August 27, 2010

Being Mr. President

With only a week to go before I leave, I’ve had to use aggressive tactics to nab interviews with industry bigwigs. I tried chasing down a few guild presidents after a press conference yesterday, and I got about ten minutes with the Creative Designers president before she literally ran away from me. I’ve been doggedly calling Segun Arinze, the Actors Guild President—and an A-list celebrity—and today he finally acquiesced. Well, kind of: he told me I could ride along in his car and throw questions at him as he drove across town. I figured it was better than nothing; I would probably manage fifteen minutes with him before he kicked me out and I had to take a cab back home.

What I didn’t know is that I would actually spend the entire day—from noon to 9 pm—in his passenger seat, hopping around town with him from one appointment to the next. After the third stop, by which point I was on the complete other side of the city from my house, I announced I had been kidnapped.

He kept apologizing exasperatedly for his hectic schedule, but I’m convinced he enjoyed showing off just how in-demand he is. We were frequently assailed by carfuls of women honking and waving, and at one congested intersection Mr. Arinze beckoned over a traffic cop to complain about the holdup. “So sorry, Shegun Arinze!” the cop stammered, rushing to part the traffic and let us through.

At one point along the road he let out a big groan. “I told them I didn’t like my expression in that photo,” he said with utter annoyance, drawing my attention to a gigantic billboard advertisement with his face plastered on it.

“So have you put Omo to the stains test?” I inquired.

“Like you wouldn’t believe.”

I’ll say this for Mr. President (as everyone, everywhere called him) - he can certainly cram a lot into one day:

Stop 1: recording voiceover for a movie trailer. We were in and out in less than 10 minutes after Mr. Arinze read through each line only twice. (“Coming to a theater near you…coming to a theater…near you.”)

Stop 2: filming a scene for a soap opera. Though I didn't know that at the time. We walked into a packed room with ten teenage actors on one end and a long table at the other. We were quickly seated at the table, then someone yelled “Action!” and the ten actors began taking turns approaching the table, stating their names, and shadow-boxing. This all happened within five minutes of our arrival, so I had absolutely no idea what was going on. I finally deduced that they were filming a scene of an audition for a boxing movie, and Mr. Arinze played the director of the movie within the show. Yeah, I was still confused after we left, just half an hour later.

Stop 3: a photoshoot for a juice company. Mr. Arinze and his fake, beautiful family all stood in front of a canvas holding juice bottles and smiling delightedly. Oddly, this took over two hours.

Stop 4: a chicken shack for dinner, inhabited entirely by Nollywood actors who all hailed their chief when he strolled in.

Stop 5: Ojez Nightclub, for an important meeting in the back room to discuss a serious crisis within Actors Guild politics. Or so I presume from all the hushed tones and furrowed brows.

I finally insisted that I needed to get home before they locked me out of the house. Somehow I had started the day begging an A-lister to speak to me, and now I just wanted him to let me go home and sleep. At least he didn't make me pay ransom.

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