Tobi Bakre On Becoming Obalola For Gangs Of Lagos

The star of the hottest movie in Nollywood right now is Tobi Bakre, whose remarkable journey has taken him from the world of finance to the pinnacle of Nigeria’s entertainment industry. In this exclusive interview with DOWNTOWN’s Bolu Adesina, we delve into his captivating portrayal of the character Obalola in the highly acclaimed film, Gangs of Lagos.

As Tobi takes us behind the scenes of the production, he reveals the arduous process of character development and the challenges of portraying a character with raw, unfiltered emotions. We gain insight into the meticulous preparation required for his roles, which involves vetting his own persona and imbuing his performances with the essence of the character’s backstory, life, and experiences.

With his wealth of experience in both reality TV and acting, Tobi draws comparisons between the two and shares his unique approach to bringing his characters to life. He also sheds light on the ways in which Gangs of Lagos. is contributing to the evolution of Nollywood by merging old and new elements and tells us what he hopes audiences will take away from the film.

With his star on the rise, Tobi reminisces on his journey from investment banking to the world of entertainment, sharing his experiences of making a name for himself and landing his first major acting role. We also get his take on the most poignant issue addressed in Gangs of Lagos and gain a deeper understanding of the message behind the film.

So, join us as we explore the world of Tobi Bakre, whose passion and talent have taken him from the boardroom to the red carpet.

Can you tell us about your experience portraying Obalola in Gangs of Lagos?

The character development for Obalola started immediately I delved into the script.

I started building the character in my head. I also was able to go deeper into the creation process when I took lessons with the producer Lala Akindoju and also shared notes with the Director Jade Osiberu. This character was who he was because of his background, and life experiences. Everything he did meant something or came from an exact place. I could really relate to this character so much that we became one all through the time of shooting. The problem then became unbecoming the character after we finished the shoot. I really enjoyed being Oba, and I hope I get to play that character again in the future.

What was the most challenging part of playing Obalola in Gangs of Lagos?

The most challenging part of playing Obalola in Gangs of Lagos was when we really had to see the vulnerable parts of the character. In my personal life I have had to build walls to be able to withstand whatever life brings my way. Becoming Oba allowed me to become a really strong and powerful character, but part of that power was also being open to raw unfiltered emotions. I had to tear my personal walls to tell the character’s reality perfectly.

You have acted in various Nollywood films before, what sets Gangs of Lagos apart from the other projects you have worked on, and what was your favourite part of being involved in this project?

Unlike other characters I have had to play in my movie career, Gangs of Lagos at the time was my first time playing a lead character. This was a big project and I was being trusted by Jade and my fellow experienced cast members to deliver.

It was a good challenge and I loved every bit of it. No part stands out as my most favourite. I enjoyed the uniqueness of every single day on set. No days were the same. Everyday comes with its own different beautiful twist both on and off the camera.

As someone who has experience in both reality TV and acting, how do you approach preparing for a role versus being yourself on camera?

I am very comfortable being myself on camera, I hear action and I am on GO mode immediately.

But contrary to playing a character, I have to vet parts of me that fit well with the character and also bring on a lot of other things that express the background, habits, life and story of the character. Prior to this project, I will leverage parts of me to deliver on every character, but living the life of someone else and telling their stories.

Gangs of Lagos is a project that aims to merge old and new Nollywood. How do you see this project contributing to the evolution of Nollywood as a whole, and what do you hope audiences will take away from it?

Every part of this story is relatable to every Nigerian, home and abroad. It’s a story where everyone can find a bit of themselves or someone they know in all of the characters. The cast is also very dynamic, you have pioneers in the industry such as Chioma Chukwuka and Ola Rotimi – who is a powerhouse in the theatre space and then there’s me – Banker turned Reality TV Star turned No 1. Action Movie Star Out of Africa. Gangs of Lagos is a Nigerian story being told by Nigerians.

The struggles we all face in the country, our hopes, our dreams. This project, though shot in 2021, will be very relevant and not lose its touch even if it was released 10 or 20 years down the line. It takes Nollywood to a whole new level in terms of having a beautiful story and merging that with superb acting, a strong cast, great picture or technical quality and great marketing.

How did you get your start in the Nollywood film industry?

My journey to the Nollywood film industry started after I left my job as an investment banker.

