THAT'S LIFE: Are you the lead actor in your life?

Saturday March 18 2017

Actor Will Smith and former boxing world

Actor Will Smith and former boxing world champion Lennox Lewis will serve as pallbearers together with six other people during Muhammad Ali's funeral Friday, a spokesman said. PHOTO| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP 

While many movie buffs prefer to choose something to watch by genre, I’m the type that is drawn to movies depending on who the lead actor is. I’ll pick any movie by Hollywood greats Will Smith, Viola Davis or Nollywood greats like Genevive Nnaji. There is something about these leading ladies and gentlemen. They don’t just take a role, the role takes them, making them so believable that for a few hours we forget any other previous role they have played. For instance, in the 2015 movie Concussion that is based on a true story, Will Smith plays Nigerian-born pathologist Bennet Omalu, complete with Nigerian accent. Yet who can forget how he transformed into the great boxing legend in Ali? Perhaps what sets these actors apart, is they don’t just dip their toes in the water, they dive into the soul of every role they play.

Our lives demand that we do the same. Everyday when we wake up, we are wittingly or unwittingly writing and acting out the movie of our life. Will it be a page turning tragedy, a romantic comedy, horror or epic drama? Believe it or not, we can define what category we fall under regardless of the cards we are dealt. However, there are three critical actions that leading men and women take on the big screen that we should emulate in our lives.

First, we need to take the lead in our drama. It seems quite obvious but you would be surprised how many of us have minor roles in the story of our lives. This happens when we live to please people or live by someone else’s design for our life, be they a parent or a boss. Leading actors don’t do this. They expect and receive the most screen time. They don’t let anyone steal their show or their thunder. Their story is told through their eyes and in their voice. Perhaps it is time to get from behind the shadow of other figures in your life, and start figuring out what you want, and then going for it.

They capture our imagination or lose it. Some actors are so enthralling that you will watch them fight villains one moment or spiders the next. The energy and interpretation they bring to a role can keep you glued to the screen and make you return for a rerun. In other instances, when an actor or storyline fails to hold your interest, you find yourself turning off the television before the show is half-way through. Think about it. Is the story of your life boring? Would movie-makers want to buy the rights to telling it? Would anyone pay to watch it? Would anyone even watch it for free? If not, perhaps you need to rethink your life script and how you are interpreting your role in it. Poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote, “If your everyday life seems poor, don’t blame it; blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor indifferent place.” If your life seems boring, use what the greatest playwrights, directors and actors rely on to create a masterpiece on screen or on stage – the powers of creativity and imagination.

The leading ladies or leading men save the day. Think about the dramas that capture our attention. They are all usually about solving a problem or dilemma, from aliens invading the earth to the nerdy guy who cannot win the affection of the woman he admires. Life, too, constantly presents us with daily challenges, the idea being that we should not run away from or wish away our problems but grow and find a way to solve them. Or simply just live with them. Whatever life throws your way, from health, relationship or career dilemmas, you the “starring” in your own show are meant to solve them. As the main act, you are the hero of your story. Yes, you may enlist the help of comrades, but you must not abdicate your position or personal responsibility to yourself. Refuse to play the victim card or to be a passive observer in your life’s story, and instead take charge of what you can control. In all great dramas, the actions or inaction both positive and negative, of the leading stars ultimately redeem or destroy them. In short, it’s your life, sort it out.