With over a hundred movies in the kitty, the screen goddess, who’s currently the Special Assistant on Culture & Tourism to Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State, speaks on her latest movie production, Heaven on My Mind, in partnership with fellow actress, Uche Jombo.
How was 2018 for you, any regrets?
I don’t have any regrets whatsoever. As a matter of fact, 2018 was a great year for me. I’m thankful and hopeful for a better 2019.
Talking about 2019, what should fans expect from you and what are you looking forward to?
My fans should expect nothing short of the best. 2019 is going to be another great year. Like I said earlier, I’m looking forward to a better 2019, not just for me as a person or an actress but also for my fans, friends and well wishes, and, of course, our nation, Nigeria.
As the 2019 general elections draw closer, what do you have to say to your fans and Nigerians at large?
Stay safe and if you must go out to vote, vote right and vote wise. Stay out of trouble. Don’t allow yourself to be used by any politician and avoid anything that can bring you pain and discomfort.
You feature more in movies produced by your friends and this has given rise to speculation that producers can’t afford you…
Well, I wouldn’t say that. I’ve just been featured in a movie I did not produce. It’s a film produced by Mo’ Abudu. So, I won’t say it’s because they can’t afford me. I decided to slow it down a little and just be selective of what I am part of, for obvious reasons.
Most times the worst script comes with lots of money. If a story is not so great, a producer would want to use you because he feels he needs somebody like you to bring it to life and they’d want to pay anything just to have you in it, but at the end of the day, when the film comes out, you feel bad you did it.
So for me, it’s not just about the money. If I’m passionate about the story, it really doesn’t matter how much I’m being paid. I don’t use money as a yardstick before going into a project.
There’ve been some projects where the money wasn’t that great but because I really loved the script, I did it. So in all, I’m just taking my time and being selective.
Why did you choose to go into production?
I think I’m one of the first actors who started movie production. I also think I’m one of the first actors who took their films to cinema. I don’t know if you remember when I did I Will Take My Chances with Emem Isong.
And that’s also what gave birth to a new actor, Bryan Okwara. That’s the way I give back to the industry. When you’ve been in an industry for a long time and all you did were things that were handed over to you by others, and you think things should be done in a certain way, you would want to be part of that change you want to see.
Now, there’s a journey that’s already on and that’s the cinema culture. When I did I Will Take My Chances, we did not have a lot of cinematographers in Nigeria, so we brought in cinematographers from Hollywood and that was because we wanted to do something different and meet up with international standards.
But today, we have so many cinematographers in Nigeria. It cost us so much but it was the beginning of something and now everybody is on it. You just don’t sit down and expect things to be done magically; be part of the change you want to see and you’ll get there somehow. See what’s going on today in the industry. I am proud and grateful to God that I was able to play a role. When we did Knocking On Heaven’s Door, what a lot of people don’t know was that the story just fell on my laps. The owners of that project wanted me to produce it and I brought Emem Isong in and they wanted me to play the lead character and we were going to do the entire song miming thing.
For sure I can’t sing so I insisted on using a new actor; they actually wanted me and another guy with a known face but I insisted on bringing in a totally new person on board and that’s what gave rise to Adesua Etomi and Blossom Chukwujekwu. That was their first jobs but today see who they are. I just feel very privileged to make such impact even though it may not be so celebrated but it just feels good to know that I’ve been able to do this. The latest one with Uche Jombo, Heaven On My Mind is mind-blowing.
Why production? Isn’t it possible for one to stick to acting alone?
Why not? It’s very possible. There’s no law that says an actor must produce; it’s a choice. Like I said, if you want change and you want to be part of the bigger picture, you just have to grow and explore. There are some of my colleagues who’ve been there longer than I am but have never produced a film; there’s no law that says you must produce.
Looking at where Nollywood is now, is there something that’s not been done that you’d like to do?
What I’m looking forward to is that day when we’ll get to a point we’ll be making so much income that we could actually live the big names we are known for. In Hollywood for instance, you don’t need to do 20 movies in a year to make it. If you do two films, you’re good to go; that is good compared to us. I’m hoping to see Nollywood get to a point where you do one job in a year and it takes care of the rest. Right now, our films are acceptable everywhere. Our industry has grown, I just want our pockets to grow to that level as well.
And for your pocket to grow to that level, what are the things you think should be done better?
I think distribution should be done better because the more people see the film, the more money you make. Hollywood films are watched all over the world. We haven’t gotten there yet, we are still around Africa and some parts of America I think. But by the time we get to a place where countries that don’t understand Nigerian languages subtitle our films to watch, then, I think we’d be better-off and every other thing will follow.