Moshood Fattah: From stage play to Netflix’s breakout teens series
Nollywood closed the year 2022 with a few movies that catered to both streaming platforms with Inkblots’ “Far From Home” and traditional moviegoers with Funke Akindele’s “Battle On Buka Street” (FFH). Fans saw and appreciated Moshood Fattah’s talent in both films, where he played “Ademide” in the Funke Akindele movie and “Micheal” in the Netflix miniseries.
In the midst of the pandemic in 2020, he and Mike Afolarin, who was involved in both films, were getting ready to make their short film, “Arrgh,” when they received the call from the producers of Far From Home to upload their audition recordings. Fattah received callbacks and had to go through six rounds of auditions for the series. This was a demanding roller coaster of events for the young cast, but given his background in stage performances, adapting was seamless.
After his first degree in Performing Arts at the University of Ilorin in 2013, Fattah made his debut in professional acting in 2015 playing the lead character “Gwanza” an east African Guerilla soldier in “The Butcher & the Bridge” a musical produced by Spirit of David which starred the likes of Yinka Davies, Kalu Ikeagwu and Victor Olaotan. In the same year, Fattah starred in another stage musical “Heartbeat” produced by Lufado productions and shown at the Muson Centre, Onikan Lagos. Since then, the 31-year-old actor has performed in lead or major roles in over 14 of the biggest musicals in Lagos for eight years since 2015.
With just him left for the role in the early stages of the audition, Fattah felt confident he would land the part. However, nothing seemed certain at the time because of the pandemic, which closed down studios and theatres and created a great deal of uncertainty for actors in the industry. However, the actors still received a call that they had been chosen.
“It was a surprise,” Fattah said, “They had champagne, finger food, and music to welcome the team officially, which was amazing because this was during the thick of the pandemic and the industry was effectively shot down and so to be able to book a project of that magnitude at that time was amazing.”
Usually, a project of this nature sponsored by the most popular streaming platform in Nigeria, “Far From Home” would have made headline news at the time they began production. But the cast and crew were required to sign ‘Non-Disclosure Agreements’ to keep the project under wraps till they rounded up production. Fattah recalled that he kept the project a secret from his parents for two years and only revealed it to them the week the series received an official announcement.
Read also: Nigeria’s e-payment transactions hit 5-yr high
Following inkblot’s production, Funke Akindele, who played “Patricia,” had to begin filming for Buka Street. Afolarin and Fattah’s acting abilities impressed her, as evidenced in the series, and she immediately offered them parts in her upcoming film without requiring them to go through an audition.
The invitation shocked Fattah who revealed that one of the actors he had long respected and looked up to was not only working on the same set as him but also wanted to include him in her upcoming movie.
“It was such an honour for me to have such a phenomenal star that I grew up watching take interest in my work and find me worthy to cast without auditioning. It was so strange I requested an audition,” he said.
The Funke Akindele production paraded Nollywood big names like Nkem Owoh, Mercy Johnson, and Sola Sobowale. Although stunned at the gesture, Fattah knew it was time to level up and deliver his best work yet to reach stardom.
“It was exciting to work with the calibre of actors on the project and I wasn’t going to play a minor character so I told myself that this was the chance to be a star. In FFH it was more of me and younger actors but in Battle On Buka Street it was me going against all these great actors,” Fattah said.
Fattah had previously collaborated with well-known actors in theatrical productions. He has been involved with a number of film producers like Tolu Ajayi’s “Focus” which also starred Genevivah Umeh who played the good vibes “Zina” in FFH, “Fishbone” by Editi Effiong. He has also worked with Niyi Akinmolayan but he aimed to develop himself into a full-fledged entertainer by studying media, film, and theatre.
“I knew at some point I was going to do film and I didn’t want to look unrefined on camera in terms of performances and general conduct on a film set,” he said.
He described both projects as being different in terms of the style saying, “The work we did on FFH did affect my work on Buka Street but Buka Street was more theatrical, the performances were bigger with the likes of Mercy Johnson pulling all the muscles on her face to give you great stuff, Sola Sobowale and Funke Akindele doing the most in their performances. So they were giving us theatre on screen and Nigerians loved it,” He said.
The actor said that despite the two films having distinct approaches—one seems more like a drama in a stage play and the other like a typical drama film—he was still able to pull off a strong performance thanks to his experience in both cinema and stage plays. Though he claimed that during the filming of FFH, Inkblot was gracious enough to enrol the actors in a two-week acting workshop with three tutors, during which they were instructed to break down the characters and develop them according to what the tutors imagined the characters to be like on the inside and what the actors could bring to their roles.
The actors seemed at ease in their roles because they were well portrayed, according to some reviews from both fans and critics. Fattah gives full credit of his performance to the film’s directors, Catherine Stewart from South African and Kayode Kasum, a Nigerian filmmaker and producer. They put in the work with their unique directing styles and approaches, which helped the actors refine their performances and make them more distilled to make sure the actors delivered their best on set.
Regarding how crucial film school is for budding actors Fattah doesn’t believe in quick cuts. The actor who has a Master’s degree in Theater Arts and studied Acting for Film at Del- York Creative Academy, thinks a prospective actor needs to earn a four-year degree in performing arts, theatre art, or literature from a university or other such institutions to be well-versed in acting technique.
He uses examples of himself to illustrate how it took him years in college to hone his abilities and learn from his mistakes before he could become the actor he is today.
“I’m very grateful for that experience because many of the things that I learnt there became useful to me as I progressed in my career, how to analyse and interpret and situate a piece of work in real life,” Fattah said.
He added that learning the trade requires interaction with other like-minded students and friends, who can occasionally provide a greater viewpoint and insight into what a character is, and that this interaction cannot be had outside of school. He remembers mispronouncing the character “Olunde” when he had to perform Wole Soyinka’s “Death and the King’s Horseman” in his second year of college. Later, he conducted his study and, to his delight, discovered the right pronunciation. He had no idea that 10 years later, the Nobel Laureate himself would be watching him perform the same role in a theatrical production at Terra Kulture in Lagos, together with some of the biggest names in the business.
“You can’t become an actor in three months or six months, it takes time of developing yourself as an actor or an artist and so I’m all for film schools but I’m also for going through that four years of learning the craft reading text and playing different roles and as an actor, in the university, you get to play more diverse characters. In the industry, at some point, you will get typecast and very few actors are able to stand out as truly diverse actors so it’s important for one to explore and try different things,” Fattah said.
As an actor through and through, Fattah enjoys seeing “obscure” movies from all over the world and seeing plays; he also enjoys photography in his spare time.
He feels privileged to be among this generation of young actors and filmmakers who are changing the status quo of what Nollywood used to be known for to what it presently is. “my generation of actors and filmmakers are the best the industry has ever seen in recent years. We’ve grown and worked together over the years and I’ve known several of them intimately, well enough to know that even on the biggest projects only a third of our talents have been harnessed.”
He one day would like Nollywood films to represent at the Oscars a feat he thinks can only be achieved if the writing is improved in all aspects of film in Nigeria. “I want the industry to take a better turn regarding scriptwriting. Fattah said, “The only way people will be able to see what we can really do is if the writing changes. The idea of Nigerians liking overly simple dialogue is ridiculous because these same viewers watch and follow the best of international television. Nigerians aren’t retarded. If the writing is better, bad directors and actors will be weeded out and we’ll be better for it.”, he also mentioned the need to invest more time and heart in our screenplays to achieve international success.