Between Nollywood and my marriage


Jennifer Awazie (nee Olisa) is a young actress, who is so committed to making her marriage work that she will not allow fame and glamour of movie industry to delude her. Awazie, who acted alongside the likes of Liz Benson and Nkem Owoh (Osuofia), would rather confine herself to the island town of Bonny, Rivers State, carrying out her duties as a mother and housewife rather than hop from one set to the other.

The mother of two, who sometimes featured in Gabs Okoye's (Gabosky) Nneka the Pretty Serpent, Pam Pam,among others, shared her experiences as a movie actress and her gradual return to the industry. However, she expresses fear and misgivings on the present state of the movie industry where actors are being banned by the powers that be.

I attended St Patrick's Primary School, Asaba. Later, I proceeded to St Bridget Grammar School, Asaba, after which I was given admission to the University of Lagos to study Creative Arts. I had my one-year national service in Ibadan, after which I returned to Bonny Island with my husband and children. This was the same thing I did when I was a student, I was combining my duties as a housewife with my acting career. Actually, I started acting before I went to Unilag. For some time now, I have been on and off the industry because I am no longer in Lagos where they call the shots.
I would say that producers, directors and marketers tend to forget you if they don't see you regularly. That has affected my acting career but I believe God that by the time some of my new movies are released, they would see it and say oh! I still remember this face.

How I started
I came into the movie industry in 1995. Someone introduced me into acting. At that time, they were actually looking for someone to play a role in Nneka the Pretty Serpent 2. I went for the auditioning, and the director saw me and said that I was fit for the role. He felt that the casting was right. He said he would try and see if I could deliver and gave me what I wanted.
At the end of this, he was impressed by what I came up with and that marked the beginning of my journey into the movie industry. I began with Gabosky Films and Chesky. After that I did one or two other Igbo movies with Gabosky and Opah Williams. I started with English movies, but I can't really remember all of them. I remember Black Powder, Pam Pam which I did with Nkem Owoh, Okey

Bakasi and Jide Kosoko among others.
I remember that Twins was my last movie before I got married. After that, I got married and the first chapter of my career as an actress closed. After that, I was given admission to University of Lagos. So, I had to cope with student's life, marriage and the movie industry. In year 2000, I had my first baby, Jessie. When I got married, I had my second baby, Jeffrey. My husband, Joseph, is very caring and understanding, he has always been there for me even while I was in school.

Sacrificing career for marriage
No! I did not leave the industry because I was married. The problem had to do with my location. Like I said earlier, I am no longer where the shots are being called. There in Bonny Island, I doubt it if producers feel it is reasonable to bring someone from such a long distance to feature in a movie in Lagos. But I really don't think that is the case, because, all it takes is a call, and I would be there as long as I got the notice on time. I should be able to sort myself out and get there.

My in-laws and acting
They don't have any problem with that. In fact, my sister-in-law is a movie producer. They take it as 'okay, this is your career', they see everything as a make-belief. Most times if there is any film, they are eager to watch and talk about it. It's been okay, and my people don't have problems with it either.

Who is Jennifer
I am an easy-going person, who wants things right. There are no two ways about it. In fact, you have to call a spade a spade. I hate people who are double-faced, so to speak. You just have to be straightforward and honest.

Message in my movies
I would say that in 2 Face, the guy was living a double life. He is not straight-forward. He has a family whom he claimed were dead. He went somewhere else and started a new life. He duped a young girl from a wealthy background, got what he needed from her and went ahead to start-off life with another rich girl. He kept on deceiving people until he received the last stroke. In Twins, the message is that, no matter the situation, one should not kill an innocent child. The twins were not there when the crime was committed, so you don't have to transfer your anger to them by killing them. No one should take a life no matter the situation.

Sex for roles
I didn't experience it as a single lady how much more, now that I am married. Once you are good, you will get your roles. Well, it is different strokes for different folks. I don't know if some other people experienced it the bitter way, but I did not experience that. Like I said earlier on, I went for an audition, and the director was pleased with my performance. When the movie came out, the movie spoke for itself.

Life at UNILAG
What I did was that when I was admitted, I had a group of friends I met during our registration. The likes of Nimi Peters, Sussane Patrick, Nnamdi Amadi, Kenny Iwatuje; they assisted me on campus in the sense that we were always together. They were always there for me and otherwise. I didn't feel too important that I am a movie star. I humbled myself because by the time you start feeling big, especially in Unilag, you would be placed where you don't like. So, I came in, studied the environment and blended with it.

Coping with sexual advances
I am always very diplomatic. If you want to claim that you don't know that I am married, I would show you my wedding ring. I would tell you that I am married with kids. I usually say it that in case, you don't believe it that this person is married, I would pose the question to him, does it mean that once you are married that you must be an Iya Apati (fat and shapeless). That is not what marriage is all about. As a married woman, you still need to look beautiful and attractive to your husband. At least, something attracted you to him so that when he looks at you, he would say this is the woman I got married to and not someone else.

God is my strength
Na God, first! One has to put God first. If God is not there, nothing works.

Views on Nollywood
It is in a state of pity. I must say, I don't know. The movie industry is taking another shape, which I can hardly understand because I have not been around. But from the look of things, it is like the marketers now call the shots. Whatever one does in the movie industry, one needs to be careful so that you don't take the wrong step and get banned. These people who are banned now, I really don't know how they are faring, because it is their lives; what they enjoy doing. For example, if all of a sudden, a lecturer who loves teaching learns that there would no longer be universities in the country, you would see the frustration all around such a lecturer. So, I don't know the shape the movie industry is taking. I only pray that God will help us.

I hope that it gets better. I hope that government will intervene because if the market is open, there would be competition. But, if there is only one group of people controlling the market, then everyone will be at their mercy.