Behind every successful story is a journey, and award winning Ghanaian celebrity actor, Majid Michel is no exception. Born of a Lebanese father and Ghanaian mother, Majid developed a special interest in theatre right from his secondary school days and didn’t look back when an opportunity came his way to prove his acting skills while auditioning for a modeling agency.
Today, not only has he become a household name, but also a success story in the movie industry in Nigeria and in Ghana. This, he said, wouldn’t have been possible if Virna Michel, his beautiful wife of over 10 years had not understood the nature of his job. In an exclusive interview with ENCOMIUM Weekly in Accra, Ghana, the father of two beautiful daughters, Kiera and Zara opened up on the death of his mother, Mrs. Paulina Olympio, whom he misses so much because she played an important role in shaping him into the kind of husband and father he has become by introducing him to God at an early age.
Tell us about your childhood and what growing up was for you with nine other siblings under the same roof?
What is your position?
I am the last born. I would say my future was purely based on how I grew up. It was movies after movies, books after books, music after music, entertainment after entertainment and there was nothing else to do at home. Basically, it was a big entertainment family, that’s how I turned out to be an actor.
Was it your childhood ambition?
Yes, it was.
What kind of relationship existed between you and your late mom?
I was the closest to my mom. After my dad died, she never remarried. All my siblings were abroad and I was here with my sister who was in secondary school. I was with my mom throughout. I spent most of my time with her everywhere she went, I was very close to my mom.
Did she give you the necessary support when you decided to go into acting?
I went to a film school and she paid my fees. She paid all my school fees during film school and gave me the necessary support and encouragement I needed to make it out there.
Can you share some of the advice she gave you on marital issues and your career that you hold on to, even though she is no longer alive?
I always hear people saying there is not enough time. I believe there is always time, you just have to get your priorities right. Put the most important things first and there will always be time. That depends on your values. If you value your car, you will service it every month, and if you value your marriage you will do things that will keep it going. If you value your family, you would do things that will keep your family together, but it depends on where your values are. So, you have to redefine your values by doing exactly what is most important.
Tell us about your daughters. Which one of them is likely to follow your footsteps?
I have two beautiful daughters; Keira and Zara. The first born said she wants to be a film director not an actor (laughs)
Did you ask her why she wants to be a director and not an actor?
She’s done a couple of advertisements and I’m sure she admires what the director does on set (laughs). Probably, it’s because of what she saw on set. She might change her mind.
What are the fondest memories of your mom you hold dearly?
She introduced me to Christ, she introduced me to the church and I promised her in my speech at her funeral, that there is something I must accomplish to let the world know what she introduced me to which is a secret.
Won’t you give us the privilege to get to know about it first?
No! I want it to manifest and if it does, you will get to know the secret Majid is talking about.
So, what year did she introduce you to Christ?
You know what; I am the worst person with dates (laughs). But let me try; I was 14 at that time, very young. She introduced me to the church and that was where everything started.
When you go everywhere, people talk about principles of organizational development, and how to keep it going, but no one talks about character. Character comes from the word statue, a statue is something that has been fixed, it doesn’t change, and it is stable. If you see the image of Kwame Nkrumah at the museum, his statue is standing in one position, doing forward ever, backward never. When it’s raining, or there is hurricane, it is always in the same position, doing the same thing, it is stable. It doesn’t change, that is what you call character. That is what builds character. What am I doing in the night is it the same thing I am doing in the afternoon? When there is no one watching, what are you doing? That is character, those are the kind of leaders we need. I mean, in the morning, if someone brings a bribe will you accept it? Are you unchangeable? Are you unstable? Or you are fixed. That is character, so we try as much as possible to build our characters. You don’t trade character, you don’t buy it, and you don’t sell it. You are not unclean with it. Character over the years is temptations over the years. Temptation basically, means testing for weakness. So, if over the years you’ve gone through a lot of temptations and you were able to withstand them, you’ve built your character which builds your value system, your morals, your ethics, which becomes you at the end of the day. So, we try not to run away from temptation but to overcome it day in day out and that is what builds our character as we grow up, and that is what defines us.
If you have to say something special to your wife, what will you say to her?
My wife is the only reason I am Majid Michel. My wife is responsible for me being Majid Michel. She is the reason I’m Majid Michel. I mean, apart from God, second to God physically, if she never supported me or never understood my job, there’s no way I could have made it.
Why did you start professional acting and what does it mean to you?
Everything on earth has a purpose. A bird flies because it’s a purpose to fly, the fish swims, because it’s a purpose for the fish to swim. The seed grows, it’s a purpose for the seed to grow. Whether you pray or you don’t pray, when you plant it, it will grow. We are the epic of God’s creation and everyone has a purpose. Your purpose is what you get energy to do; whatever you do that excites you is a purpose, which is why you were made. Now, when you build that purpose, you go to school because of your interest in it, you develop it and naturally become a leader and naturally followers start coming. So, it’s who I am, it’s my purpose. Now, God’s will for this purpose is when you become a leader, then you start winning souls for Him, that is the purpose of life, that is why I am here and that is why I do what I do.
What age did you start professional acting?
Funny enough, some couple of days ago, I met one of my primary school teachers, who told me she was going through her picture album, and she saw one of my pictures when I was on stage in primary school. I can’t even remember myself on stage (laughs) and then in secondary school, I won some couple of awards, but I started professional acting when I was 19.
Which of your works gave you the big break?
Things We Do For Love in 2000 and in 2009, I had my international break. That was five years ago in Crime to Christ.
