He had a one-time thespian mentor as a roommate on his first day in college. He got to work with Wale Adenuga for the sitcom ‘Papa Ajasco’ in his second year, getting grounded in the rubrics of film directing and acting. For Kayode Peters, there were indications that the domineering sails of fate were steering him to a path of fortune. Never did he expect that his obsession with Africa-oriented comedy series, movie scripts, and the technicalities of TV production would see him become a virtuoso movie executive with a slew of acclaimed works to his name; partner both foreign and indigenous creatives in film projects; and inspire wannabe actors, cinematographers, ardent directors, screenwriters, and movie producers. In this interview with TheCable Lifestyle, Peters talked about how he pulled off his first project as a graduand with stop-gap filming procedures; mobilized students, who later became stars, as his cast despite a chronic dearth of resources; and pitched his ideas to media brands that would later nudge him into stardom after his resolve never to join the scamper for jobs in the labour market. Voila!


It’s a common knowledge that the movie scene; showbiz has been hit by the pandemic, upturning schedules for cinema releases. In what ways would you say the COVID-19 realities in Nigeria affected your work?

Recounting how the pandemic affected my work is like saying the least. It hit us so much that we were almost rendered jobless. It actually rendered us jobless for some months. I was on the verge of shooting two movies I was contracted for; I was into production when everything had to be halted. Everything production was halted, including our daily income source. Outside those movies, I also had two series that AIT contracted me to do. I was making plans, trips. Everything was halted. It was like taking livelihood off one’s table. But we understood it was for safety. I mean, it wasn’t just us.


We would have been worst hit if we continued to shoot. We’re all aware of the numbers that are involved in movie production. It was better to be safe than sorry. Even ‘My Flatmates’ that I shoot every day had to stop, which meant that we resorted to almost doing nothing for two, three months. Yet, I stayed creative, put my hands into some things I ordinarily wouldn’t have. It was a moment when I sought to give back to fans, the public, would-be filmmakers, and actors. I had to do a director’s crew session with the best directors Nigeria has, even straight down to the United States.

It was a two-hour daily where directors had to impact and answer questions from would-be filmmakers, actors, producers, make-up artistes, and everything that has to do with production. I had Kunle Afolayan, Tope Alakere, Chris Eneng, Moses Inwang, Tola Odunusi, Biodun Stephen, Tope Oshin. Up till now, I still get messages from people thanking me that they learned a whole lot. After that, people said they wanted more but it was tasking for me. I couldn’t do anything for myself. I was focused on it every day for two good hours. Once I wake up, it buzzing and before you know it, I’m back to bed. I did that back-to-back for 16 days but people on Instagram thereafter requested something of that nature for actors. So I did another for 14 days with big personalities.

People came, asked questions. I got the likes of Stella Damasus from the US, Nino B, Juliet Ibrahim from Ghana, Bovi. Even AY had to tell them how he makes all the money in the box office. I got a lot of popular actors. Senator from ‘My Flatmates’, Buchi, Venita Akpofure, and many many others. When I was done, the stay-at-home continued. I auditioned over 1000 people online within five to seven days. It was hectic; I had to audition them one after the other. I got a lot of fantastic actors that one wouldn’t believe we had in Nigeria. I’ll be using about 10-15 of them in my next shoot.


Let’s talk about your early days in the movie industry. We’re all aware of that cliché that says one’s field of study doesn’t necessarily define the profession one forays into. You studied English. At what point did you decide TV production was more like it?

Before I got into university, I nursed the idea of becoming an actor. I remember my mum used to work at the University of Lagos. That time, they used to shoot a particular ‘Checkmate’ set on campus. I watched them act. Even when I finished secondary school, I would always write stories and we talk about how I would shoot a series on campus when I gain admission into the university. It would later come as a surprise when I got into the university, all I wanted was to act even as an English student. My parents wanted me to study Law. Then, there was no Theatre Arts in UNILAG.

