Thomson Makolo Jnr
How I dumped medical line for acting
Thomson Makolo Jnr is a Nollywood actor, filmmaker and event compère. The Kogi-born filmmaker has produced a number of movies, such as ‘Nolstagia’, Makafan’, ‘Pushed’, ‘Omayoku’, ‘Pray for Me’ (Chaduwami), ‘Edo’ (Heart), ‘Ona’ and ‘Atama’. He has featured in movies such as ‘Occultic’, ‘End Game’, ‘Necklace’, ‘Wonderman’ and ‘Engagement Ring’, amongst others. In this exclusive interview, he talks about his decision to enter the entertainment industry, its challenges, and more. Excerpts:
Weekend Magazine: How did your journey as an actor and filmmaker begin? Thomson Makolo Jnr:
Acting and the arts in general has been part of me from my primary school. I was deeply involved up to secondary school. For four years, I won the best broadcaster of the year because I was a member of the Current Affairs Students’ Society of my school, Government Secondary School Ologba, Kogi State.
I was also a leading light in the drama society and was vocal and outstanding in quiz and debate. My then English and Literature teacher, late James Ojotu, may his soul rest in peace, became my mentor. I was a science student but he told me I didn’t have any business being in the sciences. He said I was born for the arts. Most of my friends then were all in the arts. You will never find me among the science students.
At a point my English teacher said he needed to talk to my father who was a dispensary attendant. At the level of the community, my father was a big name when it came to the medical field. He had a very big pharmacy and he wanted me to build on that foundation because, way back before that time, he had opened a clinic. He was called a doctor in the community and he wanted me to become a doctor. But that didn’t play out. However, because of how much I respected him and wanted to do his wish, I finished up as a science student. I got a very good result and applied for medical courses in ABU and BUK but all of that didn’t work out. Within the waiting period between graduation from secondary school, writing JAMB and waiting for admission, I founded a theatre group called ‘Sensational
Theatre Group’ made up of my friends and other likeminded people. That was the high point of the need for awareness campaigns against HIV AIDS back in 2003/2004, and we were deeply involved. We went from one secondary school to the other making presentations and were applauded for our efforts.
Just before I got admission, my father died. That was where the road ended for me because he was the one I looked up to. So, I picked up my pieces and met someone at Kogi State University who was then a Theatre Arts student. She told me about the Actors Guild of Nigeria, Benue State chapter. My journey into film making started there. From Makurdi, I went to Lafia to attend an audition conducted by Zac Amata, ‘Winners and losers’, and later moved to Lagos to realise my dream. I was given a letter of authorisation by the then president of Actors’ Guild of Nigeria, Ejike Asiegbu, to set up a branch of the Guild in Kogi State. From there the journey continued, but it wasn’t a bed of roses. It’s been very tough and murky.
WM: What has been your major motivation? Makolo Jnr: My major motivation is storytelling. The urge to tell a story, document and create.
WM: What was it like working on some of your movie projects?
Makolo Jnr: ‘Makafan’ was my first movie project and ‘Omayoku’ was the second. Between 2008 and 2013, I was not doing anything. That was my down moment. Success looked like it was going to come too fast and a lot of things went down. So, for six to seven years, I wasn’t active.
I returned with ‘Ile-One’ in early 2014; in 2015, I did ‘Pushed’ and ‘Nolstagia’. In 2016, I did ‘Chaduwami’; in 2017, ‘Ona’ and ‘Edo’. In 2018 I needed to marry and settle down. In 2020, I made my latest movie, ‘Atama: The Millennium Preachers’. I also got engaged in a series of other movies in mainstream Nollywood. I featured in ‘Necklace’, ‘Occultic’, ‘End game’, ‘Wonder man’, ‘Engagement ring’ and the famous Inikpi movie produced by Abu Yaqub. I also featured in a number of Igala movies.
WM: You are a big name in Igala movies. What has been your driving force? Makolo Jnr: It is the quest to promote, preserve and document the history, culture and tradition of our people, which is what essentially film is meant to do. I am yet to see a film that focuses on an Igala family. Instead, they always have an Igbo background. Burial rites, family settlement,
cast names and costumes are all usually Igbo. How then are we making Nigerian films without talking about other ethnic groups or using them as characters in telling our stories?
WM: Tell us about your latest project…
Makolo Jnr: It’s been quite a busy year for me. We released ‘Atama’, my latest film sometime in May this year. We are working on digital platforms to distribute it. Currently, it is not enough to make a film. I also tell other stories, and that has led me to come up with my new show tagged ‘Creative conversation with TMJ’; It is a platform designed to engage all arms of the creative industry from film to music, broadcasting, painting, fashion, and so on. We want to set a platform for discussions.
Thomson Makolo Jnr
A scene in Makolo’s latest movie, ‘Atama’1