By on December 31, 2012
Basket mouth, Shegun & Tuface

Nollywood’s famous voice has his famous eyes on one woman: his wife.


By Patrick Ikechukwu Nnamani


A seasoned professional needs no formal announcement. His displays and carriage are tell-tales of dedicated training and consistent superlative performances. One of such rare breed is the multi-talented Olusegun Arinzechukwu Aina-Padonou popularly known as Segun Arinze.


31 segun-arinzeHe hails from Badagry (in Lagos State). His father was Yoruba while his mother is Ibo. The oldest in a family of seven, Segun has traversed the country schooling. He is fluent in all three major languages – Hausa, Igbo and Yoruba. But he finished from Victory College of Commerce, Edidi, which is about thirty minutes from Ilorin, Kwara State. He went on to train under Chuck Mike at the University of Ife, under Dramatic Arts and African Studies.


In 1992, on the Premier Music label, he released an album titled Dreams. After that, things went a bit awry. “I got a bit disillusioned with the way things were being carried out,” he pointed out. A stickler for professionalism, it was easy to experience dissonance. He went to the label and requested that they suspend his contract. The planned release of another album in 2007 was put off. “When I feel the time is right, I will release the album on my own terms.”


Another rich vein of talent is his vocal abilities. After watching CNN, BBC and listening to the voice-overs, he was taken in by the fancy of doing voice-overs. “When I was a youngster, “he retrieves from the past, “my dad used to bring newspapers home and I will stand and read up the items. I developed a knack for reading out loud.” So, when he left school (the university), he met Kinglsey Ogoro and Tunde Adejadudu.


Around 1987, at a studio called Ajaka Studios, it dawned on him that he had to do this. He took his first chance to read voice-overs. Among his early mentors were Sunny Irabor, who coached him from time to time. There was also Bisi Olatilo and Osaze Iyamu. “These were the major broadcasters then,” he said. “They were the ‘it’ people then. I’m privileged to have worked with a lot of them. But the icing on the cake was listening to James Early Jones do ‘This is CNN International.’”


Segun Arinze started acting while in secondary school, though he got introduced into acting by a friend called Ayo Orowale when they started ‘The Palm Players’. It was a two-man stage ensemble that gradually grew to accommodate about ten actors. When he got back to Lagos in 1984-5, he decided to join the now-defunct ‘Anansa Play House’ under Bassey Effiong. And the rest is history.


His first acting gig was a stage play called The New Dawn by Olu Obafemi at the University of Ilorin Auditorium. The major one he recalls was Boys Next Door with Tade Ogidan. From there, he went on to do The Fault Is Not In Our Stars, written by Bassey Effiong and directed by Roland Henshaw. However, his first major movie role was in Vigilante by Afolabi Adesanya and directed by Deji Adesanya.


He takes exception to be referred to as a typecast villain. “I’m what you call a method-actor,” he informs, “but there was a deliberate act by directors and producers to cast me in a certain kind of mode. And I broke away from it.” This explains why he is not doing a lot of acting now. “I’m an actor first of all, so I should be able to play any role. Granted though, it’s not all the roles I’ll be suited for, but as a character actor, I told myself I was not going to be stereotyped. I’m not a stock character.”


Segun believes that a movie script gives the actor 10 percent, while the director adds another 20. “The rest 70, you have to figure out yourself.” When he picks up roles, he reads the script thoroughly, trying to find out where the writer is coming from. “I take it on four levels: the physical, which talks about the age, size, colour of hair…all the physical attributes. Then I go on to the psychological level: which tells me about the mindset of the character. Then I go the sociological level: which tells me how the character relates to his immediate environment and people around him. Finally, I enter the fourth level: the moral. ‘What do I take away from this character?’ ‘What are the lessons, draw-backs, advantages I can take away from this?’


He believes that an actor is as good as his last role. He goes on to recall some of his most memorable roles. “Playing Black Arrow in Silent Night is one,” he said. “And that, we did not know was going to turn out to be a huge monster.” Today, the name is stuck with him. He’s still referred to as Black Arrow. He also recalls Battle Of Love, where he played Colonel Bako, The Prostitute with Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde, which Kingsley Ogoro produced and Fred Amata directed.  Blind Trust, Vuga also presented some unforgettable roles. “But for me,” he warns, “as an actor, I look forward to challenging roles. I aspire to do bigger and better things.”


The current President of the Actors’ Guild of Nigeria took a break a while ago, but is back now fully. “There’s a new movie of mine to be released soon. It is titled Family On Fire, directed by Tade Ogidan and shot on location in London.”


For him, Nollywood has seen a metamorphosis, from the days of Living In Bondage to date. While he commends the high work rate, he swipes at the mediocrity and what he referred to as the “high sense of commercialism” that sounded the death-knell for the industry. “But,” he interjects, “I think it has to be re-engineered, repositioned…There has to be a deliberate attempt to look at Nollywood in terms of where we are coming from and where we are headed. It’s not just the actors, but everything. If you want to make a good soup, you need all the right ingredients; fresh ingredients. It was thrown open and people started taking camcorders to go shoot movies without recourse to professionalism and the discipline.  What we started churning out were just glorified soap-operas! Sometimes when I watch these movies, I am ashamed. The quality is deplorable. We plummeted. But I know it will sort itself out, the mediocre will leave the centre-stage and the professionals will take their right places.”


The singer and actor boasts of a more balanced life now, thanks to his wife Julie. “She brings organization to my life,” he admitted. “I’m settled and I can think straight and not worry about the home front, because I know the home front is covered. There is no decision I take without bringing it to her notice. One advantage I have is that she is a lawyer, so she looks at it from the legal point of view. So, we analyze it before I take any decision. And if you try me, I’ll ask my wife to sue you!”


In the midst of all the work, the couple takes joint holidays without specific preferences.  Segun Arinze is not retiring, not anytime soon. “This is a business where you don’t retire unless you are tired. But when I do retire, I will into politics.”


His influence is huge. A training academy for actors and movie practitioners is in the offing, where he hopes government and relevant bodies will be involved. Perhaps, as the top-dog among actors, his experience from stage to voice-overs and music qualify him to best guide and direct the affairs of the teeming established and upcoming actors. They could not have wished to be left in better hands. They could not have asked for a better pair of eyes looking after their affairs.


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