Samuel Ajibola: Unearthing ‘Spiff,’ The official clown of The Johnsons
There is a reason why Efetobere (Efe, for short), his co-actor on the popular family comedy drama, The Johnsons, refers to the character he interprets, Spiff, as the ‘official clown’ of the Johnsons family.
On that widely viewed series, Spiff, which is the character Samuel Ajibola interpretes, is every bit a clown. The character does dumb and crazy things that leave the hordes of viewers of the programme in stitches.
From what was intended as a one off, Samuel’s deft handling of the role has earned him a permanent place on the series. Those who watch the programme, aired on Mnet and directed by the ever-dependable Charles Inojie, would agree that the series is never complete without the notorious Spiff in it.
An indigene of Ekiti State, who holds a B.SC in Political Science from the University of Lagos and a Diploma in Acting from Amaka Igwe’s Centre For Excellence in Film and Media Studies, Lagos, Samuel admits that the character has turned him into an outsized version of his own self.
“The character has been amazing. It has been so amazing that I cannot begin to tell my experiences. “Everywhere I go, it is Spiff, Spiff and Spiff. People no longer call me by my real name. I have heard so many people say they love the character and how stupid I can get playing Spiff. I just smile because I know I am not stupid; I am damn serious.
“It is just make believe and one is glad that people not only like the character, but also love the programme,” he said, posting a wide smile.
Born to Lt. Commandant Ajibola and Mrs. Ajibola, both from Ekiti State, Samuel had his early education between Ibadan and Lagos. “Daddy used to go on postings, so we moved as the postings came,” he explained.
His first contact with acting was on stage and at age six, when he featured in a church performance, playing the biblical Samuel. Impressed by his performance, Samuel’s aunt, Mrs. Moyinoluwa Odutayo, who at the time was already in the business of acting and was in fact the leading actress in the popular television series, Dear Mother, took him to see the humour and entertainment merchant, Opa Williams, who was at that time casting for his critically acclaimed film, Tears for Love.
Incidentally, Opa needed a child actor to play a role in the film and young Samuel became a ready actor for the production. It was at the point that Samuel, who was recently named Best Comic Actor in a series by organisers of the African Magic Viewers Choice Award (AMVCA), began his journey into moviedom.
From there, it was one production to another for Samuel, who holds the record of winning the Best Kid Actor award at long rested The Movie Awards (THEMA) for three years-1996, 1998 and 1999.
Indeed, nearly every producer that wanted a child actor who would interprete a role believably would seek out and engage Samuel, who reigned uproarously as a child actor between 1995 and 2003.
Movies that benefited from his believable portrayals include his second film, Without Love, starring Hilda Dokubo; Days of Reckoning, Conspiracy, Shame, Eye-Witness and Opa’s two part movie, Onome 2.
While Eye-Witness earned him a THEMA in 1996, it was Onome 2 and Days of Reckoning that earned him the Reel Awards crest in 1998 and 1999. Always smartly dressed and said to be ambitious, committed to whatever he does and focused, it was so he can concentrate on his studies that Samuel took a break off the scene.
“I found myself not doing well in my academics and Daddy had to draw the line- finish school and when you are in the university and on a comfortable standing, then you can choose if you want to continue acting,” he recalled his father saying to him.
Samuel kept to the wise counsel and only resurfaced in 2009, starring in Teco Benson’s The Fake Prophet. It took that effort for Spiff, as he is now fondly called by fans, to announce his return on the scene.
“I returned fully in 2012 and since then, I have done a couple of works, like featuring in Last Flight to Abuja; MTV’s Shuga Nigeria; the short film, Sun Eje, which earned me an award for best actor at the 2014 In-Short Film Festival; Shame; Jealousy; Fried Beans; The Antique; Conspiracy; The Johnsons; my web series, Dele Issues; Richy and Gold and some others,” he said.
Described by close friends and colleagues as a perfectionist and one with an unquenchable passion for acting, Samuel described the screen character, Spiff, as the most outstanding and defining character he has worked with the crew at Native Media, producers of the series, to create.
“I bring something new to every character I am asked to play. I always create the character and work with the crew to perfect it. I am happy with the feedback I get about the character, Spiff.
“But just know that I am not dumb or mischievous in real life,” he enthused. An actor with an eye on the summit of the profession, Samuel, who loves reading, travelling and watching films during his off set periods, is currently neck deep working on his Dele Issues, which spotlights the everyday life of professionals, which has earned well over 30,000 views on YouTube so far.
With a personal motto of improving with every job, Samuel got the right icing on his cake as a producer of the series when former President Olusegun Obasanjo agreed to make his acting debut in Dele Issues.
Scheduled to be aired on YouTube next Saturday, on October 14, the drama series would be the first by the former President and indeed any other Nigerian President.
It was an elated Samuel that announced the ‘big catch’ on his social media handles during the week. He wrote: “I have had this picture (picture of him and Obasanjo on set) for months, but I have been looking at this picture for the past three days, knowing I was going to post it up this morning, but not knowing what to write under it as a caption.
“Then, I woke up this morning and the first song that came to me was, ‘you raised me up, so I can stand on mountains. You raise me up, to walk on stormy seas. I am strong when I am on your shoulders. You raise me up to more than I can be.’
“And then, I got it! This is it! What I have been looking for? My caption would revolve around the grace of God. To start with, who am I, that on my very own first project as a producer, I would have the privilege of having a former President of my country feature in my own skit? God is great.”
What more on his career plate and Samuel said: “Plenty and we will unveil it as it matures. But this special episode of Dele Issues would mark the high point of the entire web series and would show the world the never-before-seen side of the former President,” he enthused.
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