The nearest had to be English or Mass Comm. I would later find myself opting for the former. I won’t call my going for acting a coincidence. It kind of got defined because, the very day I got into UNILAG and was given my room at the Makama Bida Hall, the first roommate I met was a second-year student, Malcolm Fabiyi, who later became the student union president. He invited me to an annual stage play in UNILAG called ‘Jambitoast’. He told me, “Ah, you’re a fresh student. Come and watch this play. It’s for Jambites like you.” I was elated; anything acting, I was sure up for it.


We got to the theatre and he was playing the lead role. He never even told me he knew anything about the play or that he was involved. He just told me to come watch Theatre 15 do it for Jambites. There, I saw a roommate I met an hour ago play the lead role of Smart Adiku, a UNILAG playboy who preys on and sleeps with fresh students. Immediately, I fell in love with the script and the acting. You won’t believe I joined the club that same day. The following year, I would later play that same role my roommate played. That single incident shaped me for what I probably became today.

Thereafter, it was me dashing from classes to Theatre 15 rehearsals, juxtaposing both. I told my parents I wasn’t going to work. I started doing lead roles in Theatre 15 plays. In my final year, our director couldn’t make it. I directed our play, making me the first to ever direct a play while still a student at the school. That was what also turned me into a director almost overnight. Then, my friend Wale Oguntokun and I were driving past DBN Television. I suggested that we do a campus sitcom and talk DBN into it since I had always nursed the idea. I talked to them; they agreed.

I need to also add that, in my second year, Wale Adenuga had come. He wanted to start ‘Papa Ajasco’. Of course, if anyone came to UNILAG then and talked about acting, on everybody’s lips would be, “Ah, go and meet Kayode Peters!” Adenuga and I worked together even while I was in school. On ‘Papa Ajasco’, I brought in my friends and we started acting there. It was on that job that I learned how to direct for TV. So when that DBN opportunity came, my friends and I decided that he (Oguntokun) would produce while I direct based on what I learned while with Wale Adenuga.


Directing for stage plays was easy, but for TV, I learned on the job before I started directing ‘Cross of Blues’ for DBN TV, which I did for a year. After that, I decided I would do my own thing. So I started ‘Twilight Zone’ with my friend. We were just doing it for fun. There was no money in it. We just wanted to do what we loved. I would carry the camera myself, with no cameraman, nothing.  I had borrowed the camera from one of my friends in UNILAG at that time that does photography.

Maxine Ibadin. I wrote the script myself every Sunday on paper and its that one piece of paper that everyone read. Many big actors right now started out with ‘Twilight Zone’ back then, including Chima Okechuwku; Denrele Edun; Princess the Comedian; Biola Oloba; Kunle Bello of Tribesmen; Bolaji Alonge; Titi Adelagun. Even Kofi the comedian, Stephen Onu, and Basket Mouth. As of that time, there was no going back for me. It was when I stopped shooting ‘Twilight Zone’ that I decided to go straight with my own personal project ‘Flatmates’. From Flatmates, well, I’m here now.

How did your parents come to terms with your choice, considering all the stereotypes and how some would argue that not much was going on in the film scene at the time?

They laughed when I told them I wasn’t going to work. I told them I was going into film production and, as of that time, there was no money in it. I was just enjoying myself, not even looking at that and it’s not as if I came from a wealthy home. I just struggled, wanting to combine vocation and vacation. I wanted to play football but I couldn’t make it to the big stage as far as that was concerned. I wanted to be paid for what could be something I was doing for leisure. It was an easy decision to make but my parents didn’t of course agree with me. They were like, “No, you have to work.”


It was a bold step, yet, not something I would advise anyone to do. I was damn ready not to do any other thing apart from acting. I was not thinking of anything else. That’s why I stayed true to it up until now. I never had to say “Yes, sir” to anyone.  It wasn’t an easy thing to do. I remember when we were doing ‘Twilight Zone’. No money; I had to take the tapes to different TV stations in Ikeja and the Island. LTG, MITV, NTA Channel 2, NBI. From the derivation we got watching ourselves on TV, we started getting popular. That’s what spurred me on and made me continue doing it.

