Award-winning Nollywood actress has been in the eye of the storm since her debut production effort with her movie Being Mrs Elliot. With some still questioning her experience as a director and producer, the actress chose to do something no one has ever done before – premiering her film at Aso Rock. Only for the eyes of the President, his vice, senators and other top government officials.
Since she achieved the feat, tongues have been wagging as to the motive of the idea. Here, with Weekend Groove, Omoni bares it all. Excerpts:
By Juliet Ebirim
You recently premiered your movie ‘Being Mrs Elliot’ at Aso Rock, what was it like?
It was very interesting. I honestly didn’t believe it was going to happen. The Film Producers and Marketers Association of Nigeria actually wrote to the presidency. We just thought, Well, they are too busy, they won’t answer us. But to our greatest surprise, they agreed. Even till after the event, I was still telling my assistant that if I woke up and realise that it’s all a dream, I would be very unhappy. I kept thinking it wasn’t happening, that it wasn’t real. I think it’s a very big achievement for Nollywood as a whole, because when things like this happen, it makes other people believe that they can even do more. For us, it’s a big thing. The president said Nollywood has put Nigeria on the map and has affected the economy of the nation in so many ways, which is why he’s doing all he can to ensure that the industry gets all the support it needs .
So you think this has given the industry a big boost?
It is a big achievement for the industry. Every other person is going to be thinking “What else can I do that will top the presidential screening?”. It means that the industry will get better, because everyone will be thinking about doing something bigger and better, and that’s the way we grow. It’s healthy competition, it becomes unhealthy when you’re trying to pull me down, because you want to be on top.
How did you feel screening your movie exclusively to the president?
It wasn’t just the president; the Vice-President, PDP Chairman, the Senators, Ministers, Elder Statesmen and some Governors. It was a huge event. I was sitting at the hightable with all these people. Not even in my wildest dream did I think I’d ever get to that point where I would sit on the same hightable with the president and his ministers and it’s about me. I played two roles in the movie and the president was like “How did you do it?”. He commended the movie which had a bit of culture and tourism in it. I shot in Ekiti, Asaba and Lagos. He said the quality of the movie was very good.
What was the inspiration behind the story?
I just wanted to do something that people can sit back, relax and have fun. It’s drama/romantic comedy. Nigerians work hard, that’s the truth and they’re stressed out day in, day out, I just need them to relax and laugh away their troubles. At the same time, it’s a story that you have to concentrate to understand it. But it’s a feel-good movie.
You are one actress that has been able to stay scandal free, how have you been able to achieve that?
The truth is I am who I am. I’m not trying to stay scandal free. I’m just me. Nobody is perfect. It would be unfair for me to portray a squeaky clean image. I’m just like the regular person out there. Everyone has their good and bad side. I’m just being who I am.
What is unique about you?
It’s favour and the truth is favour is not fair. God just decides to smile on a person. I’ve had my bad times of course. Last year, there were times when I was crying everyday for months. Did anybody hear about it?. This things just happen, it’s just God’s favour and grace. I’m not going to let anything pull me down or steal my shine. I don’t read blogs, so all those things they say don’t matter to me. The people who matter to me are those who really know me. My true fans know who I am and my true intentions.
For how long have you been acting?
It’s always a difficult question for me to answer because there was a break in between. It’s dishonest to count the years I was on break. I acted for a while I was in the university for about a year plus. But I left it for over a decade and then I came back.
Was it easy for you when you came back?
It was tough. Nobody remembered me. I was the new girl as far as everyone was concerned. I came at a point in the industry when nobody wanted a new girl. There were a number of established female actors, who were just in every movie and nobody wanted a new person. It was tough to break in. It was really difficult and the fact that I was also married was like a stumbling block. I’m not going to change my marital status, because I want to be in a movie. Over the years, persistence and consistency paid off. Another thing that made it difficult for me was that I also towed a path, that most people don’t. I wanted to do only good movies.
Weren’t you interested in the money?
Money wasn’t really the motivation. It wasn’t as if I didn’t need money, I did. In fact, many times I was broke and I needed money badly. I was brought up in a way that you don’t do a bad thing because you need money. If the script wasn’t good enough, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. My fans are going to watch it and they’re going to be disappointed. I don’t want to do things that would insult people’s intelligence and even mine. It really made things difficult for me.
Screening your movie in Aso Rock, was it about money?
It wasn’t about money. When they told us that they would give us audience to do the screening,they asked me what I wanted and I said I wanted nothing. All I said is that they should see the movie and give their blessings, that, that alone is for the industry. The president even said it at the event that he doesn’t have any money to give. So if anybody is saying something else, it’s their problem. It’s the same small purse I went with that I came back with. After the event, I and my colleagues came back to Lagos the next day. I didn’t stay back in Abuja. No money was given.
Your husband is a dominant figure, he’s everywhere with you. What role has he played in advancing your career?
A lot of people don’t know that Nnamdi is my manager which is why he’s there.
How does he manage that with his job?
He works for himself, his time is his own. So it’s easier for him to take out time to be with me if I need him. He’s not there with me every time. He’s a modern day person, he’s not a traditional man who believes a woman has to do this and that. As an actress, you can’t be married to a traditional man. You are just going to have issues. You will have to leave the career or the man.
What do you mean by being traditional?
There are some who believe that a woman’s place is in the home, a woman shouldn’t do this and that. This is one of the reasons why a lot of actresses have issues in their marriage. Another thing that happens is that the man starts competing with you. Nnamdi is not interested in the limelight at all. For him, it’s like; It’s your thing, I’m going to be the wind beneath your wings, just keep flying. He’s the push that I have. If he wasn’t with me, I don’t think I would have gotten this far. He’s the one that says, Don’t worry, it’s okay.
Was it a deliberate decision making him your manager?
Yes. Initially, I had a management company that was managing me, but it wasn’t working for me because we had different values. I decided to use someone whose values are almost the same as mine. It worked and the money remains in the family.
Are you owing anyone or banks over this project?
No, I’m not. I’m not owing anybody. I’ve shot two other movies after Being Mrs Elliot, though not that big and they’re still in post production. When I called my crew members to come and work, one thing they said was, She doesn’t owe and so they came quickly. I don’t believe that someone should work and not get paid.