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How did you get into Nollywood? I was there some years ago, in 1996 and I played some very good roles; actually lead roles but I left because I was in school at the same time and it was clashing with school so I needed to choose which one I was going to do at that moment. I felt the industry was there, its not running away but school I need to f...
How did you get into Nollywood?
I was there some years ago, in 1996 and I played some very good roles; actually lead roles but I left because I was in school at the same time and it was clashing with school so I needed to choose which one I was going to do at that moment. I felt the industry was there, its not running away but school I need to finish because I did not want to be a dropout. I finished school then I got married right after school so I relocated out of the country. While I was there every time I watched Nigerian films I was like 'oh look at my colleagues, if I was there I would do this or that' and I just wasn't happy. We decided to back home and I knew I had to do this because nothing else would make me happy.
I actually got a job offer in an oil company, I went for the interview and my heart was pounding and I was wondering 'what am I doing here? This is not my life,' and so I left. I didn't take the job even though they offered me more money than what the person that finally got the job got, this was because they really wanted me. After that I started trying to get back into the industry and it was the most difficult thing I have ever done in my life because it seemed nobody wanted anybody to come. But I kept trying and somehow somewhere I met Emem Isong and she believed in Lancelot Imasuen and I as well and they started starring me in their movies and it just started like that.
I write scripts as well and sometimes Emem and myself write together and while we are writing she would say 'this character will be nice for you to play,' and then I would play it. Lancelot actually starred me in two of his movies when I was young so he remembered me from then and he said, 'you know what, if you were still around you would have been on top so let's take you back to the top.'
I made my own movie with my friend Blessing Effiong titled The Rivals and it won the Best International Drama at the New York International Film Festival last year. It was a great movie; everybody loved it.
Did you formally train to be an actress?
No, I studied foreign languages. Acting is just a talent, something I have always done right from when I was three, in church or in school; I would be in every play. If you don't put me I don't think the play would happen.
What are some of the movies you did in the 90s?
I did Not My Will and Destined To Die with Fedilis Duker, I also did Another Campus Tale with Hilda Dokubo. I can't remember the others now but these ones I mentioned I played the lead role in them.
Getting back into the industry, how did your former colleagues react?
They were nice to me but a lot of them couldn't help, not because they didn't want to but because they were not in the position to. At times I would go on a set and you know there are so many new actresses that didn't know me and then they might want to be snobbish because they thought I was new. And if any of my old colleagues were there they would stand up for me. In one instance Stella Damasus was there and she said 'you guys don't know this chick, she started playing lead roles before I did,' so I would say they were actually quite nice.
Do you think what you studied in school and your sojourn abroad has influenced your career?
Sure, I believe my experiences outside the country helped me in the way I write and in the way I interpret my characters and when I write I think differently. My English is different because I read other people's scripts and some of them make me feel, 'what is this?' I mean we don't all have to write and sometimes I can be blunt and say 'this script is not really nice, get someone to make it better,' because the movie starts from the script. If the script is not good then there is no way the movie is going to come out good even if you bring the best technical people then it will be a lousy story that was beautifully done.
How do you combine the work of an actress, film producer and scriptwriter?
I am more of an actress than any of the others, acting is where my passion is. I went into producing because I wanted to see something out of the ordinary, something that was different from what I was used to, I just wanted to see something nice that's why I produced The Rivals. I will probably do it again. Writing is a hobby, something I have done since I was little and it is not a moneymaking venture.
Compare Nollywood then and when you tried re-entering it?
Things have changed, equipments are better and people have learnt over the years. I am not sure about the stories though; I do believe we had better stories back then than now because there were some really good movies you can't forget like Onome and Amaka Igwe's Violated. People still talk about them till today. I don't know if we really have movies like that nowadays but in terms of technology we are not where we were before, if you watch old movies you will say nollywood has changed.
What do you think we need to do now to better the industry?
We need to be more professional for instance so many people jump from set to set; you are just finishing one movie and you move to the next one immediately, there is no way you are not going to bring something from the last one into the new one. As it is you don't have a breather in-between, you don't know your script because you see it for the first time when you get on set. There is no way you are going to give a 100 per cent because you are only human. I will not call any names but some people are the same no matter what they are playing. It may be a different character but you are still you, you are not bringing anything new to that character, you are just playing yourself over and over again and people are beginning to get bored. They are beginning to say, 'I am tired of seeing so and so because he is always like that without any difference no matter what he is playing.'
The producers need to take time to do better jobs, they need to plan well, not just do like 20 jobs in a year and do whatever you want to do. Even if you are going to do like three jobs then take your time; plan it properly, get the best, get a good script, make sure it is tight then plan towards that shoot. If you plan, plan and plan again when it is time to shoot it will go smoothly. But if you don't then you experience chaos within the shoot. Also, we can learn especially in regards to sound; sound needs to be dealt with in Nollywood.
Is there any difficulty combining being married and being an actress?
First of all my husband is 110 per cent supportive of what I do, he trusts me and he knows its just my job. At the end of the day I do my thing and leave. I am not going there to look for a boyfriend or a lover. I am not thinking 'Oh, this guy is this or that,' because I am content with what I have, which is my husband. Really, I can't even see any guy in the industry that is better looking than him or anything, in my opinion so why would I want to go after an actor. An actor cannot even fulfil my needs because he is always busy so why would I even want to go there when I have someone who is caring, loving, sweet and really good looking; someone I can look at everyday and say thank God I didn't make a mistake.
How do you think a married actress can combine both roles so that she does not give less to either her career or her home?
I am not at home a lot but when I am everybody knows I am; the kids know I am know and my husband knows because I am there for them. I just make sure that I am the total wife the total mother, doting on everybody. So, my advice is, when you are there be there, you can't be there all the time even bankers are not there all the time so when you are, make sure they feel your presence. Do not start nagging or quarrelling when you are around otherwise they won't even want you to be there and when you are not around they will even be happier. So, when you are there just be the best wife and mother you can be.
What are you working on and what are we expecting from you?
I have starred in about 10 movies but they are not out. I hear they are advertising Sweet Tomorrow so that should be coming out soon. But Rivals, Unfinished Business, Fatal Imaginations and Yahoo Millionaires are all out. I urge everyone to expect the best because I will always give the best. I will always strive to be on top, I am not trying to take second position because I try to be the best in everything I do so I am shooting for the top.
Caught In The Middle