It wasn’t like we were getting lots of money but a big company started sending in adverts. Then the perks started coming in gradually. I remember trekking from Ikeja to my house in Abesan Estate in Ipaja to submit these tapes. But sometimes when people see me now they think, “These ones are lucky.” They had no idea what I went through. I could not even tell my parents. It was only my late brother, Paul Bolaji, that would support me when I walk to his house so I could get money to go back to school and continue my shoot. After, people would tell my parents I was on television.

I wasn’t really particular about featuring myself because directing got the better of me. But, while watching, my parents would see my name everywhere and not me. I realized there was a twinge of disappointment in them, in as much as they enjoyed the thing. That was why I started featuring myself in one or two scenes. To do this, I would often gauge someone who has just about the same height as me, mount the camera, and frame myself alongside the person with whom I’m was acting because no other person could handle the camera so I could see me. That’s how everything started.

What was it like hunting success in the burgeoning movie industry as a producer?  Were there individuals, masterpieces you drew insight from for your own works?

I must say it never came easy. I used to go for auditions but later realized people were not really interested in newbies, those they don’t really know. I thought I was just auditioning for the sake of it. They would never pick me. Sometimes I see people I’m better than being given callbacks. They’ll put them in movies. That was another defining moment because I just felt they would never cast me. I just decided to forget auditions and do my thing. I was tired of begging people in auditions. Theatre 15 shaped me for the big stage.  As a thespian, one had to be grounded in every area.

Theatre 15 made me proficient in lighting, stage management, directing, acting, and screenwriting. Evolving from there to the bigger stage became easier. I had told myself I wasn’t going to be a movie producer yet. I wanted to master TV series first before I go into that. Now, I won’t buff myself up, but I don’t think I know anyone in Nigeria that has produced more series than I’ve done. To say the least, I’ve produced more than ten. From ‘Flatmates’ to ‘My Flatmates’ to ‘Inlaws’ to ‘Twilight Zone’ to ‘Half Sisters’, to ‘My Mad Husband’ to ‘Mr. and Mrs. Spencer’ to ‘Oga Landlord’.

Aside from mine, I’ve shot for other people as well, which was what I had actually bargained for. I had drawn inspiration from some of the series I used to watch while growing up, mostly American sitcoms including ‘Good Times’, Sanford and Son’, ‘The Jeffersons’, ‘Different World’. These used to crack me up. I must have watched virtually every episode. Even some Nigerian series at that time also served as inspiration. ‘Village Headmaster’, ‘House No, 13’, ‘Bassey and Company’. These made me love sitcoms. Since then, I’ve been doing sitcoms; soap operas that have comic relief in them.

Starting out with ‘Twilight Zone’ in the year 2000 straight out of college must have seemed like a longshot. How did you manage to pull off such a massive project that would later receive critical acclaim, despite being a recent graduate at the time?

I felt I needed to do my thing, although there was no dime. I was a boss when it came to going after what I want. I never gave up; that really helped me. Even in times when I should’ve probably called it off and go look for a job. I didn’t have the money but I had people and that worked. They were my cast, those actors I had been directing on stage in Theatre 15: Kofi the Comedian, Princess, Seun Kentebe, Biola Oloba, Chima Okechukwu, Steve Onu, Kunle Bello of ‘Tribesmen’. Because we were popular on campus, I thought we should go a leap further and do something for the television.

Some wanted popularity, people from different faculties at UNILAG. They didn’t do it for money but, when money started coming in, it was like an added advantage. Even sometimes when I didn’t even pay them, they never asked me for money. I started getting the feedback that, anytime they go out, people start calling their names. Some fans didn’t even know how to pronounce the ‘Twilight Zone’. They would always say, “See ‘Shake Body’ people”  because of the theme songs used in the series. It became so popular that it rubbed off on the people that performed it, ‘Tribesmen’.

How about ‘Flatmates’? What prompted the rebirth of the series as ‘My Flatmate’ on African Magic and how will you describe the experience with making the latter so far?

