Jumoke George is one of the popular faces in Yoruba movies. She is good at what she does and this explains why she is in hot demand by movie producers. Almost on a daily basis, she is on location, moving from one production to another. When City People requested to interview her 2 weeks ago, she promptly accepted to speak but timing was the big issue, because she was super busy, until last Monday, when she was on location, somewhere in Abule Egba, in Lagos. To make the interview possible, we had to go meet her on set and we got her to take a break for 1 hour to talk about the career which gives her so much joy. She spoke about how she started acting at age 8 and went through hell to succeed in life. She is from a polygamous family and at some point her mum and dad got separated and she got stuck. She did a lot to make it in life. Her story is a pathetic one. But today, this naturally beautiful, ebony complexioned actress has become a role model who other younger actress look up to for inspiration.
She spoke to City People Publisher, SEYE KEHINDE about her success story.
Can you share with us how your love for acting started?
My love for acting started way back, I would say when I was still a kid. It started at 8 age. 8 years to be precise. It all started with NTA stage drama, then. Their end of the year shows that normally take place at the television station. That was how I started. Before then, whilst I was growing, I fell in love with a newscaster then, Mama Anike Agbaje-Williams. Whenever I see her, on TV, casting her news, I just love her. I don’t know what it is, but something in me got me attracted to the screen. It was a gift deposited in my being. That was how I started.
So what happened after that?
Later on in life when I went to secondary school, I joined the drama group. When I was in Class 3, my teachers then made me to lead the drama group of my school.
When I was in Class 4, there was this area brother, Brother Akua. He just came to me and said Jummy, I know you are going to be a very good actor, If only you have someone to back you up, if you have someone to put you through. I said yes I love acting. He took me to Laolu Theatre Group. I joined the troop then. One of those days when I was coming from rehearsal ground, this gentleman was driving behind me. He got close to me, stopped and chatted with me. He said he had seen my face before on NTA and on BCOS, I said yes. He asked where I was going I said home. He offered to give me a ride, which I accepted. On your way, going he said he wanted to meet my parents. I asked why. He said he wanted to discuss with them about my gift, that he could see that a big gift has been deposited in me and all I need is someone that could help me with my gift.
I now told him that I was on my way to see my mum. I am from a polygamous family, a broken home. My mother happens to be the first wife. After my mum, my dad married a number of women. I was still a child when they divorced. The court granted my mum the custody of the children. After the divorce, my dad had a transfer to the Northern State, Kano. There was this day my dad came to pay us a visit and I cried that I am going with my dad. Then I was 7 years.
It was when we came for our Xmas holiday in our hometown in Ibadan. Then, I was 8 years that I went to NTA Ibadan to take part in their programme. So I told that gentleman my story and I took him to my mum.
He then told my mum that he wants someone to hand me over to him. That was how my mum handed me over to the man. That man is Comrade Victor Ashaolu, who tutored and mentored me for 11 years. After the 11th year, he left me go. That was how I went into the world to start my career. But I was into acting before I met Ashaolu. So I continued. I didn’t stop.
By the time Ashaolu took me up I had left my dads place. I didn’t leave, out of my own free will but I was disowned. My father disowned me and I couldn’t go to live with my mum. I went to meet my mum because I believe she is the next bust stop for me to go live with. My mum said no, she can’t accept for me to come live with her, afterall when we were babies you are the one that insisted that you want to go with your father, whilst your senior sister stayed back to live with me. What you are going through is the result of going to live with your father. I went through hell. I got caught up in the crisis of polygamy. What prompted my father disowning me is because one of his wives lied against me to save face. It’s a long story. When I got to secondary school, Class 2, Class 3 something in me kicked against a bad habit my step mum was doing and I stood up to her. Coming from the background of a strict military upbringing, we were not given the chance to stand up in the front of any of our parent to say our mind. No, we didn’t have that chance. We were not given that opportunity. That day I didn’t know what got into me. I didn’t know where that courage came from. I told her the home truth and she shouted back at me. That was the genesis of my problem for having the effrontery to stand before her and talk. When my father arrived from work, she told him the story and twisted it. Because of the training we were given, I couldn’t stand before him to talk. I begged dad to let me say something to him for the first time in my life, to explain to him. He took it as an insult. She lied against me that I refused to run errands for her because my mum is senior to her in the hierarchy. She told my dad that he should send me packing or else she will leave the house. I wept. He just said I should pack my things and leave his house. I was crying rolling on the ground, telling my dad I had nowhere to go to. I begged. I said I was sorry.
My dad shouted at me to leave his house and the next thing I saw was that my dad went into his room and came out with his gun. I had to run for my life. I took to my heels. The house that the military gave my dad is a few minutes’ walk to Joyce B. around Ring Road in Ibadan. My dad pursued me from that place to the major main road and he was trying to shoot to kill me. I was running helter-skelter. When he saw I had hit the main road, he went back. From there, I went to our family house to go and meet our paternal grandma to explain. She said Jumoke sit down there, nobody will chase you away from here.
Then, I went to see my mum and my dad came and my dad wanted to beat me and my grandma intervened. It was that day I had the story about how they met at Teachers College. That they were classmates.
How did all these challenges prepare you for your life in acting?
It really prepared me. God was just on my mind. I kept praying to him to see me through all these wahala. My father disowned me, my mother rejected me. So let me concentrate on making it on my own in life. There is this lady who happens to be my partner. We shared the same table while in school. She is the daughter of the famous Baba Orioke Ede (Baba Abiye) Bola. The following day when I got to school, I couldn’t concentrate, she now asked me what happened. I told her the story I had to go and live with one of my mum’s sister, and from there I had to go and be living with various friends till I completed my secondary school at Anglican Grammar School, Orita Metta.
After that I went to Government Technical College, Osogbo, I did Business Studies. I was fully into acting then, so I was living off the peanuts I was been paid. That was what I coped with. But I was adamant that I want to make it in life, with or without my parents. I want to make an impact.
It got to a stage nobody was ready to accept me in their house again. When I couldn’t cope again, I went to my mum’s immediate elder sister, Mama Debo. She is late now. I begged her and explained everything to her. She was angry, so she went and met my mum to accept me back. And if you don’t accept her to live with you, she now said there is a place she can live.
My maternal grandmum has a house. My mum and her siblings have divided the house among themselves. The room and parlour my grandmum was using before her demise is still there. She gave me my grandmother’s sitting room to live in. There was no boyfriend, nothing. There was no one to feed me. There was no one to take care of me. I was feeding myself.
I used to go and eat in my friends’ homes. It was that my mum’s immediate elder sister that advised me to look for a boyfriend who can take care of me. There was a guy who used to live around us there. He used to be all over me. She now advised me to allow this guy to take care of me. He is an Architect. He promised me a lot, which he didn’t do, along the line, I got pregnant. And I had my 1st child. Although, I had taken a form to go to University there was no money. I had to retrace my steps. The guy I was with was a Muslim and the mum insisted that I must become a Muslim. I said no.
So, I went through hell. He also didn’t like the kind of job I am doing. He comes to our rehearsal ground at Cultural Centre, Mokola in Ibadan. He will come there to fight. He will beat me black and blue. There was this particular day. He beat me and I collapsed. When I couldn’t cope again. I left Ibadan and relocated to Lagos. I came to meet my 1st cousin, Bukola Latunde and I started living with her since then I have been living in Lagos.