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Many of you only know Tobi Makinde as the Jenifa’s Diary character Timini, so you would be very surprised to learn that he has been acting for a very long time before getting the part. In truth, Tobi Makinde began his acting career as a young actor on the TV series Kamsons & Neighbor before losing his footing after his time there and beginning anew as a budding new actor.

Tobi Makinde recently spoke with The Punch about his life as a child actress, his problems afterward, and how Funke Akindele and Jenifa’s Diary fundamentally altered it. Here are Tobi Makinde’s comments.

Speaking about being a child actor and what inspired him to be an actor, Tobi Makinde said:

I won’t particularly say that I was inspired by anything, because acting has always been a part of me from a very young age. When one unconsciously has a gift with supportive parents, that helps to harness one’s gift. Basically, my parents were a major influence in my decision to be an actor. They never discouraged me and they saw the need for me to pursue that gift. At age seven, my dad introduced me to my first role in ‘Silence’, which was produced and directed by Tunji Bamishigbin in 1997/1998. From that point, I knew this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Speaking about the challenges he faced growing up as an actor from a young age, Tobi Makinde said:

The challenges are many. After my first acting role, I didn’t get any job till I was 13 years old. Then, I starred in a popular television series, ‘Kamson and Neighbours’. A lot of people both in Nigeria and outside the country loved the series then. I was enjoying fame at a very young age but it was short-lived. After a couple of years of that series running, I went to square one. In my head, I thought that after that role, I had proved myself that I am a good actor and producers would naturally use me for jobs, and I didn’t have to go for auditions. However, the reverse was the case.

After that series ended, I had to go back for auditions. I was now wondering if I didn’t know how to act or if these people didn’t watch ‘Kamson and Neighbours’ (smiles). That was the point that I knew that the acting industry is not a child’s joke. I had to fight, cross all the hurdles and rise through the ranks.

While studying Theatre Arts at the University of Lagos, I still went for auditions. However, I was turned down many times. I skipped classes at times and I would probably get one or two scenes, a non-speaking role or a ‘waka pass’. This made me doubt myself, but I had to put that aside. I had to face the struggle. Hearing the stories of other pioneers in the industry made me strive. If I had not faced those challenges, I would not be where I am today.

Speaking about how Funke Akindele and Jenifa’s Diary changed his life, Tobi Makinde said:

‘Jenifa’s Diary’ was a blessing to my life. I have been looking for the opportunity for a long time. Before I got the role, I almost quit acting because I wasn’t getting roles. I felt that since I studied Theatre Arts, I would be a coach for actors and a professor in the course. This propelled me to do my Master’s at UNILAG in 2015/2016. During my Master’s, an audition notice came from Scene One Production for a new project they were about to do titled, ‘Industreet’. Sincerely, I did not want to go because I had gone for several auditions where I was not later selected, and I knew how the crowd would be. However, one of my friends encouraged me to go. I got the role on ‘Industreet’ after so many hurdles.

After that, Funke Akindele (Scene One Production boss) asked me what I do asides acting. I told her I didn’t have a job because I was doing my Master’s at that time. That was it! I just became a production manager overnight with her company. Akindele is someone who believes one can always do something and learn if one is willing. I was initially a crew member of ‘Jenifa’s Diary’ before an opening for Timini’s role came up. She told me that I am a very good actor and that she had penned a role for me to become Jenifa’s personal assistant (Timini). That was how that character came to life. That became my turning point. There is nowhere I go that people don’t refer to me as Timini or Nathaniel. However, Nathaniel’s character was a long time ago and some people don’t remember the character anymore, but Timini’s character is still fresh.

After featuring in the series, I have got more fans from England, Namibia, The Gambia and France. I am wowed that I am known in these countries. The reach has been crazy and I can’t explain it. This project has been very impactful on my career and it re-announced me to my world. I have gone from being an actor to a director in the series. I am very grateful to Akindele for the platform.

Speaking about his relationship with Funke Akindele, Tobi Makinde said:

It goes beyond work. She is like a mother to me because the training she gave me is what I am supposed to pay to learn in a film school. However, she gave it to me on a platter. It is by resilience and not by sleeping or chilling. She is God-sent to me and other people. She is an amazing person.

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