, Nigeria’s leading movie goddess seems not to be aging. Sitting opposite her and looking into her eyes, she still looks sweet 16 with the innocent visage and pretty smiles.
She is set to hit the cinemas with her first produced movie, Road to Yesterday. The movie promises to be a blockbuster. It is also the very first road movie to be produced in Nigeria.
ENCOMIUM Weekly had an interview with her about her new movie, why she disappeared from public glare and sundry issues.
Tell us about your movie, Road to Yesterday. What is it all about?
It is an intriguing love story. It is about a couple trying to mend the fences and bridges in their sour marriage and how they embarked on a journey trying to do that. They actually made up in the course of the journey. Along the way, they had conversations. They had arguments. They discussed, trying to retrace their steps in order to recall where the problem started.
What about the character you played in the movie?
Victoria Izu is the wife. She is the woman who is very much in love with her husband. She has been in the marriage with Izu (her husband) for about five years. Something unveils itself where love, trust is questioned and as women, it is really up to us to tighten loose ends and keep the family together. That was what Victoria was doing throughout the film. She was trying to keep her marriage.
How challenging was the role for you?
It was very challenging but I enjoyed it. It is my first film production. The story is mine as well. It was directed by Ishaya Baku, an adaptation of his play. It is a story I have really thought and dreamt for a long time. It is about something I have thought, pondered upon for a while and somehow, it became a story. It has been on my mind for four years. I have been anxious to see it come to life. The most challenging part was that we shot during the elections. 85 per cent of the film was on the road. We were shooting on Lekki-Epe Expressway. It was very challenging. I don’t think it is something I will do again in a hurry.
It is the first road film ever done in Nigeria. I acted, I was the driver and was still involved in the film mentally. I was still directing. As a producer, you still have to worry about things that happened behind the scene. I always put my first passion forward, that is acting. I tried to distance myself from every other thing. I just focused on the performance which I have missed for a while because I have been away for a while.
How does it feel producing your first movie?
I am sure a lot of people will say very exciting but for me, I will say there is a point you will get to in life and there is no way to turn but move forward. Left for me, I will keep acting as long as scripts keep coming but, at some point, when you are not getting what you expect, and if nobody seems to be interested in doing something about it, you have to take the bull by the horns. I think, I still have to learn a lot about producing.
The experience was nice. If I can do it once, I can do it again. That is going to be the case for me.
Let us talk about your choice of characters?
I chose to play Victoria because I like the suffering soul. I think a lot of people feel I like to play the hard woman. The thing is, these kinds of movies are memorable, I have done that over and over again. I think, the suffering soul is something I wanted to take as a role. I wanted a character that would challenge me and make me bring out everything that I have, holding nothing back. Victoria went through an emotional roller coaster. I enjoyed playing the role.
The lead male role is Izu played by Oris Erhuerho. We had to find a lead character with specific physical attributes I wanted the character to have. We auditioned a few people here, we were hoping to find a true Nigerian. We wanted to keep it African, we wanted to keep it true to us.
For Chigo, who played my friend, I knew I wanted Chigbo, I am not sure why, I felt she would bring the humour. Though, we didn’t write her character to be funny, somehow, I knew she would make it her own. And she would add some humour to the movie.
Majid already knew about the story. I had told him about my plan for over a year. So, when I had a role for him, I had to call him and without hesitation, he flew down for the job. Everything just fell into place.
How much did the project gulp?
(Laughs) It is not cheap. To make a feature film is not cheap. To do anything professionally and of good quality is not cheap. We probably spent more than what most Nollywood movies would have spent but I think it is still part of the message. If we are going to move forward, we need to earn social respect, give a little more to get what we want.
Is there any plan to premiere the movie outside Nigeria?
Not really. This is a movie we did specifically for Nigerians. We did screen when we were in the UK because we had to be meticulous so as to master the film. Showing it to the public will be in Nigeria. I am really interested in showcasing what we have. I am proud that everyone who worked in the movie are Nigerians. We insisted on our local talent. It is about grooming our industry. We also have to invest in our people. It is a film by us to us. I think, it should be shown in Nigeria.
Why the long break in the movie industry?
