Most fans of seasoned actor, Olu Jacobs, are aware that he cut his teeth in Britain in the 1960s. The records, at least, say that the man who recently turned 75 was trained at the prestigious Royal Academy of the Arts in London and featured in a lot of British theatre and film productions till he returned to Nigeria many years later. But, many of them do not know that he had to disobey his father to make the journey to that country.
Veteran actor Olu Jacobs, in an interview with Punch correspondent, described his father as the only obstacle that initially stood between him and a burning ambition to relocate to England and start a career in acting. He said, “My Dad did not want me to go to England. I was his favourite child. When I said that I wanted to act, he said I should do something else and not anything that would take me away from him.” However, the younger man was determined to have his way. So he conspired with his older brother who was already living in London and eventually arrived in that country in 1966. Even then, he had to do something to pacify his father and get back in his good books. “When I got to London, I had to send him a message. As the closest person to him in the family, I knew the right thing that would calm him was tobacco. My father loved tobacco. He was a piper. So I bought him a new pipe and some tobacco and sent them to him through somebody who was travelling home. And he forgave me for disobeying him,” he said.
But life in Britain was not entirely smooth for Jacobs. Although his acting career flourished and he was opportune to appear in some productions that also featured some of the best actors and actresses in the world, there were challenges. One of them was racism.
Recalling an incident that occurred in the first year of his stay in London, he added, “A white woman once called me a dog. She had a vacant room for rent. But when I approached her, she asked if I didn’t see the ‘No dogs’ sign on her door. Before I could respond, she said that a dog was better than me and then slammed the door in my face. I felt so bad that I almost decided to return to Nigeria.”