He’s been described by the media and avid TV fans as one of the sexiest men to grace TV screens in Ghana. A lot of young men crave his good looks and smooth flow. Omar just describes himself as a simple everyday dude who goes about his daily chores diligently.
After almost two decades doing movies and soaps, this young father of two has resorted to doing what many others like him with a famous face have done in times past, corporate marketing. Well, it is not hard to figure that a familiar face like his would throw open doors easily.
A career that started with the movie, My Sweetie and built up over time with big parts in hit soaps Tentacles and Broadway, Omar reveals that he used to be a shy guy but that acting has made him come out of his shell.
Interview by Ololade Adewuyi for STAR Accra
How did TV and movies begin for you? I started as a production hand in 1989 with one William Akuffo. He actually started video production in Ghana. He was the first person to make a video production. Do you mean music videos? No video production. You know we were shooting on celluloid in times past but he was the first to shoot with a video camera. When he started it was really tough but today it’s everywhere. I started as a production assistant.
So how did you get into acting? After being a production hand, I then became a soundman and later a cameraman and then an editor. That was in the space of two years. I started real acting in 1991. My very first movie as an actor was My Sweetie.
What role did you play? I played the role of a lover boy (laughs).
Is that how you became typecast in the lover boy role? Yes, you know us Africans, when they see you can do something very well they tend to just give you that same role all the time. It is typical of African casts. Once you’ve performed a role well, they feel they must as well give you the same kind of role to perform.
But gradually you’re emerging as a bad boy. The first film I played a bad boy was Dark Sands in 1997. It was my first lead role as well as first bad boy.
How would you describe your love making roles? Are they as intense as you portray them on the screen? Some of these girls are not actually experienced. When you’re playing a love scene with them and you want to kiss them, they think you’re taking advantage of them. A lot of things go on through their minds. So what I normally do is to sit them down and tell them we’re making belief. It’s impossible to do anything because the crew are there, you know what will you feel? So I tell them that it’s just make belief and after that, it’s over. Then they’ll end up coming out of their shells. Most times my colleagues ask how it is that my love scenes come out very well. It is because of the pep talk I give to my love opposites.
Which one of your opposite ladies would you say has been the best kisser and that you liked. I wouldn’t even go there because the kissing on screen is not like passionate kissing. There are no emotions involved.
Which love interest would you choose as your favourite? I don’t have any favourite, not at all. It’s just acting and there are no strings attached. Have you ever had any bad press in your career? Not exactly, but I had an interview with a lady from one of these press houses which I asked her not to publish because she was rude. She went on and published it. I didn’t want to take the matter up because of personal reasons. If I had taken it up, it would have blown up beyond proportions so I decided to leave it.
Do you feel the pressure to live up to your image as a lover boy in real life? In real life, as an actor, people think you play the same kind of role outside of the movie. Come to think of it, wherever you go, you’re seen. So you can’t pick on this girl and that girl. You don’t have the privacy to be yourself. What’s the use? Sometimes, I’m in the car, I drive in the night and people stop to wave at me. When they mention your name you try to hide but you can’t do it. You don’t even have the chance to do certain things. We’re rather protected, you understand me.
Are you in any relationship? Yes, I’m married.
Do you have children? Yes, I have two children. I’ve been married for seven years now.
What particular aspect do you enjoy most about making movies? I like directing.
Have you directed any movies before? I’ve done one but it’s a documentary. I did it for the AIDS Commission.
How much does acting pay you? It’s nothing you want to know. (Laughs) Would you say it’s comfortable? I’d say it’s picking up. It’s not something to write home about but I can say it’s picking up.
Tell me about your personality on set. I’m the type younger actors can approach on set. They look up to me and ask me if they portrayed their roles properly because I like advising them. I have the passion for teaching my fellow actors. What or where do you derive your inspiration from? It’s God.
You must be very religious. Yeah, I’m a religious person. I believe everybody is religious. I believe in God so much. And even when I’m about to act, I pray to God for everything.
What has been your greatest achievement in acting? To me I haven’t gotten there yet. I always look at my mistakes and try to correct them. That’s what I look out for in my movies so that I’d not repeat them a second time. I tell myself I shouldn’t have done it this way. There are some things in your normal life that you don’t have to portray in movies. I’ve seen several mistakes of that type in my movies.
Is there anything you would like to achieve as an actor? Everyone wants to act in Hollywood or let’s say foreign movies. That would earn you good money and at the end of the day it might earn you fame. People would know that this guy is also good. Apart from that, the situation in Ghana is very terrible.
I see that you’re not into acting full time I was in it full time but I just switched. I just added more work to it.
What are you doing now? I’m into corporate marketing.
But you still do soaps. Yes, I still do soaps. I’m doing Broadway presently.
How has acting changed your life from being a normal every day person to being a famous face? It has really helped me. I used to be a very shy person. If you watch my early movies like My Sweetie, Outrage, Scholarship and Beast Within you would see that I was a very shy person. But now I have really picked up. People had invited me to host or be MC for their events but I couldn’t because I was shy. But now it has helped me so I can stand in the presence of crowds.
What would you like to be remembered for? I haven’t even gotten halfway of where I’m looking at right now. I have a lot of things to do and I know at the end of the day by His grace I’ll reach there. I won’t even talk about it. You see, I personally don’t even talk about what I do or let people know that I’ve done this and that. You talk about it, tell me I’m good or that I should try to improve on this aspect. If I’m wrong or I didn’t do it right, tell me these are my mistakes. In fact, my dad also guided me because sometimes he just insults me and says “my friend look at what you did. Is that the way to act”? And I’ll say next time I’ll correct it. And that’s how I became better.
Were your parents in support of your acting sojourn? Not at all.
When you started? Forget it. They weren’t in support of it.
So when did they begin to like seeing you on TV? When they saw that I was on the screen and I was picking up. And people were like “your son is good” and they kept telling my dad. So he said he’d rather advise me to do whatever I’m doing, well. That was when he began to build an interest in my job. Even my sisters weren’t fond of it at first. But all that has changed now.
So would you allow your children to do acting? It depends on what they want for themselves. But I won’t force them to do anything.
Graduate of University of Lagos and Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile Ife. Chief Editor, Goal.com Nigeria edition. Former Online Editor and West African Correspondent based in Ghana for TELL Magazine, Lagos. Alumnus International Institute of Journalism (INWENT), Berlin; Reuters Foundation and Agence France Presse (AFP) Foundation. Photographs published in USAToday, BBC Focus on Africa magazine, AllAfrica.com, The Guardian, ThisDay, The Punch, Showbiz and Daily Graphic (Ghana). Photos exhibited in Krakow, Poland. Nominee Journalist of the year at The Future Awards, Nigeria 2010.