Chioma sure loves to make people laugh. This is one character her fans are yet to discover, a trait that filmmakers are yet to explore. Twisting are lips mischievously and blinking like a spoilt brat, the amiable actress and final year student of Banking and Finance in Lagos State University (LASU) dazzled with deep pidgin English, while making light of the question on how her course of study is related to acting : “N-e-l-l, e fit no relate as you go think am o, but make we just say e go let me manage my finance as I dey make de peper from acting per se….”
Chioma, a member of choir in the Pastor Paul Adefarasin's “House on the Rock” church and back up singer for Sammy Okposo's Ex-generation band, who said, she is a born again Christian, although she is single, wife seekers should keep off, as she will be tying the nuptial knot soon.
Chioma told the story of a rewarding beginning in her acting career: “Sometimes in the 90s, I went for an audition and it didn't work out. Then in the year 2000, I met a producer who asked me if I could read. He needed somebody for a role and he had not got what he wanted. That was how I got to read the script and I guess he liked my performance. But then he had a problem with my looks on that day which he said did not appear quite young and naïve, apparently because of what I was wearing. I took off that attire and that was it. That was how I got my first movie role in The Apple where I played a seventeen year old girl.”
“Was she really seventeen? “No, I was much more older” she said.
When did the idea of becoming an actress first strike her? Chioma, said she had had the flair from childhood, not necessarily to be an actress, but for any performance that would bring her before the crowd. Said she: “I actually grew up with the desire to be a singer, just like must kids do, you know; some wanting to become a lawyer and some others, doctor. But, for me, music was the thing, and I grew up loving the crowd. I just visualize myself under the spotlight with a lot of people. But then, I didn't know which way exactly that dream was going to lead me. Now, I found myself here.
Even then, before any vision, there must have existed certain traits of a particular talent. How did she discover that she could sing in the first place? “I had the desire to sing when I discovered that I had the voice. So, I started singing in the kitchen, the toilet, the shower, everywhere. Then, I said to myself, how do I improve on this? So, I joined the choir in my church”.
Talking about her church and her role as an active member of the choir, how does she react to the rumour that her pastor, Paul Adefarasin, who felt that her acting career was beginning to run in conflict with her role in church, took issues so personal that he asked her to choose between her career and the church.
“That is very wrong”, she said. “Pastor Paul supports what anybody is doing as long as you do it right and you still stand out. The assistant pastor, Yemi, actually told me this: 'Chioma, I want you to be able to do what you are doing and do it well. I want you to stand out, such that people would see in you that you are a minister of God'. So, you see, they don't have problem with my career. What is important here is how I do it, bearing in mind that I am a minister of God”. Concluding, she said: “Pastor Paul has never been against anyone becoming an actor or actress and I didn't have any option of having to choose between acting and singing in the choir.”
Chioma, who believes that as a performing artiste, the success which her effort in The Apple and other films brought to her is a mark of God's love and destiny, said, although, she did her best to fit into her roles, God interpreted the character for her. She agreed that The Apple is truly her first and her break, it is today, difficult for her to say, which film, is actually her best. In retrospect, she said: “I won't forget The Apple in a hurry because, it was my first and I had challenges. I was working with professionals. I was a green horn who didn't know her left from her right. Another of such challenging ones is the very epic of Don Azema. Then, I wasn't used to shooting outdoors. We went all out into the bush and there are particular costumes you wear in the movie and the make ups. So far, these two, I find quite challenging, but all my movies are my best, I dare say.
How much was she paid the first time and how did she feel about it? “I know you are not expecting me to tell you how much it was that I was paid, but honestly, my first time, it wasn't about how much it was that I was paid, I was still trying to establish myself as an actress, so, if I was paid peanut, it was okay, because I had to pay my due.”
Has she really paid her due? Without mincing words, she said “Yes, I have paid my dues, because if you have a job for me, I tell you, this is how much I want from the job and if you can't afford it, you forget it”.
She added that beyond the money that any producer may be offering her the script and storyline must be good enough for her to accept to do it. What target has she set for herself in the industry? She said “Like I said, I have carved a niche for myself in the industry, and I want to remain there. I will do what I am supposed to do, but will still be myself. If you watch Chioma Chukwuka on TV, you will know this girl is natural, she is not trying to be somebody else, and that is what I want to be. I see myself, not just within the four walls of the country, Nigeria.”
Now what part, if given to her, would she not be able to handle conveniently? She said: “well if I am given the part of a child who is two years old, that I am sure I won't be able to play. Also, I can't pose nude. I am not a nudity actress. I can't reveal certain things that are meant for my husband's eyes alone”.