The reason why I started ‘Flatmates’, I must say, was because there was no longevity for ‘Twilight Zone’. It was a campus situation comedy series.I felt, after four years, the cast would be expected to have graduated. Again, I had a fallout with my partner Biola then. We’ve been very good friends until now. But that fallout had caused us to stop the series and move on. When we stopped it, that was where partnering with people for me ended. Things might go awry when you partner a friend. Partnerships are fantastic but they have to be well defined. We didn’t realise this; we were kids.

At that time, I figured out that I was the one writing; operating the camera. I was the one with the creative input. So, “why can’t I just do it all by myself?” That was when I started ‘Flatmates’. Shooting ‘Flatmates’ became a big turning point in my career. It was more than a huge success. It brought out so many big stars including Basket Mouth, Yaw, Annie Macaulay-Idibia and so many others. The stars became so huge that they didn’t have enough time to shoot ‘Flatmates’. They were busy. Yaw, always on the radio, would come from the Island such that he once had a bike accident.

Kayode Peters
Yaw, Basketmouth, and Chima Okechukwu, Peters

In time, they could only shoot one or two scenes here and there. It was now myself, Baba Landlord, and Fadeke. I brought other people in like Buchi. But I wasn’t truly connecting. Then one of my lead actors, Chima Okechukwu, traveled to London to work in a bank. There were four of us that started Flatmates: Myself, Yaw, Basket Mouth, and Chima Okechukwu. Yaw — too busy. Basket Mouth became Nigeria’s big comedian. So it was just me as a flatmate, unlike the way we designed it when we started. At some point, I decided to stop, even when I was still making money from it.

This same series was commissioned by African Magic many years after. ‘Flatmates’ has been a major success in my life. Concerning the experience in making ‘My Flatmates’, things have changed drastically. With MNET onboard, we’re paid yearly for different seasons. It’s a different ballgame now. I’m partnered with my friend Basket Mouth. Now, we have money to execute tasks easily and 100 percent professionally. Now, shoots have to be done the way it’s done in the United States and other top countries in the world. No stop-gap measures anymore; everything has to be done right.

We have series like ‘Bob Hearts Abishola’ casting a Nigerian in its lead role and being lauded for giving voice to immigrant experience beyond comedy. Won’t you deem it true that our sitcoms in Nigeria aren’t doing enough to address socio-political issues?

You’re basically right. And the reason is that we’re hindered. If you have a show you want to put on the TV and make money from, there are some strict rules we’re made to adhere to, else our content won’t go on air. You cannot do politics; you cannot do religion. So, sociopolitical stuff, well, we can’t address them. If you want to do that, then you have to do it strictly for YouTube. Right now, we’re even banned from talking about Jesus. So there’s nothing we can do as far as that is concerned. But I believe time will come when most of us will have money to do stuff all by ourselves.

Then, we won’t have to depend on any big network to get things done. Then we can do all that, with the worst-case having them go on YouTube where you’re not hindered, especially when you start making money from such platform. However, right now, you can’t go on YouTube when you know you can’t make money from it and you don’t have as many subscribers to have that mainstay in it.

You must have seen what others didn’t, choosing to explore the niche of TV series over movies at first. What emerging trend with regard to (Nigerian) sitcoms today can you see changing prospects for artistes who looking to venture into that line?

I must say that things are now evolving very fast, and in a good way too. With the advent of social media, anyone can become a popular producer, an actor, director, cinematographer, or creative overnight. There’s now a big avenue for people to express their talents unlike before when you had to have money to do any such thing. Most of the popular skits that turned people into mega actors in Nigeria are being shot with just the smartphone. You don’t even need to buy or rent a camera!

As far as I’m concerned, those things these small boys churn out are TV series! But, you know, social media is the new TV and that’s what people watch. Not many people watch local TV stations anymore. I won’t lie to you; that’s the new way right now. I’ve never been a YouTube person but now I’m putting some of my works on YouTube. I’ve never been a social media buff but now I’m on Instagram and everywhere. It’s the way to go and I think our kids are really tapping into it.

I think it’s also rubbing off positively on our economy. The country was given a bad name by youth trying to con foreigners. I believe things are changing gradually because youths are now using their creativity to do better things for themselves, especially with the skits that they do every time. We now have top Instagram and YouTube skits by Nigerians. You could just be in the comfort of your home and become popular overnight. That’s the direction we’re going now. And It’s a good one.

