For the past four years since she launched her acting career, Damilola Adegbite has gripped our attention and claimed a special place in the hearts of her fans.
Many people know her as Telema Duke, the role she acted in the popular MNet’s Soap Opera, Tinsel. But not only is she a great actress, she has also graced the television screens as a host for the Chartroom and Global Countdown Show on Sound City TV. As a model, she has featured in some photography and TV commercials.
The 27 year-old Business Administration graduate from Bowen University, Osun state has featured in a movie “6 Hours to Christmas” aside from her celebrated role on Tinsel. She speaks with Bellanaija’s Adeola Adeyemo about her recent career change, her life and what she looks forward to.
A few weeks ago, Damilola Adegbite made a surprise announcement that she would be leaving the Tinsel set. The news which was first broke exclusively on Bellanaija took many people, including myself, by surprise. During her four year stint on the soap opera, she had established herself as a talented actress and many people were sad to hear about her exit. She was bright and confident when we met and though she was apologetic to her fans, she was confident about her decision and felt ready to take the plunge.
Hi Damilola how are you doing?
I understand you’re currently working on a movie set now. How is that going?
It’s been pretty interesting. It has an interesting cast, an interesting story. It’s a romantic comedy by the way.
It would be great to see you in another movie. What is your role like?
I’m the female lead. I won’t give you any hints, not yet (laughs) but all I’m gonna say is it would be different from the normal roles I’ve been playing. Michelle Bello is producing it. She is an AMAA Award winning film maker.
You’ve garnered an impressive fan base so far in your acting career. When exactly did you start acting?
Four years ago. Tinsel was my first.
This would be your second movie after 6 Hours of Christmas. Many would have expected you to have starred in more movies by now. Why just two movies in four years?
Shooting movies is different from being on a series or a soap opera. It is very time demanding and I’ve never really been the type to have a lot of scattered projects. I’d rather stick to one and do it very well. You know what they say about too many Chefs spoiling the soup? I’ve had to focus on Tinsel for a while with no distractions.
Starting Off on Tinsel
Take me back to the beginning of your career. You said Tinsel was your first. How did you get into Tinsel?
I auditioned like everyone else. I have an aunt in the industry, her name is Ethel Ekpe. She told me about it being that she knew acting was what I wanted to do. I was one of the last that actually auditioned for my role.
Before Tinsel, did you do any professional acting?
It was always very amateur. Maybe acting in school or in church.
After obtaining your degree at the University, did you work anywhere else or was Tinsel sort of like your first job?
It was really immediately after school. It must have been like days after I finished my final exams.
Did you have a chance to do your National Youth Service?
I remember we were still filming before NYSC, so even while I was doing my Youth Service, I was still filming.
It’s still hard to separate you from Tinsel because you’ve had quite a long stay on the show. Many people still know you as Telema Duke and were shocked to hear about your exit from the show. Why did you have to leave?
It was a professional decision, and it was a very tough one. It wasn’t a decision I came through lightly. It was something I had to think about and really had to weigh the pros and cons. Like any good decision you have to make, it’s always very tough. I had a couple of movie offers in the times past but because of the dedication and commitment that Tinsel needed, it was impossible to have taken the offers. It was important that while I was on Tinsel, I gave it a hundred percent. Four years after, it is the right choice to make now.
What was the atmosphere like at the Tinsel house around the time of your exit?
It’s been very emotional. For me, I had to thank them for letting me be on the cast in the first place. The other cast members have been like “oh, why now?” There have been so many memories. I’m gonna miss it.
But you managed to feature in one movie while on Tinsel. Was it that hard to juggle both commitments? Couldn’t you have stayed on and still done the movies?
Something had to give. I did a movie but it was just one movie in four years. It’s difficult for other producers to work around your schedule. If anyone’s going to sign you on anything, they would want your undivided attention. So it’s up to you to now decide which way you’d want to follow. For my own personal fulfillment, this is the path I’d want to follow now.
Looking up to Life after Tinsel
Now that you have decided to leave the “comfortability” of a regular pay check from MNet into the unchartered waters of the movie industry, are you bothered about the financial implications considering the fact that you seem quite selective about movies you feature in?
I won’t lie, that is the hardest part. I won’t be getting my monthly alerts anymore (laughs). But you know, it’s a transition. So everything is going to work together for good for me at the end. With Damiville on the side and other movies, it would be pretty busy for me.
Damiville? What is Damiville please?
That is my baby. I started it some months ago. My three weaknesses are aromatherapy, accessories and make-up. So that is what I deal with.
Oh that’s interesting. You’re an entrepreneur too. But we’d talk about it later. Aside from this movie you’re currently working on, do you have other offers?
There are a couple of movies lined up.
So, back at Tinsel, what is going to happen to Telema Duke’s character?
I think that would be MNet’s decision. If they want to bring somebody else in as Telema, I’d help however I can to make sure she fits in. MNet can decide to do whatever they want with the character.
You played Telema’s role so well while at Tinsel. Are there any similarities between Damilola and Telema?
Not really. Just because everyone now recognizes Damilola as Telema, if another person comes on board, there would be a connection.
What are you going to miss about the role and about Tinsel?
Working with my other cast members because we had reached a stage where everyone already knew their character and the other person’s character inside and out. I know what my character would do or not do and the next person knew too and it was easy to work each other. Besides the fact that we were colleagues, we were all friends. We were really close friends so it was not difficult working with any of them at all.You’ve featured in a stage play, Vagina Monologues before. How did you discover your interest and ability for stage acting?
