RMD Uncut: Portrait of The Actor Over Six Decades

Richard Mofe-Damijo needs no introduction as an actor. However, beyond the multiplicity of characters he portrays on television or the silver screen, what else is known about him, especially regarding how the Nigerian Civil War shaped him, his affection for Nigeria, and his thoughts on Nigerian politics?
BY Jamin Ohwovoriole

I made a quick dash to Miami from Orlando slightly over a year ago to catch up with Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD) 11 years after our last encounter in Johannesburg when he came to watch the 2010 World Cup finals. So, you may call it a reunion. However, we have had telephone conversations and text exchanges since then.

 

In Miami, he was in the company of other actors since he was in town to shoot Christmas in Miami. His schedule was tight, but he was gracious to entertain my presence. There was banter and there was laughter. Ayo Makun (AY) came in, and his theatrics for near an hour were akin to the many personages he has graced people’s homes with through his movies and comedy set. Later, Osita Iheme came by on his way to the set. He was coy. Perhaps, that is his personality. “Who is this stranger?” he probably thought. On the other hand, he could have been strictly focused on what was on his mind: getting to location and playing a role he has rehearsed in his mind repeatedly. RMD had to leave, too, because a long night waited for him in Fort Lauderdale.

 

The next morning, very early in the morning, we had a sit-down interview. However, before I get into the crux of that conversation now, there are two things I need to highlight that have preoccupied me in recent times, after our Miami conversation, about the present: First, is RMD growing younger at 61 and, two, why has he embraced skits in recent times?

 

 

Again, he was gracious to respond to my questions on these two concerns when I sent him a text one early evening two weeks ago. On projecting the image of a younger RMD at 61 years, he provided insight into what could only be described as the magic: “I don’t have a secret sauce, but I do make conscious efforts most times to march on the healthy side of life.” Now, the potency of that strategy cannot be challenged. It is a perfect ingredient. On the second issue, I could only imagine the twinkle in his eyes that lit up the room as he responded, “I’m a Warri boy, and we all constantly love to laugh or make people laugh and, anytime the opportunity arises, I lend my voice.”

 

Richard Mofe-Damijo seems to have defied age and his art is becoming more accessible. At sixty-one, he is as sturdy as iroko, and his agility as a willy craftsman puzzles. As a result, he is as relevant today as when he first stepped on the stage as a professional actor decades ago.

 

 

Who knows him well? Enters Chuck Mike, distinguished actor, producer, director, and theatre activist who produced four seasons of theatre for the Collective Artistes Festival of Theatre Arts Nigeria, and the founding director of The Performance Studio Workshop in Nigeria:

 

“My first acquaintance with Mofe was when he performed in A Walk in the Woods for the Collective Artistes Festival of Theatre Arts’ Nigeria season of the American Theater Review production, which I produced and eclectic director, Segun Ojewuyi, directed.

 

“It was clear then that he was a growing, passionate, and masterful actor. He has since proved, beyond a doubt, to be one of Nigeria’s greatest talents. Despite his charisma and handsomeness, he has the dexterity and innovation to convincingly transform from high flying lawyer to driver. He appears not only comfortable doing so, but he tremendously enjoys doing so.

 

“The underlying asset which underscores his abilities as a performer is his humility as a person. Regardless of stature, he carries this trait as a coat of armor and dances well into the hall of fame with grace and subtlety. Many of our younger generation could benefit from this sense of humility. I thank him for sharing his gift with the world.”

 

 

In this unfiltered conversation that took place in Miami, Florida, in the United States, Richard Mofe-Damijo reflects on the first six decades of his life and speaks on his love for his country just as he questions the political dimensions of Nigeria.

 

Listen attentively to RMD in his own voice in the audio below.

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