A couple of weeks back, popular thespian, Mercy Aigbe bagged Best Yoruba Actress of the Year award courtesy of a magazine which has been generating mixed reactions both within and outside the industry. ENCOMIUM Weekly had a chat with the Edo born role interpreter and mother of two children on this and other issues at her husband’s hotel, La Veronique, Oregun, Lagos.
What is happening with your career now?
I am still doing my thing. I just released a movie entitled Comfo, and it’s doing well.
When did acting really start for you?
I studied Theatre Arts in the University of Lagos. I went there because I knew I was going to come out an actress. Professionally, I started acting in 2005/2006. But the movie that got me to limelight was Ara, produced by Remi Olupo in Ibadan, Oyo State.
Has acting really paid off for you?
Yes (laughs). But it can be better.
Did you ever think you would go this far when you started acting?
Of course, once you venture into anything, you will always strive to be successful. So, I have always known that I want to be on top of my game. I knew I was going to make it because I believed in myself and the talent the Lord has given me. I know I have not gotten to where I am going but to God be the glory, I thank Him for where I am today.
Is it true that female actresses pay producers to cast them in their movies?
If I tell you I have not heard about that, I am a liar. I have, but I have not experienced or seen anybody paying to feature in a movie and I didn’t have to pay anybody to feature in any movie.
Do you think there is sexual harassment in Nollywood?
When it comes to sexual harassment, it’s not just synonymous to Nollywood. It’s everywhere, when you have males and females working together. And it’s not by force, it’s not like when you say sex for roles and if I don’t sleep with you, you’re not going to be a star. There’s nobody that would make you a star, it’s your hard work, God’s grace and mercy that would actually take you there. Even if you end up sleeping with one million people, if you’re not good at what you’re doing, you won’t be known. But it’s only normal for male admirers to walk up to you if you’re beautiful.
How does your husband feel when he sees you romancing another man on television?
There’s this movie I did entitled Gucci Girls, there was a scene where I had to dance sexily and went down on the guy and he had to cover my head with his agbada. I had to record that on my phone, so that I can play it when I get back home for my husband to see it properly and hear what he had to say. My husband supports my job. When he saw it, he just laughed and said, ‘This girl, you’ve gone crazy.” At times when I have to kiss an actor on set and probably we are watching it together, he would say, ‘you didn’t do it well.’
Yes, my husband knows my job. He knows that when I am working, whatever that character has to do to convince people, to make people know that I am playing that character, I will do it. He supports my job 100 per cent.
What is your view about girl-child marriage?
I am not in support of that. Nigeria has too many problems to deal with. Child marriage should be the least of what our legislative arm of government should be deliberating on. There is poverty everywhere, insecurity, Boko Haram, so, child marriage should not be the major issue. It’s like child slavery because I believe that the girl-child has the right to free living, education, to choose whoever she wants to spend the rest of her life with. It’s child abuse because if the male child can have the right to education, what law says that a girl-child can’t have the right to education. It is unacceptable.
You’re a very pretty, attractive and sexy actress, how do you cope with men that don’t take no for an answer?
(Laughs) Of course, they have to take no for an answer. It just depends on how firm I am with the no. I like it when male fans admire me for what I do, my job and all that. But when they’re crossing the line, I always know when to say please, I am married. I would never do anything to jeopardize my marriage and my children’s happiness. No amount of money can buy my children’s happiness, comfort and life. So, I always know when to draw the line.
How do you feel winning the best female Yoruba actress in Nollywood?
It’s overwhelming, awesome, amazing. I feel really honoured. This is actually my second award. The first time I won Best Actress was in 2009. It shows that people are taking cognizance of what I do. This award would inspire me to work harder and be the best at what I do. I give God the glory.
People feel you don’t deserve the award, do you think you do?
Of course (laughs). I know I deserve it because I have really worked hard. My fans actually voted me in and it’s because they believe in me and they feel I deserve it.
Do you think it’s your movie Osas that got you this award?
The thing about the award was that we were told to ask our fans to vote for us and they voted me in. Since Osas came out, I have been receiving awards. Probably because people saw me playing a different role and a different character from what I have ever played.
How many movies have you produced?
I have about six movies to my credit as a producer.
What inspired you to produce Osas Omo Benin?
I was on set of Wale Adenuga’s Papa Ajasco and I was playing Papa Ajasco’s wife. When they called me, I thought about it because I have never done comedy before but I love challenges. I love doing what I have never done. So, when I was on that set, I realized that whatever I do, people behind the camera were always laughing. So, after that particular Papa Ajasco series, I thought about doing my own comedy. I know I am more popular in the Yoruba genre of the movie industry and I am a Benin girl, so I just thought of mixing Yoruba, Benin and Pidgin English.
You’re from Benin and you speak Yoruba fluently, how come?
I was born in Lagos, but my Yoruba is not very good but I had to learn the language on the job because I have passion for what I do. As a professional, I should be able to act in any language as long as all it takes is for me to learn the language. It’s not that I didn’t know how to speak Yoruba before but it’s better now because I speak it often.
How do you cope with your family and career?
It’s a whole lot of hard work. It’s not easy to marry a person who plays major roles because I am a mother, a full time career woman and a wife. It’s not easy to strike a balance but my family comes first. So, I always try to make out time for my children, like my daughter is into modeling right now. So, she has an agent. At times I have to make out time to take her for auditions because it’s what she has passion for and I am giving her my total support. I make out time for my children, attend their school events because I love my children. They’re all I have and I love my husband too. He’s my baby. I have a very understanding husband so things are easy for me.
This story was first published in ENCOMIUM Weekly on Tuesday, August 6, 2013