Her name Modupe Mariah Johnson might not ring a bell in the ears of
Nollywood enthusiasts especially those of the Yoruba movie genre but
just mention “Faliwerepe” and you see heads turning in her direction.
In a recent chat with City People, Faliwerepe who became famous after her role in the famous Batawahala
Yoruba soap opera of the late 80s and early 90s, talked about her career, her family and so much more.
Who gave you the name Faliwerepe and how did it stick to you?
The name Faliwerepe came through the famous Yoruba soap of the late 80s and early 90s titled “Bata Wahala” by Ajimajasan.
That soap had a very interesting storyline of a man who married 27 wives
and I happen to be the last wife and I was the most troublesome and
cantankerous in the house hold. And because of my cantankerous nature I
was tagged as Faliwerepe which came from my name Falilat in the soap.
People started calling me Fali-Werepe, meaning that I am troublesome and
very, very prone to anger and all sort of things known to people of
that nature. Werepe is a plant that once it touches your body, you will
just be troubled all day long. So, in a nutshell, I got the name from
Ajimajasan’s film Bata Wahala (The crisis laden shoe)
Your voice and mannerism in life tallies with your character in the movies, will you say that is truly who you are in real life?
Ah, ah, that can never be true. I can never be Faliwerepe in the movie
and be Faliwerepe in real life. Faliwerepe is different from Modupe
Johnson and Modupe Johnson is not Faliwerepe. The truth is that we only
use our adopted characters in movie roles to illustrate things or
serious issues of life. For instance, the movie Bata Wahala was used to
correct the ills of polygamy in the society; do you know that after that
film, we saw a lot of Nigerians who had more than a wife came and
reduce their harem. It was a big eye opener for them because there is no
how you will gather a harem and you won’t have a Faliwerepe among them,
so, my character in the movies is not my personality in real life. It
is just the other side of me that teaches people on serious issues of
life. I am a gentle person by nature although I don’t condone cheating.
Can you say your inability to be educated in life have robbed on your success in the movie industry?
Far from it, yes I can say I still feel guilty that I didn’t get a full
education but let me also tell you that nothing an educated person has
gotten that I have not gotten through movie. Through acting I have
raised educated children and travelled all over. I have built houses and
when I say houses, I won’t like to say maybe it is one or two. But at
least I am a landlady through my gift of acting. I have travelled to
several countries of the world and the last time I went to America I was
even making jest of myself; I said when we were growing they used to
sing that “Bata Re a dun koko-ka (2ce) to’o ba kawe re, bata re a dun
koko ka” (Your shoe will make the Kokoka noise (2ce) if you read your
book, your shoe will make the Koko ka noise”. And I said, ‘look at me,
despite the fact that I didn’t read my shoe is still doing ko-ko-ka .
What if I now read (Laughter). But the fact remains that education is
the best asset you can give a child, no matter how gifted the child is,
you must give education to that child, for me, maybe my rare creativity
as an actress made some way for me. My peculiar nature, my peculiar
creativity and all that but not withstanding, I will always advise young
people especially the female child to go to school. Life changes
everyday and education remains the only current that will pay your life
What would you say
are the major challenges of being a veteran actress especially with the
emergence of young actresses all over town?
I can’t say one is outdated in stuff, you can not be taken out of your
own stuff; there will never be two Faliwerepe, there will never be two
Iyabo-Oko, there will never be two Mama Rainbow, you are what you are by
the special grace of God. Yes, we reinvent ourselves because change is
the only thing that will last a decade or a century. And for those
emerging girls, we also try to educate them and put them through; life
can never be rich without the advice of the elderly. You must listen to
those who have seen it earlier before you, that is why God made it for
us to have our fathers and mothers before we become adults. Talking
about being a veteran actress, I will say that does not affect my stuff
as an actress but in terms of make up, I am above 50 and at times, when
your body is aging, things you do as a young person might start eluding
you. For instance, I like laying my eye lash as a young girl but now, if
I try doing it the thing will just slip up and become a total mess, so
what I do is that I go along with my make-up artiste anywhere I go.