By BENJAMIN NJOKU
Ashionye Ugboh-Raccah is a talented singer and actress. Asides establishing a career in music, she has had good shots at acting featuring in M-net’s produced Doctor’s Quaters and Tinsel and later, Lilian Amah’s Jungle Ride which fetched her an AMAA nomination for Most Promising actress.
Recently, she concluded production of her gender inspired movie titled Journey to Self, where she is using the medium to denounce the prevailing ill-treatment that is often meted to the women in the society. In this interview, Ashionye talks about the project, her acting career and what binds her together with her oyinbo husband. Enjoy!!!
Given the storyline to your new movie “Journey to self”, can one be right to describe you as a feminist?
I’m not a feminist. If not, I wouldn’t have been happily married with a child. Actually, I believe in female empowerment. There are a lot of ordeals that women go through, which I believe as a woman, deserve to be addressed. That’s why when I have the opportunity to speak about empowering women, I quickly jump at the opportunity.
“Journey to Self” is a story that is being relayed through the eyes of these women because the same issues affect the men as well as the children in their lives. So, it’s a social issue addressed through the eyes of these women.
What message are you trying to convey?
A lot of messages are being conveyed through the movie, issues of wife battery, relationship in a family and other social malaise. I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag, I just want people to wait and see the movie when it hits the cinemas very soon. It’s a movie you can take your wife, and your kids to see in the cinemas. I believe people will relate to the story or the issues that these women went through in the movie.
How come you branched into producing films after a long absence from the screen?
After I had my son, I decided to take some time off the entertainment circuit. While I was on vacation, I started writing.
I was inspired to write after reading various stories online, and in the national dailies about a woman’s situation in the society.
I just started writing, I told my husband, I want to put my anger to paper; I want to express myself in the story.
Remember that I studied Mass Communication. I majored in broadcasting, I brought my experience as a mass communicator and my love for writing into play. It took me about three months to get the script ready.
At the initial stage, I wanted to sell the story. But when the company I approached wouldn’t want to procure the story because they were looking out for something else; I decided to produce the movie myself. At this point, I went all out to shop for sponsor, and a friend of mine, Osia Sido, who played Uche in the movie, introduced me to the owner of Fressia Entertainment. That’s how the relationship between Fressia Entertainment and Arikaku Media, which is my own production outfit started. We joined forces to produce the movie.
Judging from the movie, are you insinuating that women have not been fairly treated in our society?
Like I said before, the movie is addressing issues that women are going through in the society. But these issues also affect both the men and children in their lives. So I wouldn’t say women have not been fairly treated in our society. It depends on individual situation and individual life.
As a woman, I’m expressing myself, and I connect to women easily since I’m a woman. So I decided to feel the story through the eye of a woman. And since I got the information from real life experiences that I don’t need to be told and these issues affected the women.
You started out with Tinsel, that was where you made your name?
Not really, I started with “Doctor’s Quaters”which also was an M-net production in 2005. That was one of my very first acting on television and on stage, I did a “V- monolog: Nigerian story” and also, a stage play titled “Once upon a Mad “ produced by Kofi, a comedian.
Thereafter, I did a movie titled “Jungle Ride”which gave me two nominations; Best Upcoming Actress And Best Actress at AMAA and Naija Awards. “Doctors Quaters” was my very last television series before I went into producing my own movie “Journey to Self”.
Did you find it difficult to break into Nollywood?
I’m still trying to break into the industry because apart from “Journey to Self”, other movies I have done were “Mumu”,a comedy movie and “Jungle Ride” produced by Lilian Amah– Aluko who was on the set of Doctor’s Quaters” with me . Like I said earlier, I have a body of acting career and I still want to feel it. I’m hopeful, with “Journey to Self”, I will definitely break into Nollywood proper.
What new innovation are you bringing into the industry?
I’m an actress, a producer and a screen writer. As a screen play writer, I will like to write stories that really affect the Nigerian society. I have a peculiar style of writing that is uncommon in Nollywood. As a producer, I want to produce good movies that can challenge a lot of international movies whether Hollywood or Bollywood. And as an actress, I want to be given a challenging roles; roles that can bring out the stuff that I am made of.
While you lasted on the set of Tinsel, what would you remember as your greatest undoing?
Tinsel was funny. I didn’t have any challenge on the set of Tinsel. Even the boy, Dozie who played the role of my son, he was equally amazing. I learnt so much from the people on the set of Tinsel as well as they learnt from me. May want to ask how I got on the set of Tinsel, I travelled out of the country for a holiday and when I returned, I was invited for a reading which I did. That was how I joined the cast.
It wasn’t difficult because their was an existing character and they needed to introduce another character. I was asked to read for the new character as well as the existing one. But after the exercise, I was given the role of Monica Adewale which was the existing character.
Apart from acting , and producing, you also sing?
Like what one Rev. father said , if you have lots of talents ,don’t be shy to express yourself. I believe that I have lots of talents which I need to showcase to the world; be it radio , television and the big screen. I read Mass Communication in the university and I guess, the knowledge I acquired from school was what prompted me to go into radio and television presenting. The acting is inborn in me. I will say I started acting at a very young age as well as singing.
I remember when I was growing up, I used to perform for my parents in our living room. I have never been a shy person . As a child, I was an extrovert. I still have some other things I will love to do such as writing a book.
At what point , did you realise you could sing?
When I was about four years. My late mum used to be in the church choir and I guess , it rubbed off on me. I have an album and three singles already in the market. The last of it was produced by T.Y Mescode , and it is titled “Just a little Bit.” I took time away from the entertainment world working on my next album . I have the songs ready now, but I’m not a in a hurry to release the album. I’m in love with script writing and I want to concentrate on doing that for now. I have started writing another screenplay.
What would you say marriage have done for you?
Marriage have matured me. As a single woman, there were certain things I did that I can’ t do now. Marriage and the birth of my child have made me a lot more patient and matured person. I am a woman now. There are some things that I look at now as a wife and a mother, and I ignore. But back then, I wasn’t matured enough and I thought I was. I have been matured for over three years now.
How did you meet your husband?
I met my husband in 2001, we have known each other for over 11years. We met here, in Lagos.
Is it a new trend where Nollywood stars are falling for the ‘Oyinbos’?
This is not about going for the “Oyinbo’s” or the ‘Oyinbos’ coming for us. It’s about the relationship. It’ s not a matter of whether your husband is black or white. It depends on the relationship you have built over the years with him.
It depends on a lot of of things. And by the way, how many Nollywod actresses are married to the Oyinbos? I don’t see colour as an individual in marriage. My husband doesn’t see colour either. I believe that the actresses that you are referring to, and their husbands don’t see colour too. That’s why they decided to marry. The world is one colour to me, but don’t ask me which colour.
You might see my husband as a white man, but I don’t see him that way. After all, my husband was born in Kano and he speaks Hausa fluently. He is a Nigerian as much as you are a Nigerian too. So, I don’t see colour in our marriage.
What was the reaction of your parents when you introduced him to you?
There was no opposition. My dad knew I have been in a relationship with him for awhile. So, there was no reason for him to oppose the marriage. He was very happy to welcome another son-in-law into our family. The relationship between my husband and my father was fantastic.
Now that you are back in Nollywood, have the scripts started flying into your hands?
I have gotten some offers for movies that will shot early next year. And I have accepted to star in those movies. They are two movies at the moment.