First aired in 2021, The Olive is a drama thriller series available on Accelerate Plus app and Accelerate TV’s YouTube channel. It follows the story of Anayo, a man in his forties who, in the wake of his wife’s demise, has to cater for his children, take care of his wife’s restaurant business and maintain his relationship with friends. His stability, however, becomes threatened as he discovers that his wife led a dubious life, and his curiosity leads him to investigate further.
As the show returns for Season 2, with everyone shocked at the sudden discovery at the end of Season 1 that Ehi is alive, the stakes are high. This time around, Michael Ejoor gets the chance to play the character of Tobi, who is friends with the protagonist Anayo, replacing the late Karibi Fubara who took up the role in the previous season before he passed on in December, 2021. In this sit-down, Michael talks about his character as Tobi in The Olive, the production as a whole and his future in Nollywood.
You joined The Olive Project in Season 2. What was it like joining at this point?
Like every other project, I was excited to join this. But with The Olive, it felt like a moral dilemma. This is because someone else played the role in Season 1 before he passed away. Initially, I wasn’t sure whether to be happy that I had replaced Karibi (God rest his soul). Given the fact that I did audition for this role in Season 1, I just felt unsure about how to feel. I was soon able to walk that line and get convinced that I had to do justice to the role. So, my taking up the character of Tobi was in memory of Karibi and I just hope he is pleased with it up there in heaven.
What makes your representation of Tobi in Season 2 different from how Karibi represented the character in Season 1?
During the audition for Season 1, I created my version of the character just as Karibi created his own version. For Season 2 I asked myself whether to go ahead with who I created based on my knowledge or continue with what was already in existence. But again, it was as if the character was a baby already fathered by Karibi before his death and I was just the adopted father. I had a conversation with one of the producers as to whether I should play my own version of the character or continue with Karibi’s. Eventually, I made sure I maintained certain things that Karibi put in place, such as the calm demeanor Tobi had in the face of turmoil, and the slow pacing of his speech. It was a mix of both Karibi’s version and mine, and that gave me originality.
You already mentioned that you have a great relationship with Ibrahim and have been friends before The Olive happened. So, what’s the nexus between your relationship on set and your real-life friendship?
I feel like if I didn’t know Dami, who was one of the writers of Season 1, I would say she fashioned the characters of Tobi and Anayo after us. During filming, in scenes where we had Tobi and Anayo, it didn’t feel like I was acting. I felt like I was just having normal conversations with my friend, except that I was wearing something unusual. Ibrahim and I are friends and yet we have this big brother-little brother relationship. Unlike Anayo, though, Ibrahim is not rigid.
How does Tobi’s character resonate with your real-life personality, and what do you find detestable about the character?
To be honest, I don’t really draw a lot of parallels from Tobi. Even Tobi’s jokes are not my kind of jokes. I don’t really have that behavioural connection with Tobi, but I like characters like that because they draw me away from being typecast. I’ve heard people say to me that “he’s a nice guy, he won’t be able to play this”, and it makes me wonder what my personality has to do with my movie roles. However, the scenes with Dami were quite doting, and that is me in real life. I have a high level of empathy for people who have gone through a lot.
Regarding the second question, an actor isn’t expected to judge his character while he takes on the role. Even if you are supposed to be a rapist, you shouldn’t judge that character because if you are too expressive about your contrary views while on the project, you might be unable to portray it well. I will only say now that Tobi is judgeable. I would rather not go into details now, but when we are in our final season, you can ask me this question. By then, I’ll answer you.
What makes The Olive different from other projects you’ve worked on?
I feel The Olive is intellectual. It is different from other projects that are deliberately made to cater to a simple-minded audience. Many Nigerian shows out there focus predominantly on love and friendship, which is as if to say that Nigerians are not open towards enjoying complex themes in Nollywood films as we have in foreign films, for instance, Game of Thrones and The Blacklist. With The Olive, it’s a bit different and more all-encompassing. The show has espionage, and it still gives you love, friendship, cheating, and all that. I don’t think there’s anything in the web space for Nigeria like The Olive.
What impact do you think Accelerate TV has brought to the Nigerian film industry and the society at large?
People like to get involved in what is already working. Accelerate TV took a risk with The Olive and decided to veer off the course of what everyone else was doing. I feel that speaks a lot to our society because people do not do a lot of gap analysis here in Nigeria. I believe that The Olive and the risk that Accelerate TV have taken would help creative minds to dabble into the unknown and think of being pioneers in particular fields.
What more should fans expect from Michael?
Na work I dey work o. Okay, there’s a show that Ibrahim and I are working on. It has two of The Olive’s stars. It’s an amazing show. Hopefully, when people see it they will be eager to see more of us and they will be further drawn to The Olive. I can’t wait for that to hit the airwaves, but I won’t say the name now. I’m also currently working on rebranding my image. I’m looking to take on older roles. Even the way I portray myself on Instagram these days is different. I want to explore more mature, adult roles.