I RUN AWAY FROM ANYTHING THAT WILL GIVE ME BAD PRESS – EBELE OKARO
Ebele Okaro Onyuike has been in acting long before the movie industry got the Nollywood tag. The theatre arts graduate of the University of Calabar, has, however, remained consistent in her career, which has spanned over 20 years. In this interview with Reporter Patrick Uwalaka, she confessed that the arts run deep in her family.
How did you get into acting?
It has always been a part of me, right from primary school through my secondary school and up till my university days. I also come from a family of entertainers. My parents were entertainers so it is something that runs in the family.
What are the achievements you have had in Nollywood?
I don't know if I have achieved anything since I started acting other than make many people happy. I have done one or two works that people have come to appreciate. I have inspired the young who look up to people like me and I wish I could do more because I have so much to contribute.
What are the challenges you have encountered while rising to the top?
I wouldn't want to blow my trumpet; I only know that I am still working hard to get to the top. In any case, there have been a lot of challenges. First of all, there are certain roles that they give you which are not really you and having to leave your family to travel long distances for a movie role; being on the set of a movie and thinking about how they are coping. Sometimes the challenges come from the people you work with who might not have the same background in terms of discipline. You see, some people are just there to have fun and are not concentrating on what they are doing; they get carried away with stardom; they are not ready to sit down and make the best of what is on ground and that tends to affect the production. Challenges also come from scripts that are not well written.
And the role you are expected to play might be quite physical, even when you are in pain or you are not feeling well, you are still expected to smile and carry out your role in the movie.
Apart from the fee, what are those things that have really kept you going on?
First of all, it is God, second is self-discipline and the last one is my love for the arts and what I do.
What was life like before you ventured into acting?
Actually, like I said before, I have been acting from my primary school days. I have always done one form of television production or the other. During my secondary school days, I also did television and stage acting and in my university days, I studied theatre arts . I did my youth service with the NTA; so that has been my life. Except if you are referring to what people term Nollywood then I would say I had a hiatus which saw me work in a bank but had to quit for full time acting. Acting has been my life even before Nollywood came into being.
Which do you prefer, epics, romance or comedy?
I love all of them because they are challenging in different ways. Someone said he sees me in a lot of epics playing the wife of a king. To be honest with you, I am not crazy about playing the role of a queen every now and then, because you find out that when you play that kind of role over time, it becomes a stock character. I play it well but I would still prefer roles that are challenging and will show other sides of you.
What are those happy moments that you would want to relive again as an actress?
Moments I spend with fellow actors and crew members when we are like one family. These are people who are not related to you but there is this bond that holds us together because we have a common goal, we all strive to achieve.
One of the best moments is when we are together in the bush roasting either yam or plantain and eating it with so much love and happiness, those kind of treasured moments are worth preserving forever.
How many movies have you done in Nollywood?
Please save me from the agony of counting; I don't know, you see the way movies are released in Nigeria, sometimes you don't even know the titles of these movies and it's someone that will tell you, oh! I saw you in that movie and all that. I know I have done quite a lot and you should know it is not really the number that matters, but how well the few you have done were able to impact lives.
Do you have any memorable day on set?
Yes, I have a couple but I think one will be on the set of Ola (The Morning Sun: I interpreted my lines so well that the director, Andy Amenechi, told everyone on set to give me a standing ovation and I felt so happy.
Would you say you have given your best in Nollywood?
Yes, I have to an extent especially with my initial productions like Ajani, Evil Pain. Those are the movies for which I feel I have really given my best and I know I still have so much to give to Nollywood in years to come.
Have you produced any movie?
I have not but very soon my works will start coming out. I am just taking my time.
Where did your love for African fabrics come from?
I don't know; I just love African fabrics. I love Africa as a continent and all the core values, which Africa stands for; and most importantly, I think it fits me better, except when I have to wear my jeans, which must go with a top made from African fabrics.
Have you ever had bad press?
No; I have not. I run away from anything that will make me a topic for journalists to write about.
How do you run away from controversies in Nollywood?
I am not a loud person and I have not gotten myself into any thing that will make headlines. When I finish my work, I go home to take care of my family; I don't go out often. I like my quiet lifestyle and I will continue to live my life that way.
What Nollywood movie gave you your break?
I really don't know. I have been there for so long that I can't even remember when I played my first major Nollywood movie role. I think my first major job in Nollywood apart from Ezzia and Evil Thing was Egg of Life and then it has been like that ever since.
Are you from the well-known Onyuike family?
I don't know which one is the well-known Onyuike family, but I am married into the Onyuike family.
People say you are a workaholic, do you find time to unwind at all?
I try to rest when I can and that's why when I finish a job, I try to stay at home with my family. The little opportunity I have, I use it to rest my tired self with my family around me.
What is your philosophy of life?
To be good to people, be nice to people because you never know who might help you in life as this world is a small place.
So what does friendship mean to you?
It's being kind, sharing, honest and its all about trust.
Nollywood is said to be on a journey. Where do you hope to see it in a few year's time?
We are going very far. The trend now is that Hollywood is coming down to Africa to do movies and those are the new movies that are selling, the likes of Blood Diamonds, Hotel Rwanda; the time will come when Nigerian stars will feature in top rated Hollywood films shot in Africa and indeed Nigeria.
As a stakeholder, do you think the government of the day has done enough to uplift the industry?
No, they have not; we expect them to do more. Get involved with equipment, which will be used to shoot high quality films in Nollywood and uplift the standard in Nigeria.