Richard Mofe Damijo (RMD) is an icon in Nollywood who needs no introduction. His acting prowess resonates not only in Nigeria but also globally. He gained prominence in the Nigerian movie industry for his part in the late 80’s television soap opera titled ‘Ripples’. Over the years, he has amassed numerous awards for his artistic contributions and distinctive presence in the industry. He is an alumnus of the University of Benin (UNIBEN) where he studied Theatre Arts. In 1997, RMD would later return to the higher institution to study law at the University of Lagos (UNILAG) and graduated in 2004. In this interview with TheCable Lifestyle’s VICTORY ORIMEMI, RMD discusses his latest role in the Netflix movie ‘The Black Book,’ provides clarifications on his previous remarks about fidelity in marriage, and also reveals why he does not go to court despite being a trained lawyer.
TheCable Lifestyle: First off, I must say congratulations on joining the Oscars Voting Academy. It is such a significant achievement. How do you envision leveraging this opportunity to elevate Nollywood’s presence and impact on a global scale?
RMD: That has already been done. The fact that one gets noticed enough to be invited into that August body is an indication of the work we are already doing. Joining this elite group will likely involve networking and exploring an interface between our cinema-making culture and that of other global filmmakers worldwide. It is not just about Hollywood; it is about connecting with cinema professionals from all over the world gathered in that committee. I see it as a personal enrichment, and this will be reflected in the kind of business I conduct in the movie industry moving forward.
TheCable Lifestyle: This might seem like a funny question, but I would like to know if you truly answered the call of the priesthood as some people speculated when you wrote, ‘God, I surrender. Use me, I am ready,’ in your 62nd birthday post.
RMD: It is not a funny question. I am a man of faith, and each one of us does not have to be on a pulpit on a weekly basis to serve God. I serve God wholeheartedly in my own way, believing that pursuing excellence in every field of endeavour is how mankind honours God. When I perform my work at its highest level, I am honouring God and fulfilling the purpose for which I am here. I touch and impact lives through the area for which humanity knows me, trusting my sense of judgement. For me, this is my way of honouring God. It also brings to mind the fact that when people hear that I am a lawyer, they often ask if I go to court. I educate them, explaining that not every lawyer needs to go to court. So, it is not a funny question for me; it aligns with what I represent.
TheCable Lifestyle: Amazing! You have been happily married for 23 years. In a recent interview, you mentioned the challenges of fidelity in the entertainment industry. Can you shed light on maintaining a successful long-term marriage in this demanding field?
RMD: I think a lot of people took that whole thing out of context. I was talking about the headship of man in the family from a more spiritual point, not just fidelity in marriage. I was referring to the man as the head of the family being the one constantly under attack, even relating it back to the Bible, to Adam in the Garden of Eden, and the eventual eating of the fruit.
To answer your question, I believe there is no written manual for success in marriage; to each man, or as they say in Nigeria, to each person, his own. I have an amazing wife who is the anchor that gives me the leverage to do the things I do in every area of work I find myself in. I also make sure to dedicate as much time as I can to my family. The grace of God in our lives has been the reason we have been here for 23 years and counting, not because of anything special I do.
I believe I show enough commitment to the relationship, and that has encouraged my wife to keep persevering despite all the challenges.
TheCable Lifestyle: You have recently been honoured with a Lifetime Recognition Award at the Toronto International Nollywood Films Festival. How does this recognition resonate with your professional journey, and what does it mean to you personally?
RMD: It is always a joy to be honoured while alive and breathing, not posthumously. I tell myself, as others would too, that the reward for hard work is more hard work, right? Getting a lifetime achievement award might seem like a signal to rest, but to me, it feels like the beginning of a new phase in my life. When I turned 60, if you heard me speak at events, I would say that I would be the first Nigerian to blow in their 60s. I guess people did not understand what I meant. Some joked, saying ‘but you have already made it’, and I would say, “I never blow”. For some reason, I believe I am in the most productive season of my life, and another phase is about to take off. I am thankful that I still have the ability to do what I am doing right now.