You shot ‘Excuse My African’ in the US. What’s the experience like, being the first of its kind? Do you intend to do more of that? What should your viewers look out for? What prospects do you see for yourself as the virtuoso producer and entrepreneur?

Yes, it was a whole new experience shooting ‘Excuse My African’. I was going on holidays with my family. I didn’t write it. But we fine-tuned it. I found myself in New York City. We shot everywhere, outside, at train stations, which was a mind-blowing experience for me, though I’ve shot in London before. To shoot in the US, you need a permit. I had a director that had that, Daniel Ademinokan. So, it was easy-peasy for us to shoot anywhere in the city. We were able to get the best unhindered in whatever we wanted to do. We had an audition. Lots of Americans came for it.

We picked the ones we wanted and some Nigerians too. I can say it’s one of the best movie projects I’ve done so far. I’ll do something of that nature again. Not in America alone but in other countries as well. I love international collaborations and it’s something I’ll do repeatedly. I’ll very much like to conquer the world. I think I’ve done a lot in Nigeria that stands me out. I’ll like to go into major film productions, international projects. And I’ll do an international film series. I’ve done big ones in Nigeria.  I’ll go a notch higher, do international collaborative stuff, film productions, TV series.

It’s a challenge I’ve set for myself. I’ll like to be like a Tyler Perry, do stuff not just for Nigeria alone but stuff that the world will be proud of. I’ll like to do stuff that would change the mindset of the young people because I think we’re losing them. I don’t intend piquing anyone but I blame us producers for some of the moral lapses that youths are exhibiting today. Because growing up, I watched stuff that has impacted positively on me up till now. Stuff that didn’t let me do silly things.

I remember’ Mind-Bending’ by Lola Fani-Kayode while growing up. It was about the ills of drug abuse and addiction. It sharpened me seriously for the future. That morbid fear it instilled in us, I still have it up till now that I can go near anything that has to do with drugs. These things impact positively on the youth and let you know you can always do stuff that will make the nation proud. Those are the kind of things I will like to do in my production moving forward. I’ve always like to be a minister, which doesn’t mean I will have to go on the pulpit. I will like to minister with my work.

One can only imagine how hectic and eventful your schedules look on a daily. How have you been able to juggle filming, acting, and movie production with family life

Yeah, you’re right. I’m happy that my wife understands. She knows the kind of job I do, even before she married me. That has made it easy to get by. But, as for my kids, in as much as they know the kind of job I do and I have a little kid that is barely one year old, they always want to see me every time. It’s a tough one. Most of the time they would always ask me to skip going to work. But I would always remind them, “If I don’t go to work, how do I pay your tuition?”  The connection between dad and daughter has been strong, even with my son. Once I leave home, I’m not back until night.

That’s why I sometimes decide to go on holiday with them. Two months without stepping out or doing anything.  It’s a tough one but I try as much as possible to balance it. Luckily for me, where I shoot ‘Flatmates’ is just around the corner. Within intervals, I come home.  I also make sure I take them to school and pick them therefrom at closing hours. I make sure I do that every day so it won’t be like we only see when I’m back. I can’t allow drivers to pick my kids anyway. If I have a shoot that doesn’t allow me to go pick them, then my wife does it. All that makes it work a little for me.

Issues pertaining to sexual abuse have dominated the Nigerian discourse in recent times. What’s your parting word for a few allegations that have involved entertainers in the industry? How about the longstanding narrative of sex for acting roles?

I’ll not want to talk about this. The reason is that I can’t discuss anything that isn’t proven. Because one might start placing the blame on D’banj now or whoever and you don’t have the proof. I don’t like to talk about such things. I’ve stayed away from that conversation in as much as we’re all very much against rape. Anyone who rapes should be made to face the law. But in cases where details and claims can’t be substantiated, I don’t know what happened; I wasn’t there, no one has been proven guilty, so I wouldn’t talk about it. But if it’s adjudged true, then I would say it’s very sad.

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