As production continues on Nigeria’s first film on a moving train, ‘Conversation in Transit’, Nollywood actor Alex Ekubo expresses his excitement at the historic milestone in Nigeria’s film industry.
The 35-year-old actor plays a Northerner in the film, showing off his proficiency with the Hausa language. He also played a similar role in ‘Zero Hour’ (2019).
PREMIUM TIMES visited the film set on Thursday and asked him to speak about his role and how the film would further project Nigeria’s infrastructure to the world.
Mr Ekubo’s film debut was a supporting role in Lancelot Oduwa ‘Sinners in the house’ by Imasuen (2005). Since then, she has appeared in numerous big screen movies such as ‘Hire a woman’ (2019), ‘Bling Lagosians’ (2019), Hush (2019), ‘Omo Ghetto’ (2020), among many others.
‘Conversation in Transit’ is a film produced by Rogers Ofime and directed by Robert Peters. 95% of the movie scene is shot on a Lagos-Ibadan train route. However, production began in the Mobolaji Johnson Train StationYaba, Lagos State.
PT: What role would you play in ‘Conversation in Transit’?
Alex: My name is Alex Ekubo and I am playing the character ‘Mohammed’ in the movie ‘Conversation in Transit’.
PT: How long have you been on set?
Alex: I’ve been on set for over a week.
PT: How has the experience been?
Alex: I think it’s been amazing, working with all the cast and crew members, from executive producer, Rogers Ofime, I’ve worked with Rogers on a couple of projects, from ‘Tinsel’ to ‘Zero Hour,’ that we shot. In Abuja, and now we’re doing this big box office hit, called Conversation in Transit. As has been said, this is the first time that a movie has been shot entirely on a moving train in all of West Africa, and I am very excited about it. I remember seeing one of the James Bond installments shot on a moving train, and it was quite fascinating to think that we’re doing something similar here. It means that Nollywood is amazing. So a big thank you to the Federal Ministry of Transport for allowing this to happen, and we are completely happy.
PT: Let me take you back to when you first received the script. How did you feel?
Alex: When I first got the script and read it, I called Rogers (the executive producer). I said this was not possible. I was like, how was I going to pull all these strings? But Rogers told me that he had the minister’s permission to film on a real train, and I was like, ‘okay.’
PT: What were your doubts?
Alex: As an actor, there’s a natural intuition when you get this script and create a mental image of what you want to accomplish and get to the set, that it’s different. For example, you receive a script that Alex and Tana are on a private jet. The script says that they’re having a conversation on a private plane from Lagos to Peru, and when we get to the set, they arrange for you guys to be driving in the back of a car from the island to the mainland. Such a situation would make one wonder because he had imagined how he would bring that scene to reality as an actor. But I completely trust Rogers and the director, Robert Peter, who I’ve worked with a couple of times, he’s not a small fish and they’re used to a big production, so I believed in what they would be able to put up with.
PT: And being on set, did you change your mind?
Alex: From what I see on set, I’m really excited about this project and I know we’re going to make it.
PT: Have you worked with the director before?
Alex: I have worked with Robert Peters on several projects. He directed Zero Hour, starring RMD Rahama Sadau Uzee Usman, with whom I have a great working relationship.
PT: In your opinion, do you think that participating in this project would benefit your career?
Alex: First of all, I am honored and excited to be a part of this film. I feel like this movie will continue to be successful with me or without me, so just being able to do whatever it brings to the table is humbling. It’s already a box office hit without me or any individual cast. Sometimes in an actor’s life, they’re just happy to be a part of a project that would already be successful. And I’m so happy to have been considered for the role of Mohammed, and I’m happy to be among what I like to call a ‘Cocktail of Talen’.
PT: How has infrastructure helped the entertainment sector?
Alex: The right infrastructure can accentuate our images, it cannot be underestimated or exaggerated. I mean you can’t shoot in your absence. You can’t shoot what isn’t there. Many of us who watched a lot of Hollywood movies growing up already have a mental image of what America looks like just by watching its movies, which is not the same as reality. For example, I have been to New York and the response time of the police is not as fast as it is shown in the movies when an incident occurs. This is because the movies wrongly project a quick response time for the police. So you have a perfect image of America and you want to be there. That is what Nollywood is doing for Nigeria with this movie.
PT: Many have accused Nollywood of popularizing ritual murder. Do you agree?
Alex: It is wrong to blame Nollywood for the increasing cases of ritual murders in the country. We are pushing the country forward and trying to present the country better so that not even the government is doing it. So, for example, we’re here to show people that we have functional train routes from Lagos to Ibadan and Abeokuta, and if this infrastructure wasn’t here, we wouldn’t have this idea in the first place.
Alex Ekubo and Rahama Sadau in a scene from Conversation in Transit
PT: Does the role of Muhammad that you are playing take you away from your natural self?
Alex: So my character as Mohammed is one that I would call a love triangle between Usman, Rahama and myself, and my character’s background is from Northern Nigeria, and I have a strong Northern Nigerian background because I studied in Daura Federal Government College, Katsina, I also lived in Kano, I speak Hausa fluently, that helps my characterization, I guess it’s one of the things I’m bringing to the table when they wanted to cast me. He would be talking about Hausa a lot in the movie.
PT: Does the role take you out of your comfort zone?
Alex: I always say that there are no small actors or minor roles. I wish I could always bring something different to each characterization, so that people could say that I enjoyed Alex in Zero Hour. I enjoyed my role in ‘Bling Lagosians’ or any movie that has featured.