Rykardo Agbor has been in Nollywood for over 17 years and has contributed tremendously to its growth in both Yoruba and the English sectors. The model cum actor, who hails from Cross River State speaks with Adunola Fasuyi on many issues in the movie industry. Excerpts:
Some people are of the opinion that before you got married, you were really into women, is that true?
Oh, that is wrong. I think you will be the first person to say that. If they say I was always seen around women, they should be able to say which one it is.
Are you saying you are not into women?
Before I got married, I was not ‘that into women’. I was always seen among guys. Since I met my woman, she has been the only woman in my life till date. I am not trying to boast, but I have never had a scandal since I got into the movie industry. Nobody will ever tell you that about me. I can tell you unequivocally that I am scandal-free.
So, what you are saying is that women were not in your agenda then?
When I was still in school, I had a lot of time for that, but when I left school, I did not see it as a way of relaxation. I had many girlfriends when I was in school, but when I started acting, I was never into women because I met my wife then.
Is it that you lost the magic wand that worked wonders on women?
I did not. I met a girl that I eventually married and did not have time to start chasing other women because she is all I needed in a woman.
So, you are a very principled man, very true to your words?
I try to as much as I can to be very principled.
Tell us the secret to your scandal-free status.
I have the fear of God and like the bible says, it’s the beginning of wisdom. I try to be good. Everybody gets moved or tempted. I am not saying that I don’t get advances from women, but it is the fear of God that gives me the restraint. If I was a bad person, as a journalist, you would have heard from one of your colleagues, come on, we all know how fast bad news spread.
So, when women make advances, what do you say?
‘I am married’, it’s as simple as that.
What if they persist?
Are they going to rape me? It’s not possible. I know women can rape men if their drink gets laced and I am not someone that drinks, so it can never work with me.
Interesting, you don’t drink, you don’t womanise, what else do you avoid?
I don’t smoke and I know the next question will be if I am a born-again Christian. The answer to that is that I believe in God and I am not a saint. I am God-fearing.
You pierced your ear lobes, but no tattoo on your body?
Yes, I pierced my ear and I have a tiny earring on it, I love it. I don’t have tattoo because I might be asked to act a role like that of a saint, so, the tattoo will give me away, that’s why I don’t have it.
Do you wear your earring to the church?
Sure, why not? I’m a devoted Catholic and I go to church to worship my God and not man. So, why live a hypocritical life?
If you are asked a question like when you first had sex, would you answer it?
Of course, I will answer it. I was very tender when I first had sex. I was in primary school. I was about leaving primary school. I had a lot of girls that were interested and most of them were much older than I was. They were in secondary schools then. I think I did it first in primary five and it was with an older friend.
Is that not molestation?
No it was different, or should I say, I didn’t think it was at that time.
Did you know what you were doing?
I will say it was exciting, not that I knew completely what it was. You see, anything that is illicit is usually sweet for people to do. At that age, you feel like a hero when you do what people say is bad.
Then in primary school, I was playing football. I was very popular with football then and I was paid N10 per match. I shared money with my friends. Give them like one kobo each. I had a lot of cash to play with and I had elderly friends that wanted me in their company.
I was playing for my community then. I had a nickname then; ‘King Perierra’. They named me after a Brazilian footballer then. So, I always had people who wanted to be with me, particularly girls. They just loved me then probably because I was popular and a bit loaded.
So, your stardom did not start from acting?
You can say that.
How come you act mostly in Yoruba films than Igbo movies?
Right now, the industry is going through some kind of rebirth. They are trying to sort the marketing thing, so most movies are shot in Asaba and if it is not a script I like, for example, acting nude in the name of trying to shoot, I would not do it.
Most of the Yoruba movies that I have done recently; they have message content, so I am very particular about content. Aside the fact that I speak Yoruba language fluently, I enjoy making good movies, either in English or Yoruba languages.
What was your growing up like?
I had a very humble background. My family is a very interesting one. I am a very simple person and very down to earth. I was born in Lagos in a family of four. I have three sisters. I am the only son and I am the only one in my family that is into the arts.