When are you completely satisfied with your job?
I’m never satisfied. I always follow them to the studio, I chase them around. I want to see the final job and I’m never satisfied. It’s a bad thing and I have to learn how to be satisfied (laughs).
How hard do you push yourself?
Till I can’t go anymore.
And what inspires you to do that?
It’s a purpose. It’s from creation, the passion is too much, the love for the job. I get energy doing it. I will do it even if I don’t get paid. Whenever you know you will keep doing something and you don’t mind not being paid, it’s a purpose. Your work is different from your job. Your job is when you get paid to do it, and your work is when you will still do it even if you don’t get paid.
How do you manage advances from female fans?
I understand my job. I know what comes with it, so, I am not surprised. When you are surprised, then you will be swept off your feet. You have to understand and know what comes with your job. You are on TV and people think they know you, so it’s normal.
Have you ever been embarrassed by a female fan?
They always jump on us and kiss us (general laughter). In front of my wife sometimes and I’m like; honey, it wasn’t me, it was her (laughs).
So, how much do you draw on personal experience when you are acting?
Sometimes nothing at all. It’s hard, you need to do a lot of research, sometimes it’s just a simple story with some couple of friends just talking. But then, when you are playing the role of a killer or some beast, you need a lot of research.
Which of your colleagues do you enjoy working with both in Ghana and in Nigeria?
I really love acting with Nadia Buhari. Nadia is one of my favourites because of her deep understanding of the act. She really understands all the tricks of what acting is all about. She understands her character very well, so, it makes something called the feedback loop, it’s an acting term; it makes it easier for you as an actor. In Nigeria, I like to work with Genevieve.
Do you have any female celebrity crush?
She is not an actress…
Who is she?
God brought me here to make her good (laughs)
Which of your roles has been the most challenging for you?
Somewhere in Africa, I acted two characters at the same time. It was tough. The makeup was very uncomfortable, the weather was really hot. I had to go like three shades darker on my body, it was very uncomfortable. The accent had to be consistent, so a lot of takes, it was tough. And I spent almost a month on set.
What would you have been doing if you were not acting?
Directing and that means I would still be in the movie industry.
Tell us a little about your Foundation Majiwoc?
I usually don’t talk about it because I believe the greatest form of giving is from anonymous to anonymous. I give to people I don’t know, when these people don’t know who is giving to them…that is the way I live. The foundation is all about providing clean water for the communities that need it.
What is your take on a Nigerian in Ghana who tried to impersonate you to defraud a woman in the United States?
It’s been going on for a very long time, he was just a scapegoat, and he was the unlucky one. I met a lady in America who said she added me on facebook, and I told her I am not on facebook. I don’t have a facebook account, never had it. So, I told her to keep talking to the guy and that’s how we got him with the help of the police.
So, what is your advice on how to avoid such occurrence?
The victims have to be careful. The people that are being scammed should be more careful. They are too cheap; Stephen Appiah would not ask you for 1,000 dollars, how do you expect Stephen to ask you for 1,000 dollars. You say Majid is asking for 200 dollars, why? And you believe such lies; it’s a scam (laughs). We don’t ask for money.
What does it take to have a successful marriage?
You need information about marriage. You need to take a test on marriage. Marriage is the only institution you get your certificate before the test. You need information before you get into marriage. Love does not keep a marriage; divorced people will tell you that. What happens to; I love you, but we used to be in love. Love does not keep a marriage and sex is not a glue. Love and sex never keep a marriage. It is knowledge and understanding. You need to know about marriage, you tell a girl or a guy I love you, but do you love marriage? They’re two different things. If a guy tells you I love you, and when you tell him let’s get married, he is running away, because love and marriage are different. Marriage is an institution, telling somebody a vow is not a marriage. It is a building that both of you are going to be in. The key element is knowledge, because knowledge is information and you need to have lots of information about marriage, then you understand these information, you comprehend them and you tell yourself; I am ready to do it. Not because I love her, but because I am ready to help her achieve her dreams. I’m ready to make our dreams come true with her. She is your help to accomplish your purpose. We stop making babies and grownups believe the first thing you need is a girlfriend or a boyfriend. That is not what you need; the first thing you need is the presence of God. Not a man or a woman, it is not about relationships, it is about God. The aim and the target has been lost, the reason and the purpose of our existence has been lost.
Who are your role models?
In acting, but apart from that it should be, Alpaccino, Robert De Niro, Anthony Hopkins, Leonaldo Dicaprio. But in life, He is the greatest leader of all time, Jesus.
If you act for one year, continuously and you are not ready to charge money, or you are ready not to take money for it, do it. But if you need money before you act, stop! It’s not for you.
What do you miss most about your late mom?
It’s her presence. And when I feel her so much, I pray, because this is one of the main reasons why I believe in God.
What was her last word to you?
I prayed with her on the phone. And she told me she was proud of me.
Should your fans expect something from you anytime soon?
I have a couple of movies that would blow their minds. I won’t say it because it’s meant to be a surprise.
What do you like most about Nigeria?
Everything, I’m going to Nigeria tomorrow. I don’t know about the bad rumours about Nigeria, but I love Nigeria to death. The people always go to work for you to know you are in a good place. So, I don’t know what people talk about when they say Nigeria is dangerous, I don’t understand (laughs) but I am going to work with Emem Isong, in a movie entitled Ayamma. It’s an epic movie.
And how will you describe Emem Isong?
Strong woman. She sees a vision and she accomplishes it.
– ADEBUKOLA ADENEYE-EDAH