As a culture fiend, I often encounter some really incredible talent. Either watching some play, attending some of those small intimate gigs or watching a really cool short film on the internet. I also realised they barely ever get anything close to the attention they deserve. So in one of my many brain wave moments, I decided to start a feature that would showcase some of these encounters, which I experience almost daily. So there it goes. I present to you the new series ‘Bright Young Things’; an interview feature on the blog that showcases some of the brightest and gifted talents in the world of screen, stage and musical performance. To kick off our first interview is Ade Laoye. Ade is many parts whimsical, some parts funny, all parts adorable with sprinkles of quirky. She is as energetic as she is versatile. I have been fortunate to watch some of her performances from her appearance in the musical Saro to the outdoor theatre piece Make we waka. Many would have caught her in Victor Sanchez Aghahowa’s television movie Tabloid , the series Dowry and of course the Nigerian adaptation of the Ntozake Shange play For Coloured Girls. Ade is also a television host on Ebony Life Television.
Lets talk about the criticism with your accent. What’s your take?
Haha! Until recently, I had lived all my adult life outside of Nigeria. My default accent is American but I can switch it up when necessary even though it may take a little work. The longer I’m in Nigeria, the more “Nigerian” I’m sounding because my ear is readjusting. In university we practiced speaking in foreign dialects in acting class all the time. The goal is to be a well rounded performer and to be as authentic as possible in a role. Even Meryl Streep has to spend time working on accents and dialects. I really don’t think it’s that big a deal. If someone chooses to hire me or not because of my “accent” or lack thereof, that’s not something I can control. My job is do justice to whatever character I am playing as best I can.
You have been back in Nigeria for over a year and been in quite a number of productions, do you think the entry barriers and standards are much lower compared to the states?
Yes, and there are a few reasons why I think so. There is no real structure or standard for how things are done here. In many ways, anything goes which has advantages and disadvantages. In the US, you don’t just wake up one morning and say “I’m going to be on Broadway today”. Besides the fact that you’ve probably been training all your life for that opportunity, you also have actors’ unions and guilds to deal with. There are certain auditions you’re not even allowed to attend unless you’re a card -carrying union member, and getting that Equity or SAG card is no joke! Unless you’re one of those few lucky ones, you have to pay your dues (literally and figuratively) for a while before you get there. The competition abroad is also much fiercer. There is a lot of talent here in Nigeria but there isn’t as much access to the training that’s required to compete on a global scale.
Did you always want to be a performer and why did you become one?
I’ve loved performing ever since I was a little kid. I come from a very artistic lineage so music and drama was and has always been in my blood. Singing in front of the mirror with a hairbrush and learning music video choreography was the norm in my house. I didn’t think I would pursue it professionally until I got to university though. I really had no idea what I “wanted to be when I grew up”. I knew I couldn’t do anything I wasn’t passionate about so when the moment came to decide, I followed my heart.
Someone once said that auditions feel like you are constantly begging people to love you and that can be really exhausting. How do you feel about them and how do you deal with the disappointments?
Haha, that’s an interesting view. I see them as job interviews, just like any other job. You go in there trying to sell yourself and your talent and convince the person or people on the other end of the table that you are the right person for the job. Yes, they can be very exhausting, both physically and mentally. As performers, there is a certain amount of validation that we need – yes, we are a little narcissistic so rejection is never easy. At the average New York audition, there are 200 other people who are prettier than you, can sing better than you, are skinnier than you, can act better than you, have better hair than you, I mean the list goes on and on. If you focus on any of those things, you will spiral into a deep depression and might eventually jump of a bridge. For every YES you hear, you’ve probably heard twenty NOs. That thing they say about having a thick skin in this industry is real! Like really, REAL. I heard from a producer before that I didn’t book a job because I was too short. While I was grateful for the “feedback”, I couldn’t make myself any taller. So many factors are outside of your control that you just have to trust that when you don’t book a job, it’s because you weren’t right for it. When the right one comes along, it makes it all worth it.
You have been pretty lucky bagging a few good gigs in the past year or so. Why do you think you were able to get all these gigs so fast?
I’m definitely very grateful for the exciting projects I’ve been a part of over the past year. I’m not sure I would call it luck though. I think I was able to book these jobs because I was the right person for the job and I was prepared when the opportunities arose. Some people might be wondering, “Who is this one? Where did she come from? Who does she think she is? Is it because she has an accent?” etc but I think they forget I’ve been doing this for a minute. I am trained and have been working and performing professionally for many years. So while I may be new to the Naija scene, I didn’t just start doing this yesterday. I’m getting work because I’m talented, professional and hard working. Who wouldn’t want to hire me?
Do you ever fear being type cast as the returnee character?
Not really. I’ve played a good mix of characters so far that I’ve been very happy with. I’m always excited to play characters that stretch me as an actor, so whether it’s the returnee chic or a village girl, I’m down.
We know you love karaoke, what’s your go to karaoke song?
Ooooh, that would have to be “Respect” by Aretha Franklin. Jam of life!
What would be your dream gig?
I would love to be on Broadway in my lifetime. I’m still holding on to that dream. I would kill to play the title role of “Aida” in Disney’s “Aida”. I would also love to be in RENT!
What type of character are you dying to play?
I want to be a mean girl! Like a really mean, evil character. I’m usually cast as the sweet, lovable girl. My friends think my voice is too high pitched and I smile too much to be taken seriously as an evil character. I have to prove them wrong!
Worst audition moment?
My first audition was DISASTROUS! I had just started university and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study so I went to try out for the Musical Theatre program at my school. I had never auditioned before so I thought I could just show up and wing it. When I got there, it was clear I wasn’t prepared. I showed up in jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers with no makeup. All the girls had their hair done, wore heels and pretty dresses, had headshots, as in the works! I hadn’t really rehearsed the pieces I was going to perform so I didn’t realize the sheet music I had for the song I was going to sing was in the wrong key! I practically croaked throughout the entire song. Let’s not even talk about the dance call because this was like proper Broadway caliber choreography. Did I have a leotard and dance shoes? No, no I didn’t. Needless to say, it was bad, it was very bad.
Most memorable gigs?
In Nigeria, I would have to say “Lady in Brown” in “For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide/When the Rainbow is Enuf” and “Jane” in “Saro”. In the US, I would say the lead role of “TiMoune” in a musical called “Once on this Island” and a “Dynamite” in the musical “Hairspray”.
Who would you love to work with?
I would love to sing with Waje and Darey Art Alade, I think they’re both amazeballs! In my wildest dreams, I would love to learn at the feet of Kate Winslet and Johnny Depp.
If you were a piece of fruit, what would you be and why?
Lol! Ummm, a mango? Because it’s my favorite fruit and because I’m juicy and sweet? Ok, that sounds really dirty.
Who do you have performance envy for and why?
It would probably be my girl Osas Ighodaro. I feel like she is on top right now! She came, she saw and she is CONQUERING. I’ve known her for a while and I’m soooo proud of everything she has and is accomplishing in Nigeria. She is everywhere!
Any advice to other young people trying to get into the acting business?
Giving advice always feels like you’ve somehow figured it out, which I’m pretty sure I haven’t yet. I would say know the kind of work you want to do and go out and find the people who are doing it and become friends with them. Network, network, network. This is a small industry and word travels fast, so always be polite and professional.
What is your next project?
Up next, I start shooting “Dowry” season 2! Also look out for me in “Magic of the Musical” at Terra Kulture at the end of October. I’m super excited about them! As always, catch me on “EL Now” on EbonyLife TV, DStv channel 165, weekdays at 8:30pm.