In this interview with AYO ONIKOYI, VANGUARD Entertainment Editor, actress Victoria Nwogu takes a stand for the womenfolks in the industry while highlighting her journey in the make-believe world of Nigeria.
What was growing up like for you?
I grew up in Port Harcourt, Nigeria. I had all levels of my education there, NNPC Staff School, Royal Girls’ Academy and then the University of Portharcourt until my NYSC in Lagos. My Sanguine side was extremely strong growing up.
My energy was on steroids. I was a Tomboy at some point. I was immensely soaked in school extra-curricular activities since I could talk as a child; Drama/dance club, debating, parade, Milo basketball competition, Girl Guides Association etc and being in an executive position would literally always fall on my lap.
I was fond of entertaining everyone at home with different performances (I actually still do this one..Haha). My family supported me and provided each social group requirements, even though sometimes I sucked my way to victory if you know what I mean. But generally speaking, for children growing up, I believe school curriculum should not only revolve around academics, extra-curricular activities build up confidence, memories and enrich learning opportunities.
How did you find your way into Nollywood?
I had started saying I will be an actress since my Junior Secondary (JSS3) after a UNIPORT student had us participate in drama for her final year project and I got a loud ovation at the U.P theatre hall. Anyone who has known me for long has probably never heard me talking about any other career path. My mum didn’t take my words seriously until she noticed for some days I had been attending the 2009 Ion International Film Festival (IONIFF).
A global touring festival originating from Hollywood, apparently the same year I graduated from secondary school. She wasn’t in support of the career move which is very typical of African parents especially at the time.
IONIFF gave me an insight into the industry both locally & globally, my journey of a thousand miles began with that step. I got into University of Portharcourt, plucked up the courage and started attending auditions. In 2009/2010 95% of auditions were held in Lagos, Nigeria. Around the same year I luckily bumped into veteran actress Ann Njemanze (Domitila) in my hometown, she was so gracious with her advice and audition information. I attended a good number of auditions in Lagos, I’d fill in a friend’s Lagos address and run back to school. I got a lot of callbacks but school work didn’t let me though I was able to dance professionally and host red carpet shows which I could easily control whilst schooling.
Fast forward to 2016, the period of my NYSC passing out in Lagos, I featured in my first feature film titled “The Screenplay” on Irokotv. I t was directed by Emmanuel Mang Eme. Since then I have been on several other projects.
What has the journey been like?
I am happy with the knowledge, the projects , the people I’ve met and the experiences, they are priceless. I’ve also come to understand people in different spheres of life are still literally riding bicycles and finding their balance every step of the way. Focus is key for me as an actress. The mind is like a muscle, the more you train it the stronger it becomes
What’s more important to you as an Actress: fame or money?
Fame and money are fantastic. Oh my! we would make a good pair and I am not mad at all. Fame seems to have obvious advantages; like getting recognition and deals.
Which of your movies do people make reference to more?
It is “How To Save My Marriage” directed by Uche Jombo and “Papa’s Gone Mad” directed by Tom Robson. I played different characters in both films and I love that they’re both flawed. Nonetheless, “How To Save My Marriage” got some youths rooting for my character whilst “Papa’s Gone Mad” got most people enjoying every moment hating my character. I honestly do not take the reviews, DMs and comments about my performances for granted. I also do not take closely sharing a screen alongside one of our Nollywood Queens “Uche Jombo” in both movies for granted.
Do you see yourself trying out TV series and Indigenous movies as you progress in your career?
Absolutely. I believe the series raises curiosity among our audience. I was working on the set of “Dr Love” the series before the Covid19 lockdown. Do be on the look out for my character “Amaka” but this isn’t the Amaka that disappoints.
Looking on the bright side, my spirit is responsive towards more amazing series both TV & WEB. For indigenous movies; I’ve been a huge part of an indigenous film shot for festivals from the adaptation of a book written and directed by renowned novelist, Onyeka Nwelue titled “Agwaetiti Obiuto” (Island Of Happiness). It was my first and definitely not going to be my last. Every character on set spoke in diverse Igbo dialects and that felt like music to my ears. It’s important for people to feel a sense of identity and language can do that for every individual across the globe.
Do you think Nollywood has enough women behind the scenes and have you worked with any female director yet in your career?
Nollywood has earned the right to brag about women who have worked hard & still working hard to carve a niche for themselves behind the scenes. I’ve worked with incredible female directors such as; Tope Oshin, Uche Jombo, Biodun Stephen Oladigbo and likewise two strong female cinematographers, Teecam and Bebe.. Everyday women are grabbing the bull by the horns and finding their technical prowess.
Professionally, what’s your goal?
My goal is to have a variety of experiences as an entertainer and be a recognized name strutting across the globe without forgetting where I come from. It’s safe to say; the need to stay the course and outdo myself every step of the way is the catalyst to my creative process.
What is your favourite Nollywood movie and why is that?
Hmm that’s a tough one. I do not have a specific one, they are too many, especially Nollywood oldies, I love them; oldies are unapologetically Nigerian with their content. The art of storytelling is spectacular. We presently need more compelling stories. More structures are honestly required to train writers. AFRIFF has been consistent with training over the years. Doris Chinasa Ariole takes writers through her writer’s monologue challenge and webinars on her social media platform. All these being said, we need amazing stories with wonderful dialogues and good endings.
What’s the inspiration behind your accent impressions?
I’m naturally drawn to culture, languages and body behaviours since childhood. I was among the noise making head mimickers in school. I am extremely sensitive to my environment. Learning a good number of native songs (both local and foreign) and coordinating our cultural group in primary school was a great advantage, most times we were taught those songs with the right pronunciations(accents). Same thing too when I served as an Eko Corper. All these and more fueled my interest to start mimicking different accents.
There are speculations that actresses are way richer than the actors in Nollywood, what’s your take?
The thing is; I don’t know what’s in anyone’s bank account or where blogs get their figures from. I really do not know enough to have an opinion on this.
What real life situation has inspired you yet?
Watching my mum make lemonade out of lemon is super inspiring. She’s one of the wisest women on earth. A super woman from the top of her head all the way to the sole of her feet. Please tell her I sent you. Hahaha!
What superpower would you want to have/ not have?
I want to eat everything I want without getting fat…you know!! Especially junk food and carbs. For “Not Have,”I don’t think I want to be able to read minds directly. As juicy as it may seem to know people’s thoughts, I believe the excitement wouldn’t last more than a day. You might most likely literally throw trust outta the window, relatives might not find it to pick up.