot, I was lead character for Ajuwaya, which just left cinemas, and I went ahead to be in the movie, 50 The Series with my sister (Dakore) and then Isoken, which also broke records in the box office, including a lot of other stuffs.
When did you start acting professionally?
I started acting in 2012. My first character was Dozie in Tinsel.
Would you say acting found you or you found it?
I would say acting found me because I obviously had an experience. My sister has been acting for 22 years, I have been following her around on set and I started to love acting and understand the tricks and tips that actually motivate a good actor. So from then on, I decided to try my luck; and it was very important for me to go to an audition where it was really based on talent, so I went for Tinsel audition. There were like 5,000 people and I wowed the judges. From then, I met Tope Oshin who was a director on Tinsel. Tope noticed me and invited me to another audition which I also got the role for a pilot series called Rush, but which didn’t see the light of day. So, that’s kind of how my trajectory in acting started.
Which film project stands out for you?
The reach and the way people reacted to the show, and my performance. But also I will be doing great injustice if I don’t mention Tolu Tana, because he was the first guy to give me a lead role opportunity in a movie that went to cinema entitled, Ajuwaya. That was also something I would say was a defining moment in my career.
You studied Psychology at University of Lagos. Why Psychology when you knew you had flair for acting?
The plan was to be a child psychologist because I really like children and I wanted to try and see what I could do to make a mark on the development or process of children in Nigeria. But as I went ahead studying psychology and was ready for my Masters; that was when I went for Tinsel auditions. After graduation, I needed a job and the job that was ready for me didn’t have anything to do with Psychology. It was a sales and marketing job in an e-commerce company and I got the job. I was there for two years, acting on the side, and then I went for Shuga audition, and when I got the role, it changed my life.
Your goal to become a child psychologist, is it still on track?
It is still on track, but to be honest, I don’t see me pursuing that in the nearest future, maybe five years down the line. Right now, I am focusing on acting and some other businesses that I am involved in. I don’t want to be a jack of all trade.
Your sister must have been of influence to you, I’d like to know how?
She is like a role model. I look up to her in terms of life generally, even aside from career; she is an amazing woman. The values that she holds in life are stuffs that I have emulated. I think that’s what has brought me to where I am today. If you ask around, everyone will tell you that I am a good person, so basically, that’s what it has been. She’s been like a role model. She was successful in acting and I saw that success is something that can happen; it is something you can sustain. You can have life; you can have everything you need. It’s like going into a career, you want to go into farming and you know a farmer that is successful. That gives you the hope, the motivation to actually dive with both feet in and see what can come out of it. So, for every step of the way, she has pushed me, she has motivated me.
Are you saying that without your sister you might not have been an actor?
No. I feel acting could have found its way. Even from University and places I go, my friends will say something like ‘ah, Jimmie dey act oh’. My name used to be Jimmie before I made conscious efforts to go with my native name, Timini.
What do you think about the way Nollywood is moving right now with its productions?
This is a very good time for Nollywood. I feel like I’ve come into Nollywood at the right time. I feel like the sky is the limit because a lot of great movies are coming out now. It takes a lot of money, a lot of sweats, but then, a lot of independent producers are actually taking the bold step, and they are producing good movies. It is an industry that is employing a lot of people from actors to writers, costumiers to make up artists. Basically, people are taking things into their own hands and growing an industry that was zero before. It’s now the third largest film industry in the world and I feel like it can only get better.
You travel a lot, when you bring up the topic of Nollywood to people who have never been to Nigeria, what are their reactions?
They love our movies. People like Ramsey Nouah, Dakore, Genevieve Nnaji and Omotola Jalade Ekeinde; these veterans in the game have dragged the world’s attention to Nollywood. You are on Netflix and you can see that there is a Nigerian movie on Netflix, that’s something you could only have imagined in the past. Our culture is very rich. The typical Nigerian is a cocktail of personalities embodied in one. I think Nollywood has found a way to show the world that Nigeria is actually a beautiful place and we have beautiful people.
Your photos online are model-like in nature, have you ever considered modeling?
I feel like whatever opportunity comes my way, I will take it. I have done a couple of adverts and all that, but then it’s something that I am actually looking forward to. People say I have a nice smile, so I am waiting for that toothpaste company to come and give me that endorsement deal.
How do you handle the female fans around you?
Women appreciate my work. Obviously, I try to leave things as civil as possible. But I will not hide the fact that I get a lot of love from the females and I appreciate that, but it is what it is – work. What you have to understand is that, at the end of the day, your fans are very important part of your life.
Were there times you said to yourself ‘I can’t do this anymore’?
There are always points like that but I always remind myself about why I fell in love with the craft in the first place, it can be rough. Being an actor, you are not really doing a 9 to 5; income is not promised every month but I’ve been lucky like I said. I’ve been blessed to be part of really good projects and those projects have a way of coming when I need to sign that cheque or pay that bill. So far, so good I have no regrets.
How do you deal with challenges?
I surround myself with positive people because I really believe in vibes. I have a very good relationship with God and I feel like if you go naked in front of Him, He will cover you up and that’s what’s He’s been doing.
I want to make you go naked in the literal sense?
Funny enough, I go naked and pray sometimes when the matter gets really tough.
Having such passion for children, are you making any conscious efforts towards supporting children?
I do that but I’m very quiet about it. Also, I have a mentorship programme that I do. So, basically it’s 10 guys every year. I make conscious efforts not to talk about it.
Where would you be in five years?
I want to be the best. I want to be a leader in my industry. I want to be the best at what I do. This acting thing, the funny thing is, you learn everyday about it. It is not something that you can completely know; so every character you play is an opportunity to learn more. I am looking forward to Shuga now because I am going to learn from some amazing directors, it is going to be like school again. In five years? I want to be one of the best actors in Africa, possibly done something internationally, like Hollywood. It would not be a bad thing to be in Power or Game of Thrones. It wouldn’t be bad to put Nigeria on the map in that regard and I think I have the talent.