Jide Kosoko is a prince who has a passion for acting. He is one of the Veteran actors who made the Nigerian Movie Industry what it is today. Prince Jide Kosoko started acting in 1964. The pressure of his princely heritage almost cost him his passion, which he had discovered as a little boy of barely 10 years. But the passion fueled the fire that kept his dream alive. In this chat, he talks about the challenges he faced to become an Actor, the glory of being an Actor and his regrets.
How were you discovered?
My story has always been the same. I started acting in 1964 when I was just 10 years old. At that age, l was already on a professional set. A neighbour of ours, Dele Toyinbo, who normally visits my home visited as usual. He saw me with my age mates at our compound. We were playacting in some sort of drama/play. He watched us and saw that I was really doing my best.
Toyinbo and some other people were working on a production titled “Makanjuola” on TV and on stage and they needed a boy my age to play the lead character. So they gathered so many children my age for an audition and l was also invited and l even got there late. When it was my turn to do what l was asked to do as per interpreting a role, the narrative changed. They saw the character they wanted for the production in me and l was chosen for the role. That was how my journey in the entertainment industry began.
What are the challenges you encountered?
It wasn’t easy for me as there were lots of challenges, especially from my family. My dad would say, “Jide you are a Royal Prince, you should be entertained. You shouldn’t entertain people!” My mother was a royal Princess and I also a Prince of Lagos. I am a direct descendant of King Kosoko.
My mother on her own was very aggressive about it. She would come to our rehearsals. In fact, there was a particular day, we were already set to travel for a show in a Bolekaja. l was already in the vehicle and l saw her coming and l had to hide behind a backdrop. She entered and stepped on the backdrop without knowing anyone was there. I bared the pain of her weight on me because it would have been worse if she had caught me there that day. When she couldn’t find me. I had her spoke in Yoruba “Olorun yo e”, meaning God has saved me from her not meeting me there! I watched from where l was hiding with fear and trepidation.
The beating of my life!
Those are part of the little challenges l encountered on my path to becoming an Actor. I remember vividly that after one of my movies was shown on the TV and l was returning home. The children on my street were hailing me because they had seen the movie perhaps, and l felt like a Star all of a sudden! I was excited I walked home majestically like a hero. l didn’t know my mother and my brother had already laid ambush for me. l received the beating of my entire life.
As they were beating me that day, something remarkable happened. Chief Hubert Ogunde of blessed memory, who commercialized the Yoruba Theatre and movies, was driving by. He lived a stone’s throw from my house. and on this said day, he was driving his old car, amongst so much hailing from everyone including my beaters.
Fortunately for me, an uncle of mine, Yinka Jacobs, intervened and asked a question. He said “wait a minute, you are beating this child for the job and art you are hailing this man for? That is the man he is trying to emulate!” So on that day, I attained freedom and made some vows to my family that l wouldn’t miss church, lessons or School and that l will only go to rehearsal three times a week. Life as an Actor actually started for me when everyone was in support. That changed me and also changed my attitude. Before that day, no parent wanted their children to associate with me. But after that day, l became the sweetheart of all. Everyone wanted their children to emulate me.
“I was rascally”
I was viewed before then as a very stubborn and wayward child. l must confess that l was rascally. Like during Easter celebrations, l have my own dance group. I mean, l participated in every event and l was so popular and seen as a rascal before then. Those days, we had sewage carriers popularly called Agbepo (night-soil men). I used to lead boys who trouble them and l used to be identified and singled out because of my fair complexion.
However, when l was given the opportunity to act and do something else with my time, l became a changed person. I started going out for rehearsals and l started behaving well with everyone and the environment. And l became highly disciplined. Some of the parents started using Jide Kosoko as a role model for their children. That was what Theatre did for a child that was actually going on the wrong path.
How has it been? This path you chose…
So far, so good. When we were building this industry, It was just passion that pushed us. We were not expecting to make money. People looked for money elsewhere to invest in this industry. You know we started it from the Yoruba sector. And that is the truth. We were not looking for the commercial aspect at that time, but eventually, we started looking at it. You know when we started, we were the only ones taking our movies to the cinemas for people to watch, but gradually SAP, Structural Adjustment Programme of 1985 affected the deals we had. As we couldn’t finish our movie production in Nigeria. We still needed to take it out of Nigeria for finishing and SAP affected us, the dollar needed to carry out post-production was affected.
At that time, a lot of great Producers like Ogunde and many others couldn’t send their movies abroad and then we looked for alternatives. That was the birth of Home Video. We tried it and kept at it. And we started earning our living. But our counterparts who didn’t feel the heat of SAP kept their type of movies going as well but we thank God for where we are today. We faced so many ups and downs as a result of the unstructured entertainment industry. But we are still working towards structuring a regulatory body for ourselves.
Compare when you started and now, would you say that you have gotten there?
Financially and otherwise, we have not gotten there. But we are moving close. It use to be worse than this. We used to have to take our movies to the Cinemas. Now apart from the Cinemas, we have other platforms like Netflix and other streaming platforms that sell us internationally. Now, other countries are looking at us. This is what we have always wanted. It is a gradual process. We are not there yet, but we have gone far from where we used to be. Today, we have people who are spending N150Million and more to produce movies. It shows that we are getting more serious, looking back from where we started.
You have been acting for 57 years. Looking back, in retrospect, what else would you have done?
Ah! I have never thought otherwise. This is where l have always wanted to be and nothing else has ever crossed my mind. I love what l do and I would do it again and again. I have always wanted to entertain people and l am doing just that.
Let us talk about the glory of this profession. What doors have acting opened for you?
I am happy you asked me this question! Regardless of the financial status, our names open doors, to say the least! People attend to us when we need help. When I go out to get something even the Commissioners and Local Government Chairmen respond to us because they love what we are doing.
Regrets? My only regret is that we are not getting there on time as we should have. We have spent so much time trying to make this work. But I thank God that we are not stagnant and that one day we shall get there.
How many movies has Jide Kosoko featured in?
To be honest, I don’t know. Whatever figure I give to you would be a lie. But I can conveniently tell you that I have produced 41 movies.
How are you juggling acting and producing?
When I am on set for my own productions, I stay focused and produce. I can also handle my work as an Actor in another location. And if I have to play a role in my production, I get called in and I come in and do my job. This is only possible because we have good hands on deck. And they can do better if they are empowered.
How have you managed your looks? You have stayed ageless!
Well, it is indeed the grace of God because one cannot claim anything spectacular to achieve youthfulness. But as much as possible I put my mind at rest, not bothering too much about material life. I am happy anytime I am on one set or the other. I derive pleasure from doing my job as an Actor. Whatever I am capable of doing I do. What I cannot do, I drop it.
Advice to upcoming actors
They should remain dedicated and focused. They should train, retrain and retrain. It is about training, not gate crashing. You don’t jump into the legal work and say you are a lawyer. You must be trained. It is the same for acting. Even if you have talent, someone has to put you through so you can achieve your goal.
Photo: Kaizenify – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=92965325