I didn’t have a break. Yes, you have not seen me in any film but it is not my doing. I read at least three to four scripts a week for the past five years. That is to show you how bad it is. I am very careful when it comes to what I take part in. There is so much or nothing you can do to convince me. I have to love a story so that I can bring it to life. It is not a one man band. The story needs to entice, the character needs to be appealing and then, you are one with it. With that, it becomes easy to be a good actor.
If I don’t get a good script, I am not going on set. I haven’t seen anything worth my while all these years, that is the truth. I have done it all. I don’t know who did what we did in the 90s. If you can’t beat your last job, what is the point? You might as well take a bow but, I am not bowing out yet.
What is the solution to the problem of the industry?
Creativity is the solution. We need to focus on what is important. It is not the film, it is not the money. We keep neglecting the art and craft. It is about performance, we must focus on how to promote the craft. It was a blessing to have found an Ishaya Baku, I believe, there are a lot of people like him out there too. I want to encourage the people out there to come forward. Anyway, nobody wants his job disrespected out there. If you have a good script and you can’t find actors and actresses who will satisfy you, you would probably hold back your script.
Our primary focus is to showcase the type of people we are as Nigerians to the outside world. We want to produce films that we all would be proud of. We want talents to come forward and showcase what they have too. We are investing behind the scene and we are investing in people too. That is what TEN Entertainment is all about.
Even in the social scene, we rarely see you too, what is happening?
I work. I do other things besides acting. I come out if I really have to but most of the time, I am busy. I think it is important to focus on what is important. If it is not important for me to be out there, there is no need to be out there. We all must survive, I have to get back to my work if I am not out. I do two or three other jobs. I have not been sitting around doing nothing, though, I am glad to be back to acting.
From your observation, do you think people still watch movies?
I think so. I have never really been a big movie watcher. I enjoy the performance better. I enjoy creating that which entertains people. Watching has never been my leisure. While people are watching, I am enjoying making more. There is still hope, they might not be watching that does not mean they have given up. The most important thing is to continue to do our thing with a little extra, that is why we are here. We want to challenge ourselves as well as our audience to do more. We shouldn’t be in a box. We should diversify. We can tell our stories differently but, we will stick to originality.
That we are going onto the next level does not mean we should imitate the West. We can imitate the good part of the West, their professionalism, how they concentrate on quality and not necessarily their stories. We have our own stories. If we start to do the right thing, we will get the audience back.
How would you cope with piracy now that you are a producer?
I will have to figure it out like my mates. My colleagues have been producing before me. I will watch and learn. We will tackle it as we go along.
For someone meeting you for the first time, he would say you are 16, what is the secret of your ageless looks?
Peace of mind. To be honest, you are what you eat. You are what you surround yourself with. Everything that you touch shapes you. You have to be careful of the things that surround you. I like peace, I like hard working people. I get motivated by go getters, I don’t like bad gossip and pettiness. Healthy gossip is good. I don’t do rivalry, I do competition, all these help. I think peace in the inside reflects itself out and then maybe genes, I really don’t know.
Has your beauty routine changed?
No, not really. I am not a spa person. I am a gym person. But I have been told that I have to go to the spa, I have to take it serious, so, I have decided to go to the spa once in six months. There is no time at all.
How is your clothing line doing?
Good. We are working on the second collection. We had a set back because I was working on the movie. But I am looking at handing it over to a different entity so that it wouldn’t suffer when I am not around to attend to it. I love fashion, I love clothes. I am happy my fans love my brand and have embraced it. I don’t want to disappoint them. St. Genevieve is still alive. I don’t w3ant to disappoint my fans.
Where do you shop aside St. Genevieve?
I buy a few things when I travel abroad. But I wear a lot of Nigerian designers.
Are you really bothered about being single?
No. (Laughs) Obviously, companionship is great but the fact that I am working and I am busy keeps my mind busy. If you are busy, you wouldn’t bother about things that are not there. I will rather appreciate the ones that are there. That is me.
How is your daughter doing?
She is very well, thank you.
You hardly talk about her, why?
(Nods and smiles).
When are you getting married?
When he finds me.
Are you trying to say he has not found you?
- SHADE WESLEY-METIBOGUN