IT’S hard to spot you at premieres like this. What is A Wish all about?
Sometimes, ignorance makes you think you have cancer when you don’t have
it. You may even think it is not curable. Cancer can actually be cured
at some stages. That’s what the story is all about. It’s also about
people who fall sick to what they are going through. People thought that
cancer was contagious and so on and so forth. It also talks about what
government is doing to help people who are suffering from this ailment.
So the story is aimed at helping people become more knowledgeable about
You never really know what it feels to have cancer until you have had a
firsthand case. Have you ever been close to someone who had cancer?
Oh yeah, my neighbour just died. And incidentally, she was my aunt. She
just died of cancer of the breast. It was in the village. She died about
three months ago. They didn’t know what it was. But it started when she
was trying to help someone, and she hit her breast on something,
leading to a lump on the breast. And she was attributing it to that
accident. Only God knows where the lump came from. And they were
treating it locally until the thing got bad. She has so many children
that are enlightened, but they didn’t know the lump was cancerous and
eventually she died.
Do you think premieres are increasing the sales of movie in Nigeria?
Yes, because people are getting more and more enlightened. It is
increasing the sales of movies. And it is making people more exposed. If
you premiere a movie and people get to watch it at the premiere, they
will know whether or not to bring it home for the children. For the
producer, it’s an opportunity for people to criticise your work before
it gets into the market. But again, premiere is a way of trying to
create night life for the people. There is fun in coming to watch a
movie with others. It’s like watching a football match in company of
others. That’s what premiering is doing now. It’s making people more
attached to movies. And people are beginning to see movies as a
classical thing. It’s no longer a local thing.
You are one actress that’s a producer’s toast any day. What stands you out from other actresses of your age?
I wouldn’t know. But most of the time, they tell you are a marketable
face. I have lots of fans and people want to watch my movies. Every
producer wants to use me because at least they are sure of the market
(laughs). By God’s grace, it’s no man’s power.
Talking about stereotype, have you gotten to that point where you feel saturated playing almost the same kind of role all the time?
Even Arnold Schwarzenegger has something to play. He’s known for
action films. Some people are known for stunts, others are known for
romance. So it’s not a problem. It was when I was coming up that I
thought it was going to kill me. I didn’t know that it was going to lift
me to a height I didn’t even imagine. And you know, the roles I play
are very vibrant, and it makes people want to watch me. Even if I play a
good woman now, my fans will start complaining. And if your fans start
complaining, it means producers will then give the vibrant roles more.
After all, I didn’t ask for it. And with each script I get, I know that
something new is coming, because I know that so many people are out
there waiting to watch what I have to offer. I try to make it different
from what I have done before. It’s not easy to play a vibrant role like
mine. I tell you the truth, to cry and shout and do all at the same time
is not easy. So it’s difficult to find people who can do it. I didn’t
even know when I walked into it. I didn’t know.
Call you recall how it all started?
I think the question should be ‘what was that movie that gave producers
the courage to start giving me that kind of role’? It was a gradual
process. The role I played in Amina, the director was the late Ndubisi
Okoh of blessed memory. And then I played another one that looks like it
with late Nelly Uchendu in Odum.
So these two movies now gave producers the courage to talk to other
producers about me. He told the producer that if he should watch Amina
and Odum, he’s sure that he will be convinced about me. So they now gave
me a similar role in Authority. I wasn’t even paid much. But all the
things that I lost in the financial aspect, I got from the leverage it
has given to me. As soon as I played that role, oh my goodness! It just
took me to where I never thought I would get to.
When I was playing it, I didn’t even know what I was doing, but it
came out so beautiful. And it was also the work of the director. He
really worked on me. He told me I was fast at speech; I could say a lot
of things within a twinkle of an eye, you know I worked on radio. And
you know on radio, you have limited time to say so many things. So it
affected my speech speed. He drew my attention to it. So when we were
doing My Husband with late Jennifer Osai, the director called me and
said, ‘I love your reaction, but you really have to watch your speech
speed’, that was director Chika Onu. I took it in because I was taught
in Radio Nigeria to read to myself. That has really helped me to cut down on my speech speed. Chika Onu was also the director of Authority. He worked on me.
Of course, the reactions will come from you, but the director will
always tell you what he wants. At a stage, if I’m working with Chika
Onu, he will say ‘Mama, I trust you to just give it to me’. He wouldn’t
even want to direct me on what to do because he builds me up with the
help of other directors. It’s usually good to learn from different
directors. I learnt from the likes of Chika Onu, Andy Chukwu, Afam
Okereke, all of them. In fact, I am lucky because I had the opportunity
to work with so many directors.
Almost every movie I shot was from different directors. And you learn
from this, you learn from another person and you gather them together.
If you are wise enough, you know what this particular director says he
doesn’t want. It’s building a house, removing some bricks and putting
some. It really worked out.
You just lost a colleague, Pete Eneh. What do you have to say about him as a colleague?
I don’t even want to remember it. I would want to say here that it was
through Pete Eneh that I came into the industry. We were so close. And I
don’t even know how to face the family. Up till now I have not gone
What do you miss most about broadcasting?
Well, what I really miss in broadcasting I get in acting. You know it
was retrenchment that affected me. It was like removing a baby’s mouth
from his mother’s breast. That was how I felt when I lost my job in
broadcasting, but it was God’s will that this one came up.
Did you see it coming?
No. But even when I was into broadcasting, I was also acting on radio. This one came because it was in the programme of God.