Omoni Oboli has made her mark in the Nigerian movie industry over time. She is an actress, film maker, producer and scriptwriter. Her latest movie First Lady is currently showing in the cinemas and has got a lot of people excited as it contains a lot of humour and life lessons.
The beautiful wife and mother had a chat with ENCOMIUM Weekly and told us about what inspired First Lady, the ongoing success and how she veered into movie production.
You just released a movie titled, First Lady. Can you tell us what inspired it?
The First Lady was conceived out of the need to make people happy. I wanted people to just laugh and loosen up a bit from the stress of everyday living. But, locked inside the story is the message which shows God’s providence, guidance, mercy and grace operating in our lives even when we are totally unaware of it (and most times we aren’t). It’s a message of hope in the midst of our confusion and hopelessness.
I also wanted to tell the story in our own way; in the language we all understand (rich, poor, educated or not). That’s what inspired me to do this story.
The movie, First Lady has received a lot of applause. How will you describe the success of the movie?
It’s indescribable! The things I set out to do, I achieved them. Everyone came out laughing and totally entertained. The pidgin English was a welcome factor in the whole plot, knowing that many could identify with the characters and the storyline. In that, I am fulfilled.
Also, the movie did quite well at the cinemas and has further exposed the immense talents of Alexx Ekubor, Yvonne Jegede, Chinedu Ikedieze, Joseph Benjamin, Udoka Oyeka, Anthony Monjaro and all the cast and crew. I’m always elated when the cast in my movie are given accolades that they deserve.
How much did it gulp?
It was a lot of money! Good things always come at a price; money wise, intellectual wise, etc. Most of it are unquantifiable.
Tell us about your choice of character?
For the character, Obama, played by Alexx, I wanted someone who looked like what I had written, and then when I approached Alexx, asking whether his pidgin was ‘pure’, I knew that if he could bring his ‘A’ game, he would nail the role. He did! Joseph was a no-brainer, he exuded the character I wrote. In fact, he could have played a number of the other roles easily, but I chose him to carry the character of Kenechi.
The casting wouldn’t have been complete, nor the movie make any sense, if Chinedu wasn’t a part of this movie. It was written for him. The final date for the shooting of the movie was determined by his availability, because the character of small Kenechi was limited to just him or Pawpaw. Yvonne Jegede is a brilliant actor whom I believe is geared to take her place at the top, and when I called her for the role of Sandra, I didn’t see anyone better for the role.
For the role of the Prince, we needed a devilishly handsome actor, and Anthony Monjaro stepped up to the plate. Udoka Oyeka was the icing on the cake to complete the cycle of good casting when he showed up as Michael.
Casting is so important to a movie’s believability that I’m so grateful that I stuck to the people I had originally intended for each role. The result speaks for itself.
What’s your projection for First Lady?
That it would be one of those movies that would stop the mouth of critics who believe Nigerian movies are not worth watching due to predictable plots, poor acting and production value. I hope that it would open doors for more Nigerian movies to be accepted by Nigerians and patronized by them, until we see the growth we desire from within. I believe that we must first break out of the cycle of looking at whatever comes out of Nigeria or from a Nigerian as inferior to grow economically in the areas of creative art and intellectual advancement.
Why do you think people should see the movie?
It’s simply entertaining, and that’s the worst you can get from the movie. The best thing would be to grasp the underlying message of the entire movie. It’s simply one of those movies that makes you smile when you remember many of the scenes long after you have watched it.
Why did you veer into producing?
I’ve always been in production. Going back to my early days in secondary school when I organized the school plays, in French and English, writing, directing and producing them. Though I didn’t see it that way then. So when I had been in a couple of movies, and looked at the way they produced, I decided to study at the New York Film Academy in New York, so that I can make my own films.
The result is Being Mrs Elliott and now, The First Lady. I have also written scripts for other producers before, and I wanted to make films the way I write them. I write with the picture of the movie in my head, and when I give it to the producers, it doesn’t always come out the way I visualized it. Every director sees the same script in their own way, and I wanted to make movies the way I wanted to see them.
Did you recover the millions of naira spent on your last movie Being Mrs Elliot?
The short answer to that is… Yes!
How do you cope with controversies?
That’s part of being in the spotlight; whether as an ordinary achiever, a successful business person, an athlete etc. The fact that you want to aspire to be great exposes you to scrutiny and right or wrong perceptions. I just live my life, and I’m glad that I have a family who still sees me as who I am and not as a celebrity, so I can live a normal life at home, away from it all.
Controversies come with trying to please everyone or trying to feed the perceptions out there, and some come without you going to look for it. Whatever the case, I try to stick with what I know and I’m comfortable with, and if it sparks off controversy in the future, I pray that it would not be something that I do out of foolishness.
How do you combine being an actress, producer, wife and mother?
I don’t look at it as combining, because I always say “I’ve got to do what I’ve got to do”. That’s life! We work, and we attend to marital and family needs, for those of us who have them. It’s been done for ages, and I’m no different from anyone else who has a regular job and has challenges at work but find a way to balance it all in the end. I know I have to take care of my first responsibility, my family, and this gives me the strength and joy to face whatever my work brings, so that I can give my best.
Are you fulfilled as an actress?
Definitely! It’s what I was born to do, and what I’m glad to do. But it’s the other parts of my life; my relationship with God and then my family, that truly make me fulfilled.
- TINUOLA JOSEPH