When I got the offer, I wanted to try it being that I had already done a bit of it in school. I went to Queens College and at the time, the dramatic society there was very vibrant. It was tough because it’s a lot more drilling than movies but the director had my time.
Between TV presenting and acting, which one would you say is more fulfilling and you’d probably do more than the other?
I think they are different. TV hosting, it’s basically just you, you are not feeding off of any one so you basically have to tap in. Acting is different, there is somebody else there that you can feed off. They are actually different experiences but I don’t think I would trade one for the other though.
Growing up, Love & Other Interests
Let’s get back to Damiville. When did you start this venture and what is it about?
It’s something that I’ve always wanted to do. I’m very in touch with my emotions and my senses, hence the candles. It was just my personal pleasures that I figured I would share with everyone else. I launched it on my birthday in May and I have a store in Lekki. I sell the accessories and make-up. But if it comes to the aromatherapy, I can answer some questions based on my knowledge.
Tell me about your childhood, where did you grow up?
I grew up in Surulere, Lagos. I have a pretty small family. My Mum was a teacher, my Dad was a Civil Servant. We had a pretty comfortable, little family life.
Unlike some other actresses who have been in the industry much longer, your entrance into professional acting seemed quite easy. I’ve heard a lot of stories of how some of them roamed the streets looking for acting jobs but you got yours at the first try…
I frequently thank God that I didn’t have to go through that. I’m a strong believer that God would only do things in a way that would be best for you. Not everyone can go through that hassle and make it. I guess God just knew that my heart is too fragile (laughs) to be walking up and down the street looking for a movie role. So He made it easy for me.
Are any of these actresses role models to you?
For our Nigerian actors, I’d say people don’t give them a lot of credit for how far they’ve come. They have done so much for the industry and that is why people like myself are fortunate enough not to have to go through some certain kind of hassles because these people have done so much. The likes of Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, Omoni Oboli, Stephanie Okereke and Eucheria Anuobi have paid their dues and done so much for the industry and now for the new crop of actors in the industry, all we have to do is own the craft, up our game and bring our best food forward.
Speaking of Omotola, I once read a post on an online forum where you were tagged “The new Omotola of Nollywood”. How does that make you feel?
I have a sense of appreciation for that. To be likened and compared to someone who is wonderfully talented like Omotola is a plus. She worked hard to be where she is and it would be unfair not to give her due credit. At the end of the day, I want to create my own niche and be among the league of legends. So if Omotola doesn’t mind the comparism, I say thank you for that.
I once came across a picture of you and Banky W online where you were tagged “a couple”. Are you both really a couple?
It’s OK for everyone to make up their own stories especially when they see you with this person often and they don’t understand the kind of relationship you have with the person. I met Banky when he moved back to Nigeria, before he even released Ebute Metta and since then we’ve been close. We’ve grown up and evolved together, maturing in our craft. We learn off each other and we are friends. So it’s amusing. We laughed over it.
So if it isn’t Banky W, then who is it?
It’s someone that you all would like to know but it’s not time yet. You’d know when it’s time.
Aww, come on. OK, if you are not going to give us his name, just tell us something nice about him?
I like him (deep sexy voice).
OK, I get it. Looking ahead, do you ever get worried that the demands of your career might be a problem whenever you are ready for marriage or when you are raising your children?
I think it’s basically just about knowing yourself. I’m a private person. I’m pretty domestic contrary to what people might think. I believe so much in family and love and companionship and the comfort that comes from that. If at some point I have to balance it and put my career aside to bring up my children, I will.
When you say put aside, do you mean the same thing as giving it up? Can you give up your career for marriage or for your children?
No, I can juggle the two. Because this is what makes me happy. From when I was born, I’ve never seen myself doing anything out of the entertainment industry. I can balance it, I won’t forego it completely.
Let’s talk fashion now. You’ve made a couple of red carpet appearances and you always manage to come out looking good. What goes through your mind when selecting outfits for such public appearances?
I’m not very good at keeping up with the latest trends and getting everything spot on. I’m simple. I would pick up my little black dress and a pair of coloured shoes that I know would go with black, do my hair nicely and I’m ready to go. I guess it’s just my simplicity that has kept me for so long.
Do you often work with a stylist?
Not until recently and not for every red carpet appearance. Just for a couple of appearances.
If I am to speak the mind of most people, you seem to have had a polished lifestlyle and lots of privileges while growing up. Is this true?
A lot of people would basically imagine the kind of lifestyle they would assume that you’ve had because of where you are. As Yorubas would say, “it is the person wearing the shoe that knows where it is paining her”. I think it would be a huge misconception to say that I had a polished lifestyle. I didn’t grow up rich or anything like that. I have worked myself to where I am and I am still working. So every step of the way, I would say whatever I am getting, I deserve by God’s grace.
What would you say are your shortcomings?
Sometimes, I could be overly comfortable with myself and my space. I don’t want to go out, I just like my space. Sometimes I just get carried away with my “me” time and my family and friends would be saying “please come and see us”.
What would you like to say to your fans and people who have supported you over the years?
I just want to say to everyone, my fans and everyone who has supported me that this might seem like a temporary disappointment but I would never intentionally do anything that would upset anyone or make them stop supporting me. Every step of the way, I will have them at the back of my mind and I would only do what will please them.
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