Ladies are turning Nollywood to haven of prostitution
Though she has played the role of a prostitute like Sussy in Living in Bondage, as well as Mrs.Rayman in Glamour Girls 1 in which she engaged in a street fight with her husband over a call girl, Josephine Onwochie is a different person. A Catholic by faith, the artiste states categorically
: " I am a very religious person. So, for me to play the role of a first class prostitute very convincingly, I had to smoke many sticks of cigarette. I am really in Christ,” the actress confessed pointing out that she is not into such habits. "But I give God the glory that I played those roles successfully."
According to her, acting is her life, and she would play any role to communicate her messages and correct some of the ills of the society. In Nollywood where she is one of the pioneers, Josephine says that she is deeply worried at the rate "most ladies are turning the home video industry to a haven for prostitution.''
My name is Josephine Onwochei. I am from Delta State. I am a Catholic. I am the third child in the family. After my primary and secondary school education, I attended a catering school where I obtained a Diploma in catering in 1985. Later on, I worked in Mainland Hotel before I was employed at the Federal Ministry of Works and Housing. I was to study Surveying at the Federal School of Survey, Oyo. There, I obtained a Diploma.
How I started
I started acting in 1980 at the NTA as a solo singer. I was a back-up singer. I did solo shows on Sunday variety shows. Then, I joined Ananse Playhouse where I went into full-time acting. Bassey Effiong was the director. I must say that my knowledge of the theatre was enriched during my days in the playhouse. So I did not go to the university for further studies. I attended many workshops, seminars and lectures. I must say that all these kept me on in the practice of the theatre. Nevertheless, I was at the University of Lagos in 1987 as an Associate dancer at the Centre for Cultural Studies. And as an associate dancer, I learnt so much about the theatre.
In 1988 I joined the Lagos State Council for Arts and Culture contingent to the National Festival Arts and Culture (NAFEST 1988). Subsequently, I was engaged in several theatre shows. I played major roles in most of the productions I took part in.
As a dancer
If you come to my town, people will tell you that they are not surprised that I ended up a dancer and an actress. This is because as a kid, I was known in the whole town as a little girl that went from village to village, dancing with several dancing groups. When I came to Lagos, I joined more than five dancing troupes. I have done virtually all kinds of dances. The most challenging dance I have taken part in was Salt. It was done by the National Troupe of Nigeria in 1989. In it we were divided into three groups - water, rock, fire. I was in the fire group. The dance was to show the resourcefulness of salt. It paraded so many known names like James Iroha(Gringory), Sandra Omon, Samanja, Arnold Udoka and a host of others. I have worked with renowned choreographers like Peter Badejo, Arnold Udoka and the late Amatu Braide.
As an actress
I can tell you that acting is my second nature. It is my life. I cannot do without acting. If I miss acting in two months, I will fall sick. I have acted on stage, screen and radio. I was among the premiere cast of Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart, adapted and directed by Bassey Effiong.
This production, which took place in Abuja ,came before the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) did it. The late Mamman Vasta invited us. I played the role of Chielo. In Wole Soyinka's Trials of Brother Jero, I played Amope, In Elechi Amadi's Isiburu, I played first widow, and Femi Osofisan's Once Upon Four Robbers, I acted as Alhaja while in his Morontodun, I played Titubi. Again, I played the mad woman in Ola Rotimi's Gods Are Not to Blame. I also took part in a radio drama titled Jolly Junction.
On television I started with Angels on NTA 2 in the early 1990s. But my prominent outing in the TV was in Patrick Doyle's Jaded Option. I played Mrs Asuquo in the 39 episodes of the TV soap. I have worked with Paul Emema in Friends at the Gate. I played Deborah, the lead role. This was a request from His Excellency, Governor James Ibori of Delta State. The play is a campaign against the maltreatment of women.
Joining movie industry
I was among the pioneers of the video industry in 1993 with Living in Bondage. I played the role of Sussy, the club lady who later repented. The role was to portray what so many students and even graduates undergo in Nigeria of today. I give glory to God that I played the role very well. Then in part two we repented and gave our lives to Christ. In Glamour Girls, I played Mrs. Rayman, the only married woman in the film. I was one of the priestesses who saved Aliero in Saving Aliero by Francis Onwochie. I must observe that the industry is growing. But the growth is shaky. This is because most ladies have turned the industry into a place for prostitution. Most of them come around and their clients come there to pick them. It is in this regard that I counsel those coming into the industry to be careful.
Most challenging role
I can say that the most challenging role I have played on stage is that of Efuru in Flora Nwapa's Efuru, adapted and directed by Bassey Effiong. Apart from the volume of the lines, it was a role in which I transformed from a normal woman into another realm. Then as Titubi in Morontodun is quite challenging. I have played it several times with different interpretations.
In the movie industry, my role as harlot, is challenging, because it was a total contrast to real life. I am a very religious person. So for me to play a prostitute very well was difficult. I smoked too much in that role.
Complete theatre outfit
Out of desire for me to give my whole life to the theatre I decided to operate a theatre company. And the name complete came to mind because my intention is to practice everything about the theatre. I mean acting, dancing, singing, make-up, costuming, catering, writing, directing, design and all that. As a result we engage in training programmes. In addition to all these we are into voice-over too. We are also into consultancy services.
This is a religious outfit. It is a miraculous forum where we pray to Mother Mary to help those looking for the fruit of the womb. Why it is connected to my career as an actress is that I use all the tools for acting to render services there. That is to say I honour Mother Mary with all my heart. We don't accept fees at the clinic.
My role models are Taiwo Ajayi Lycett and Joke Silva. I take Ajayi Lycett as a mother and Silva a sister. They inspire me a lot.
The desire to showcase myself in many personalities. As a kid I was always imitating what people around me were doing. When I watch TV, I will re-enact all the roles I saw.
As an actress, I see myself as a communicator. The role of a communicator is to give message. With my roles, I try to correct the public. As a result, I want a wider audience to get my message.
Managing my fans
I do not carry it on my head that I am an actress. But I am very careful. I am very cheerful to my fans. I like them. But it is just that most times, one receives one form of embarrassment or the other from them. For instance, when I finished playing the role of a club girl in Living in Bondage, I may be going to the market or passing in the street, I would see people looking at me, and making passing remarks.
This is Catholic Actors and Entertainers Association of Nigeria. This is an association that the late Pope John Paul II recognised before his death. Of course, you would know that the late Pope was an actor. In CAEAN, we want to correct the misrepresentations of the Catholics by our colleagues in the Nigerian movie industry.