By AYO ONIKOYI, Entertainment Editor
Nollywood actor, Toni Fredricks has only been in the industry for five years but he is already looking like the genuine article that could bring home the goods. Having sacrificed a lucrative job to pursue his dream, Toni is not looking at any elevator to propel him to stardom, he is ready to take the stairs and pay his dues.
Speaking with Star Tracker, the uptown actor takes on issues rocking the movie industry. His take on homosexuality, prostitution in the industry and sordid state of artiste’ welfare is as refreshing as it is disturbing.
Since you got into Nollywood what have been your fascinations with the industry?
For me, it was like a call to creativity. My pastor, my friends, and family were always asking me to give one reality show or the other a try, because they believed I am highly talented and creative. In 2011, I remember receiving a call from one Sandra Idubor, who asked me to report for a shoot on the set of Esuku, directed by Sandra Idubor. I had just returned from Milan after having worked with West African Oilfield Services (WAOS), and I knew then it was time. Today, Nollywood has given me a better and bigger platform to touch lives as I have fun doing what I love to do with a wider audience for me to showcase my talents. The whole world is about to find out what I’ve got inside, that not only can I perform as an artist and model, I can also write good scripts too. Someone has even suggested that I could make a good director – fascinating, isn’t it?
How easy was it for you to break in and how was your first experience on set?
There wasn’t like a big wall to break but if you mean the challenges I faced beginning with that first day on Licensed to Kill set, the major thing I think I was challenged with is that thing about not wanting to stop. I just wanted to keep on going, sometimes on top speed that I hardly had time for myself and of course, one has got to deal with very fake people around. I am not saying there aren’t wonderful people, there are so many and so are the fake ones.
How many films have you done and how many lead roles?
Licensed to Kill directed by Engr. Orlu; Rendezvous directed by Kufre George; City of Wizards directed and produced by Barr. Ekwu; Beyond Pardon directed by Okey Zubelu Okoh; Mud of Hardship directed by Amechi Ukeje; World of Lust directed by Okey Zubelu Okoh; Chocolate Pinging Salon directed by Okey Zubelu Okoh; Girls of Honor directed by Okey Zubelu Okoh), and the award-winning Primitive where I played the lead as Eloka. It was directed by Iyke Odife. There are many other jobs we shot early this year that are still at the studio going through editing.
Is it true that some actresses now use the industry as a platform for prostitution?
It’ll be ridiculous for me to say it that way because I don’t call those prostitutes actresses. They are simply prostitutes, sex traders who have infiltrated the industry and made it look like it’s a prerequisite for becoming an actress. It’s pathetic but I know a lot of decent actresses who are doing very well.
So, how do you identify the real ones from the fake ones?
Prostitution is an industry on its own. I remember someone telling me that they’ve got registration and an organised setup. Anyways, it’s easy to detect that this or that lady doesn’t have it at all as regards creativity in front of the camera, you know, apart from the good looks and their general craze with public show of nudity. But of course, by their fruits, they shall be known. It’s pretty easy to discern them; we call them gate crashers.
Why is it that most actresses claim they cannot date their male counterparts?
I sincerely don’t know their reasons and I won’t say that I have not heard anything like that before now. But if I were a lady, there are some of our colleagues that I can’t date. Jeez! Some fake broke skints living above their income – they call it packaging. No sane lady with genuine intentions would date those kinds of guys or what do you think?
Will you say acting is lucrative in Nigeria?
Lucrative is relative, but if you mean profit, in my opinion, the answer is no. Acting is far from being lucrative in Nigeria for now, which is why I love the recent amalgamation of all registered guilds in the industry (South Central precisely), coming up with tremendous ideas geared towards rehabilitating the industry and motivated by the need to sanitise it.
They say sexual harassment is not limited to females as victims in the industry, that males too have their own share of it, what’s your say?
Well, sexual harassment has become a hazard with every industry. We hear people being harassed in banks, hotels, oil companies and so on; it is not exclusive to Nollywood. Talking about guys having their share of the harassment thing, I think it’s no more a secret that homosexuals are all over the place as well as lesbians but the thing is, how do you ascertain who’s harassing who.
A guy once told me he had to quit acting because of homosexuality, how rampant is it?
That’s unbelievable, quit acting because of homosexuality? Has he got tired of practicing it or something?
Because they never stopped coming to him to submit himself in exchange for juicy roles?
If we are not careful with this, we may be insinuating that the guys that get juicy roles got them by submitting themselves. No, that will give a wrong impression. Life is a choice, and you are privileged with the gift of freewill, it is not true that a good actor will have to leave the industry because some homosexuals are asking him out. Questions are, do these so-called homosexuals own the industry? Or is it a crime to turn them down and move on? And I tell you what, talented actors are being sought after by serious movie makers, that’s why you have auditions here and there and not for some homosexual bullshit.
Have you dated an actress before?
Yes, I have
What was the experience like and why are you not still together?
She was an extremely nice person. She got married and we both moved on, and I continued searching for my Miss right.
Can you highlight three major professional areas Nollywood needs to address?
Number one is mediocrity. In this age, it has become a disappointment and distasteful to the sense of creativity to see the amount of substandard movies in the market now with no regards to professionalism. Some guys have recently resorted to pornographic stuff on the internet and it is disgusting indeed. And that brings me to the next point, funding, which I heard is their major reason for resorting to half baked movie.
A wise government recognises the impact and viability of the movie industry to their economies and they come to invest, like giving grants to genuine movie makers. It is possible but here in Nigeria, I don’t understand why the story is always the other way round, always looking the wrong direction. I wish the ministry of tourism or any concerned citizen would see this and say hey, Toni Fredricks come forward and let’s work it out.
I made my researches, and discovered the reason you hear almost every now and then about the death of an artiste and how do they die? They just slump and that is it, just like that. I was sharing with a director friend of mine that the simple reason is that artistes in Nollywood, especially the so-called upcoming ones are not being treated fairly. I don’t want to blame the artiste based on the principle of negotiation because as long as you are not playing on a standard, a minimum wage at least, there are bound to be irregularities. From this point of view, it looks like the whole thing is structured to favour the producer and his executive producer, at the detriment of the artiste.
You see, you don’t expect everyone to have attained a level I call ‘the liberation of the stomach’, the artiste has two major targets career wise; fame and fortune. And for this artiste, who finds him/herself dealing with a wicked producer accepts any offer grudgingly in the name of ‘I’m going to make you a star’ and over works himself on the job, breaks down or worse still, slumps and dies because of what – poor working conditions? So, I think that the Actors Guild should look into this area more critically. Yes, the AGN President, Ibinabo Fibresima is a wonderful person, she is really a mother, but a lot is still asking for serious attention beyond politics. Somebody said it is one of the reasons SCENT was formed and I’m optimistic!