TheCable Lifestyle: We are thankful for the privilege of experiencing your incredible talent.
RMD: You are welcome.
TheCable Lifestyle: So, the movie ‘The Black Book’ was recently premiered on Netflix and has been doing so well on the streaming platform. Can you tell us more about your role in the film and what drew you to this project?
RMD: I love the character because it was very different from some of the things I have done in recent times, and it required me to transform myself physically. I needed to learn some things—how to handle weapons, fight in street scenarios, and more. So, I went through all of that, even learning how to lose some weight in the process. I wore only very dark, drabby clothes, and there was no glamour, not for one second, which was very different from the life that I lived. For a total of 13 months, I was completely immersed in that character. I did not touch my beard or the hair on my head; that is the darkest in terms of skin tone that I have been because the sun would burn me. I did not protect my face with sunscreen—nothing. But just seeing the movie now gives me a lot of satisfaction that the 13 months I invested in this character will not go to waste. I hope people really get to see the character, appreciate him, and love him the way I did while playing him. It has been a passion project, and I have given blood and sweat for it. I just hope that it resonates with everybody and that my fans embrace it. It is also coming at a time when there are all kinds of concerns about police failing to do their very first job, which is to protect and serve. I am hoping that it will resonate with a lot of young people, definitely.
TheCable Lifestyle: Having teamed up with director Editi Effiong, who has a notable track record with films like ‘Up North’ and ‘Set Up’, what aspects of his directorial style do you believe added a distinct flavour to the making of ‘The Black Book’?
RMD: He has the audacity to defy budgets, problems, and everything; he just goes for it. I love the scale at which he works. While most people shy away from scaling upwards, with Editi, there is no limit to how far he is ready to go. I guess when you are a director, producer, and part executive producer, you get invited to do a few more things. So, he lets that come to the fore, and I like that about him. It is no wonder that we bonded very seriously, and we are committed to doing a lot more in the next five years.
TheCable Lifestyle: What do you believe sets ‘The Black Book’ apart from other Nigerian movies in the industry?
RMD: Well, like I said, the scale of it. While I talk about the 13-month period, Editi is referring to almost three years from concept to post-production, to locking up the picture. It has been a journey, and we are hoping to replicate this on an even larger scale and more efficiently in terms of time.
Our joy is that it will inspire others the way we have done it. We have made sure to protect our investors and make it valuable for their investment. We have had investors express interest in joining our next project. This is because of how openly we have discussed our investors and let people know that we have a workable model. That is what has worked for us, setting us apart from others. We have been transparent and open in how we have dealt with our investors.
TheCable Lifestyle: The movie explored themes like corruption, family, and even politics. What aspects of the movie or what messages do you aim for the audience to take away after watching the movie?
RMD: Silence is the enemy! We must speak up. When people who can speak up go silent, then something goes wrong. By the time we all start to speak, then it will not be effective anymore.
TheCable Lifestyle: From a press release, we learned that Anakle Films acquired your production company. What does this acquisition signify and why did you make the decision to sell it off?
RMD: No, I did not sell off. We merged. I am also now the chairman of Anakle Films. I believe that I do not have the energy that Editi has to do the amount of heavy lifting that we have to do. Finding him as a partner has just been the best thing that has happened to me in recent times. As I said, we have projects lined up in the next few years, and we are hoping to impact Nollywood in a very different way. So, fingers crossed.
TheCable Lifestyle: This marks your first project together since the merger. You said that ‘The Black Book’ showcases what can be achieved in contributing to the growth and innovation of African storytelling. How does this film exemplify the potential of your collaboration, and what more can we expect in the future?
RMD: We have a slate of films lined up for the next five years that will be produced with almost the same workable model. And our desire is that others will see it and be inspired by it, and we can go ahead and improve a more workable model that will attract a lot more investors to Nollywood.
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