Tobi Bakre Shines As Obalola in “Gangs Of Lagos”

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Best friends Obalola, Gift, and Ify are born and raised in Isale Eko, where politically affiliated gangs rule the streets. Obalola is the son of well-respected former king who was killed by a gun-wielding Eyo Masquerade when Obalola was only a baby. Obalola turns to petty crimes at an early age on the streets of Isale Eko to survive.

The trio have dreams of leaving Isale Eko but Isale Eko is not a place for lofty dreams. When their adopted street father Ninalowo is murdered, they join a gang led by Kazeem – the chairman of the Road Workers’ Union, and Lagos underboss.

As election campaigns begin, rival gangs paint the streets red. Ify gets caught up in gang wars and is butchered to death in the streets. A guilt-ridden Obalola, and Gift set out to avenge their friend’s death but uncover secrets that will shake the very foundations of Isale Eko.


Tobi Bakre is Obalola

Can you describe the bond between the 3 main characters, “Obalola, Gift & Ify”?

This bond feels stronger than a family bond. It is soaked in love, loyalty, and true friendship that was built brick by brick over the years since their childhood. This was done by always being together and experiencing life together.

What makes Gangs of Lagos different from the other projects you have worked on and what was your favorite aspect of being involved in this project?

GOL is a project of many firsts for me. My first time playing a lead character, My first time really letting myself go to embody a character, and my first time staying that long in a character. It is indeed a special project. I believe not just for me but for everybody else that was involved, both cast and crew. The synergy on and off set was amazing. We had such a beautiful ecosystem of positivity. We were attempting a lot of things that had never been done before. I loved being on set every single day. Each day came with its unique experience that just made the whole time shooting and the project as a whole memorable.

Can you tell us about your experience portraying Obalola in Gangs of Lagos?

The character development for Obalola started immediately. I delved into the script. I started building the character in my head. I also was able to go deeper into the creative process when I took lessons with the producer Lala Akindoju and also shared notes with Director Jade. This character was who he was because of his background, and life experiences. Everything he did meant something or came from an exact place. I could really relate to this character so much that we became one all through the time shooting. The problem then became unbecoming the character after we finished the shoot. I really enjoyed being Oba, and I hope I get to play that character again in the future.

 How did you prepare for the role of a character caught up in the world of crime and violence?

For the action scenes, we had to take stunt and fight training with one of the best in Africa ‘director tough’. I remember feeling muscle pains in places I didn’t even know had muscles. We all really just got into it. Everything about the project got all of the cast and crew willing to give their best and more. We shot most of the scenes in Isale Eko, the exact neighborhood referenced in the movie. It felt like art was imitating life right around us. For some scenes we even had the locals join us in the shoot. It felt real on some occasions.

What do you think audiences will take away from the film’s portrayal of the struggles of people living in Isale Eko?

I believe what audiences will take away from this will be to understand that we are all products of our community and upbringing, whether we turn out to be good or bad people. And, our decisions play a huge role in determining our life outcomes.

How was it working with the director, Jade Osiberu, and the rest of the cast and crew on this project?

Working with Jade feels like working with a genius on every level. She comes prepared and knows exactly what she is trying to achieve and will not compromise on achieving just that. As an actor, that gives me a lot of trust and belief that if she says CUT! Then it was definitely a good take. Working with the other cast members felt like bonding with a new family. We all have become one big family after shooting this project. We fed off each other a lot on this project. No one character could deliver in isolation. We all had to be in it and on our A-game. Where the energy was low, someone would fill in to raise the spirit of the group. When they felt I could do something better, they will always share and vice versa. The casting for this project was top-class. Everybody really embodied their characters. It really just brought the whole story to life. The crew members are the real MVPs. We could trust the director and the technical teams at every point. It allowed us as actors to focus on creativity and be in the moment while trusting everything else was going on as should. The crew members fell so in love with the project that when need be, they were happy to jump in front of the camera and play as extras.

Gangs of Lagos have been described as merging Old and New Nollywood. How do you think this film contributes to the evolution of the Nigerian film industry?

We have a number of veterans and new blood like myself on the project. The wealth of experience we could tap from the older actors, and the will to risk it all from the younger actors really played very well.
The set and storyline also feel like the old Nollywood movies being told in a totally new dimension. As I earlier mentioned, I believe this movie will inspire a lot of new collaborations for much bigger projects in Nollywood and beyond.

What was the most challenging aspect of filming Gangs of Lagos?

The most challenging bits for me playing Obalola in GOL was when we really had to see the vulnerable parts of the character. In my personal life, I have had to build walls to be able to withstand whatever life brings my way. Becoming Oba allowed me to become a really strong and powerful character, but part of that power was also being open to raw unfiltered emotions. I had to tear my personal walls to tell the characters’ reality perfectly. It required a lot physically and emotionally. The physical, I am always ready for, but the emotional took me on a whole different journey, deeper than I would have imagined or expected.