By Juliet Ebirim
Fast-rising Nollywood actress, Calista Okoronkwo is one thespian who has been able to create a niche for herself in the Nigerian make-believe industry. In this interview with Juliet Ebirim, the beautiful and talented dark-skinned beauty who has featured in over thirty movies spoke about her career, relationship, challenges among other issues. Read on…
Who is the real Calista Okoronkwo?
The real Calista Okoronkwo is polite, God-fearing, cheerful and easy-going. I love to cook and that’s because I cook really well. I am family-oriented. I love nature and I’m addicted to good people, as they are very rare. I am very focused and not easily distracted at all. I don’t like routines.
How, when and why did you go into acting?
I got into acting after watching a Nollywood movie, my mum rented from a rental shop back in 2008. I copied out the director’s number as the end credit rolled and I gave him a call. After several calls and texts from me to him, he gave me a chance to get auditioned on the set of a movie he was directing. He was pleased and I got a role in the spot. This was in 2008, the movie was titled “Too late to claim.”
When did the big break come for you?
My big break came after I did the movie, College Girls. It was really big and everyone talked about it. It was shot in Accra, Ghana. It had a mix of Nollywood and Ghallywood actors. It was produced by Uchenna Mbunabo and directed by Evans Anaele. This preceded, my role as Nurse Titi in the tv series, Clinic Matters. Produced and directed by Paul Igwe. This tv series gave me my stage name, Nurse Titi.
Challenges and setbacks…
The major challenge is the existence of clique in the industry. Some production companies make their casting about who is in their clique. So, it’s like when a particular production house is making a movie, you already know the actor to expect in the movie. This has made it difficult for actors who do not belong to any clique to get movie jobs/roles and when they do get, it won’t be a good role. Then you as a member of a clique will find it difficult for other producers/directors not in your clique to give you a role/job. This is a major setback as it just leaves you in a box. Makes it impossible for you to leave your comfort zone.
Are there certain roles you would turn down?
I would turn down roles that would make me play nude. My father was so strict when he was alive that I fear/respect him even in death. There are certain moral codes I can’t break as an Okoronkwo daughter and nudity on screen is one of them. If such happened, I am sure my mum would ask me to look for another mother.
What’s your take on Nollywood generally?
Nollywood is a global brand and there’s a lot of money in the industry. The industry is big and far spread. I go to lots of places and people from different races can recognize me as a Nollywood actor. This goes to show that the world is watching us and our arts are appreciated. We need more investors to come in and invest, so film making can be done differently and professionally. The Actors Guild Nigeria is doing a good job, introducing certain incentives to help move the industry forward and we appreciate the effort of the guild.
Highlights of your career so far?
Highlights of my career so far have got to be one time when I got a call from someone who saw a movie I did, “Could This Be Love” and said the movie brought his wife back to him. I didn’t know that art as a craft has a healing power. It was magical to me. Again, the joy I feel when I travel and people from different walks of life would recognize me as a Nollywood actor and say very sweet, encouraging words to me. It makes me fulfilled and spurs me to work even harder. The love is surreal.
In a recent interview, you said you can’t be a second wife. Who is your ideal man?
My ideal man has to be God-fearing, honest, passion-driven, intelligent and smart. He doesn’t need to have all the money in the world, we can make the money together. Two great minds can achieve a lot, together.
For you, which is more important – money, sex or good looks?
All three are important to me. They begat one another. They work hand in hand and I’m sure you agree too.
What has fame robbed you of?
Fame hasn’t robbed me of anything. I still do the things I like to do, go to places I like to go and even eat from wherever I want to eat . I have tried not to let fame take my best moments away from me.
What’s the worst rumor you’ve heard about yourself?
I was in my hometown in Imo State for Christmas and someone tagged me to a story by a blogger who said I was in a popular hotel in Lagos with a big name in Nigeria. The blogger wrote that we were kissing and necking as we walked into a room. How can one be in two places at a time? I didn’t understand how that was possible, as I was miles away from Lagos, getting a breath of fresh air in my hometown.
That would be giving love to someone I shouldn’t have loved in the first place.
What’s that thing you would change about yourself if you had the power?
That would be letting people into my life too easily. Most people take advantage of the fact that I’m very receptive and cheerful.
Are you in a relationship at the moment? If yes, what attracted you to him?
I am in a very beautiful relationship to the glory of God and I didn’t think I would be in love again after a really bad break up I had. I wanted to take a break from love but I guess love found me again.
When should we expect wedding bells?
We will see how it goes.
What are you currently working on?
I am working on a lot of projects at the moment. I won’t like to spill a lot of the details now but I will definitely carry everyone along as these projects progress. So, I would say “watch my space “!
Moving on, what next for you?
I am diversifying. Trying my hands on other things and not just acting alone. I am leaving my comfort zone and breaking the norm. So, it’s safe to say expect the unexpected from me moving forward, by the grace of God.