RMD: I study, research every character I play

One of the most popular and well loved Nollywood actors and producers is Richard Mofe Damijo. Widely referred to as RMD, the 60-year-old trained lawyer had been in different spheres of life including administration of a public office as commissioner for Arts, culture and tourism in Delta State. In this brief interview with The Nation’s Assistant Entertainment Editor, GBENGA BADA, the brilliant actor revealed how he studies and researches before embodying any character, playing the lead role of an established legal luminary in a series, Castle and Castle and how he interacts with colleagues amongst other issues.

What’s the most fascinating moment or experience for you on the set of Castle & Castle?

It’s hard to capture that in a word or in a sentence. I’ve said something like for me, it’s the camaraderie, it’s the fact that every time I am on set, it’s my workplace, it’s my happy place, so i try to make it as comfortable as possible, I try to make it fun, I try to make everybody that I have to work with be comfortable no matter how old or how young they are. I like to interact and I like to connect with people positively and once I can achieve that, it becomes my happy place and a place where I can always go back to every time or anytime that work calls me. You have to desire to be on a set so if there’s no positive energy on that set, no matter how much they are paying you, you don’t want to go back there. So for me, it’s always about a nice collection of people, meeting friends, having a chance again to be and meeting with your friends whilst getting paid.

If you were not on the film set, who would be your favourite character?

I like my father-in-law’s character in the series. He’s a nutcase, he’s such a typical Nigerian man, he’s cantankerous, he’s conniving, he’s sly, he’s loving all at the same time. And again, I love the character, Stella. You know, she brings to life and magic to what she does and of course, my wife, of course, that is like a constant, I love Dakore. People say I’m a bit partial because she’s like family to me.

As a trained lawyer, what extra flavours did you add to your character in Castle and Castle?

A lawyer is like a doctor and it’s about people running to you for help or to resolve crises in their lives or to make their lives better. What you do, what you pass off first and foremost as a lawyer is confidence, letting the person settle in his or her spirit that he or she has come to the right place. So, that is what I bring to the Castle and Castle series. I know what a lawyer’s job is and so when I am acting as a lawyer behind all of that underlying that whole act is the fact that I really do know what I’m supposed to bring to the table which is to say confidence. And so, I am also old school playing the character, you see the way he’s dressed, how Professor Castle dresses is all very deliberate. He doesn’t use a wristwatch, he uses an old vintage pocket watch, so when you see him, he’s a fine gentleman with his bowtie, very distinguished, so when you come to him, you know if he tries to defend you or do something for you, if you even lose, it won’t be lack of trying. So, that is what my profession did for me being a lawyer and acting that role out in Castle and Castle. You have to exude confidence, you have to make whoever is sitting in front of you feel like he or she has come to the right place. Being a trained lawyer did help and also knowing how the law can be tongue-twisting and how the use of words can be so difficult sometimes but because I know exactly what I am saying and I can relate with it, speaking those words or lines becomes easier. So, yes, there is definitely an advantage.  So, how much of your background as a lawyer influenced the character, Tega Castle?

It just made me love the character more as he is somebody I can relate with. It made it easy to play Tega Castle. I have said earlier somewhere there are characters you play that can be very close to your person or personality. There are personality traits I share with Professor Castle. For him, the law is an instrument of change and pursuit of justice rather than self -aggrandisement or making you win the biggest lawsuits or deals with corporate bodies that have more money.

Would you say the plot of Castle and Castle is real?

Of course, even worse. Sometimes, people have said if you see reality and how weird reality can look, it’s like a film. There are people’s lives that are as entangled even if not more entangled than what Professor Castle and Mrs Castle lives are like. There are people, real life couples who work in the same firm today that probably have more entangled lives than Professor and Mrs Castle and what goes on in Castle and Castle as a law firm.

What was your biggest challenge working on Castle & Castle?

Time management has always been an issue for me but I’m glad that this season I saw a more efficient production. I love working with young people and there were a good number on set. It helps to draw from their energies and even learn from them.

Do you have any strategic moves on being better than you were in previous appearances?

I’m a trained actor so being prepared for any role is key for me. I like not just to play my characters but to become them. I study and research until I’m satisfied with the reflection of the character in me.

How do you manage the peculiarities of each actor on set?

I expect nothing from anybody, so I deal with individuals as they present themselves. I love positive energies but even when around negative ones, I never allow that impact on the job I’ve come on set to do.

You started out as a television series star before becoming a household name on the home video and film scene, which would you say you prefer?

They are the same, one is just a smaller box and the other is a wider box that’s all. But I like TV because of the fact that it’s a series. TV gives you more time to get to know your audience and for your audience to get to know you as opposed to a 90-minute or a one hour 20 minute film which is a one-off.

What do you wish for people to be reminded of whenever your name is mentioned?

I just do me. Professional, disciplined, courteous, respectful of other people’s talents and respectful of the space and time of everyone I work with.

So, how do you then deal with people’s expectations having been in the industry for over three decades?

I just work hard at being the very best version of myself every day irrespective of people’s expectations and I can only hope that my best version is good enough every day.

Looking back at where you started from and now, how would you describe the metamorphosis of RMD over the years?

I’m basically the same actor. Age and experience have however made me a lot more methodological in my approach to characters.

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