- The Story Of Her 45 Years In Acting
She is one of the popular veteran actresses in the Yoruba movie industry. She started from Stage performance and she has been acting for the past 45 years.
Everyone calls her Fali Werepe. But her real name is Modupe Johnson. She is a veteran actress. And she is still very much into acting and production of movies. She is one of the matriarchs in the Yoruba movie industry.
“I started this Theatre business in 1973. I never planned to be an actress. I got influenced by a friend of mine. She was into it. She called me and she said Dupe why don’t you come along to watch us act. And I followed her. At a point, I now told her, this acting thing you are doing I also want to do it. It was in Ebute Metta at Lisabi Hall.
My Oga’s name is Tunde Owodunni. That was how I was accepted. And I have been in it since then”.
Has there been any difference between Theatre then, and now? “A lot, yes. At that time, there was no money at all. But we didn’t pay attention to the issue of money. We were all managing. We were just doing it. We kept acting on stage from place to place. It was a travelling theatre. As we were doing it, we were happy. I started from the stage, acting and dancing on the roadside, in villages and towns. It was not about money. We didn’t see ourselves as poor. We were happy”.
How did her parents take her decision to go into the Theatre industry? “Haa! Most parents didn’t like it ooo. They felt its only an unserious and lazy person that acts. If only I knew things would be good like this I would have gone back to school to read more. At that time, I felt I should abandon education and go into the Theatre.
So, I didn’t see going to school as a big deal at that time. It was all about Theatre. So, I stopped in Primary 6.
Which movie or film shot her into the limelight? “It was one movie they did at that time called Bata Wahala. My Oga, Ajimajasan, was the owner of that film then. I was one of the 27 wives of the star actor Otebata L’orisile in the movie. I was the last wife.
That was how I got the name. My name in the movie was Fali Werepe”.
“I prepared well for that role. By nature when I work I throw myself into it. I put everything I have into it. I will shout, jump and be active with all my body, veins. No dull moments. I will sweat and people usually clap for me. That was what I did with the Fali Werepe role. Part of my role was to use the pestle to hit my mother-in-law in the month, once she opens the door and enters. I did it beyond what I was told to do. I over did it.
I put in a lot of energy and passion. The job was in episodes. By the time we got to the 13th episode, my own scene had finished in the episodes. I was asked to leave the house of Otebata L’orisile but everybody opposed my leaving. There was so much cry that once Fali Werepe leaves, the remaining episodes it won’t be sweet. So, they brought me back and I continued. I also acted in a film Egba Orun that same year. That was about 25 years ago. I have acted in so many films, and I also produce mine. I am so good at narrating stories.
That’s my strength. I will be saying it and someone will be writing it out as I dictate it. I can say a whole story today that can be turned into a movie, and the next day I will do another one”.
When she was young, what did she plan to do for a living? “I have always been in love with acting. I started very early. I got into it early. I went into acting when I was very, very young. At that time, no one could stop me”.
Like for how many years has she been acting now?. “I have been acting for 45 years. I started in 1973. That was when they introduced the new naira currency”.
How did she take the various transition from stage to video to movies? “I have been part of the various stages. We started from doing acting at village squares, neighbourhood squares, inside halls, then we moved into video, we are so happy.
Did she ever leave the acting career for a moment in the past 45 years? “No. But there was a time I went to learn hairdressing for about 6 months. At a point, they said I should go and call my dad to come and pay. My dad said no. He can’t waste his money on me. He said he put me in a proper school, I dropped out. I didn’t continue.
Now I said I want to do hairdressing. He said I can go ahead and learn it but he will watch me see if I will finish the course. He said if I learn it and complete it, he will now pay for my fees which was N200 then. My father said he was not ready to pay N200 from day one because it will be a waste. My Oga wanted me to pay a bit of it, even if its N100. To show that she was serious about it, she suspended me. My father still refused. So, I went back to acting.
Has she now retired from acting? “Retire, kee! No. I have not retired ooo. I am still acting. Over the last 3 months, I have produced 5 new movies. They are new. They are not out. Omotanwa is out Ogun Ajaye just came out. Enibimo is about to come out. Back To Back is there. Oku Ana is there. I have done 5, where does she get the strength to continue to do this job even in her late 50’s?
“I am used to it already. I have people who sit down with me to help me write out my scripts whilst I dictate to him. I didn’t go beyond Primary 6. After he writes it out, he will go and type it out and we would call the person to direct it. They will then give me my own scenes in the movie. I usually act the role of a mother. We use other younger actresses and actors”.
How does she see the industry today? “It has improved. Even the negative effects of parties have reduced. Before now it was really bad. There is no way you can make a profit from the movies. There is no amount you spend on it that you can make back. I depend a lot on movie productions. I produce a lot.
These days, we sell it to those who show it online, on the internet. They pay for it and put it on Youtube. The pirates are no longer making it again. That has saved we, producers”.
When she started, who were her role models? “There was none. We only knew of the likes of Ogunde, Duro Ladipo, all those babas, and their wives. There was no video then. We were just hustling. We were usually on the road all the time. Our Ogas didn’t allow us to go and watch other performances”.
When she played the role of Fali Werepe then how did she cope with the publicity it brought?
“I didn’t like it but there was nothing I could do about it. That was how the name stuck.