Are you proud of your fame?
I don’t think wealth or fame should make one pompous or not to respect God, afterall every good thing comes from God. So, it’s not one’s making, so why would I look down on people?
How do you see the fame so far? Would you say stardom has changed your personality?
It has not changed my person in anyway because there is nothing you can get on your own. It is not by my power and we have not got anywhere. I have not started being celebrated in India, China and America. If I am known, it is just within some spheres.
I am still working to attain that kind of height. If international stars that are known all over the world like Denzel Washington, Angelina Joli do not kill themselves because of the level of stardom that they have attained, then who am I to brag? I think it is borne out of complex for anyone to feel too much of himself.
As the only son in your family, did it sound weird to your parents when you told them you wanted to be an actor?
There was a lot of truth in that. It’s just now that acting got that lucrative. Prior to this time, people saw artistes as charlatans, people that were not that focused, not until now. In this world of ours, if money is not coming in, they think you are a failure. People do not think about how to make that thing better so that people will profit from it.
When you tell people you are an actor, the next question is what else do you do? I think it’s quite out of place because acting is a very serious career. It can be difficult if you get into it. You will see it’s not as easy as it seems. I craved acting. Acting was not accidental or a mere co-incidence for me.
Tell us about the drama before your parents allowed you to act?
There was a whole lot of drama. It was very dramatic like you put it. My dad never wanted to hear anything about me being an actor. He saw it more as a waste of time.
He once told me that, “I sent you to school to study Communication and Language Arts at the University of Ibadan, and now you are telling us you want to be an actor, its impossible.” There was so much objections to my acting then.
Maybe now they would have been proud to push me into acting because it is more dignified now. But in everything in life, no matter the profession, you have to choose, but you still need their blessing.
You just have to make them understand that it is not a crime. In every career, people sacrificed to get it to the level they are now. I was stubborn and I stood by what I wanted to do.
I kept on acting until I finally got their blessing. Not that I did not want their blessing, I kept on appealing to them until I got their support.
How long did it take before they saw reason in what you were doing?
I will say from when I started getting recognition in acting. Getting roles then was not as easy as it is now. Today, people call you personally to tell you they have a role for you but then, there were no mobile phones.
You will need someone to tell you that there is an audition somewhere. You get to know about the audition through posters and by the time you might come across that, it might be days after the auditions must have taken place.
In those days, it was landlines that people used and it was more of a luxury because very few people had it. So, it was difficult to rise that fast in acting because you miss some auditions and roles. But when I started getting the recognition, my parents started understanding.
As of today, you have put 17 years into acting presently, would you say it has been as expected?
I am most grateful to God. In anything one is doing, what is important is recognition and acceptance. Gradually, I think I am getting that.
Have you ever worked with your certificate before acting took over?
No. I never even intended to work with my certificate for one day.
Are there other heights you intend to attain in acting?
I would love to shoot internationally. I will love to work with Will Smith. Smith is very versatile, he is a comedian, a musician and an actor too. The amazing thing is that he is good at the three distinct careers. I like people like that.
Are you that versatile too?
Yes I am. I may not be a musician, but I know I can do comedy.
But we are yet to see a movie where you do comedy?
Some movies on my comedy will come up soon. I don’t know if you saw Osuka? It’s a movie I did with Ayo Adesanya and Badmus. It was very comical.
If you weren’t an actor, what else will you do?
If I wasn’t an actor, maybe I would have been a painter.
Painter? What happened to the talent?
Because of what I do now, I don’t have time to sit and draw. I am always very passionate about things I do and I put in all my concentration. I take my time whenever I want to draw, so I don’t have that
time. However at my leisure, I still make out time to draw and paint.
How do you relax?
I watch a lot of TV. Occasionally, I sit with friends on Sundays. If I am not on set, I play football. In the mornings, I go jogging to keep myself fit. I like staying fit and that is why I don’t have pot-belly.