Despite having a successful career in the banking sector, I realised that I wanted to explore other passions, starting with photography. My stint in the Big Brother Naija reality show helped to boost my profile and made me more visible in the entertainment industry. After the show, I received several offers from producers who were interested in working with me. I was able to land a role in the Jade Osiberu production, Sugar Rush, which was my first major acting role and have been cast in two other Jade Osiberu productions – Gangs of Lagos and Brotherhood, where I play the lead character. My performance in these films have so far been well received by fans, topped with being nominated for Best Lead Actor at the upcoming AMVCA awards, I can say it’s going well so far. Grateful and excited for what the future holds.

Gangs of Lagos is a film that covers a number of issues plaguing Lagos and Nigeria as a whole. What was the most poignant issue the film took a look at in your opinion?

Through the character of Obalola, we see the struggles of a young man trying to define his own path, in a system that is stacked against him. He is forced to make difficult choices that ultimately lead him down a dangerous path. The film does not shy away from the harsh realities of poverty, but it also shows the humanity and resilience of the characters who are struggling to survive. It is a powerful and poignant portrayal of family and friendship.

What was it like getting the role for such a big production as Gangs of Lagos? How did that process play out?

Getting the role in such a big production as Gangs of Lagos was a significant milestone for me, and I am grateful for the opportunity. Gangs of Lagos is a project of many firsts for me, being my first time playing a lead character and having the best cast lineup possible. I had to stay true to the character’s background and story, embodying the character day in and day out. The project was very physically and emotionally tasking.

Working with Jade Osiberu must have been a learning experience. How did collaborating with her improve your craft?

Working with Jade Osiberu was an amazing experience. She is a perfectionist in so many ways and I learned a lot from her direction and guidance. She has a way of bringing out the best in her actors and helping them to fully embody their characters. I also learned a lot from the other actors on set, who were some of the best in the industry.

What advice would you give to young actors who are just starting in the industry?

One of the biggest pieces of advice I would give is to be patient and persistent. This industry is tough and you might face a lot of rejection and disappointment along the way. But if you’re passionate about acting, don’t give up. Keep working on your craft, take classes, audition for as many roles as possible, and build relationships with people in the industry. Also, don’t be afraid to take risks and try new things.

You never know what opportunities might come your way if you’re open to new experiences.

What’s your take on the current state of Nollywood, and where do you see it heading in the future?

I believe the current state of Nollywood is quite promising, and we have come a long way from where we started. However, there is still a lot of work to be done, particularly in the areas of funding and distribution. With the advent of streaming platforms like Prime Video, we have seen a growing interest in Nollywood content, and I believe this will continue in the future. We have the talent and the stories, and with the right investment and support, the sky’s the limit for Nollywood.

What have been your biggest challenges in your career thus far and how did you overcome them?

One of the biggest challenges I have faced was leaving my job as an investment banker to pursue a career in acting. While I enjoyed working in the corporate world and had amazing colleagues, after four years without any promotions and with the economic climate in the country becoming less interesting, I decided to take a risk and pursue other life adventures.

Another challenge I faced was finding my own path and journey in the acting industry after my stint on Big Brother. While being on the show helped me get initial opportunities, I’ve had to work hard to establish myself as a serious actor and not just a reality TV star.

What are your goals for your acting career in the future?

I want to continue taking on challenging roles that allow me to stretch my artistic abilities and push me out of my comfort zone. I am particularly interested in roles that allow me to explore different aspects of Nigerian culture and highlight stories that are not often told. I would also want to continue collaborating with talented and passionate filmmakers like Jadesola Osiberu and Kemi Akindoju, who share my vision and dedication to creating authentic and impactful stories that resonate with audiences around the world. Overall, I desire to use my platform and talent to contribute to the growth and development of the Nigerian film industry, while also inspiring and entertaining audiences both at home and abroad.

What are your future plans for your acting career, and are there any upcoming projects you can tell us about?

I’m excited about the opportunities that are coming my way. Gangs of Lagos was a game-changer for me, and I learned a lot from that experience. I’m open to exploring more challenging roles that will allow me to showcase my versatility as an actor. As for upcoming projects, I’m always looking for projects that align with my values and beliefs, and that will make a positive impact on society. So, watch this space!”

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Boluwatife Adesina is a media writer and the helmer of the Downtown Review page. He’s probably in a cinema near you.


About Author / Boluwatife Adesina

Boluwatife Adesina is a media writer and the helmer of the Downtown Review page. He’s probably in a cinema near you.

1 Comment

  • Tee
    12 months ago Reply

    Tobo G, Tobo G Carry your phone vote Tobo G🎵🎵
    Keep shining. Your growth is so beautiful to watch. ❤

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