MY ENGAGEMENT RING IS WHITE GOLD!---MERCY JOHNSON
Mercy Johnson joined Nollywood not too long ago and like a meteorite, she shot up, even higher than those before her. But within the short period of time, she has recorded more scandals than those who were there before now. Could all the stuff they say about her be true? She gives 'NONYE IWUAGWU the answers in this interview.
You seem the rave of the moment; you are virtually in every movie. What's magic?
I am not in every movie o. But I am trying. I tell you, it is just hard work, and there is nothing more to it. I don't know anybody; I am just on my own. It is only God that I have. It is awesome. I don't even believe it myself. I can only say it is a favour from God.
So the long months of countless auditions have paid off now…
Yes o. I tell you, I attended countless auditions. I didn't understand what was happening anymore. I woke up early in the morning and I was at the national theatre going through many auditions. That is why I tell you my success now is basically hard work. I was dedicated. I knew what I wanted and I had to go for it. I was all out for it.
When did the big break come?
I tell you, it came with the first movie I featured in. The Maid by Kenneth Nnebue, was a hit and I played the lead role.
So you never played any waka pass role…
I did not. You can check my profile.
When did you come into the industry?
I came in 2001. But I started acting professionally in 2002. I am now into it fully.
What made you take up acting?
I would say 'who' and not 'what'. I wanted to be like somebody. I saw Genevieve Nnaji on screen when she acted Sharon Stone and I just wanted to be like her. It wasn't as if I was so much in love with the acting profession. Genevieve was just like the motivating factor. I saw her and I was tripped.
Do you think you are like her now?
I am nowhere near her. I am still learning.
So you don't even have any intention of leaving the industry since you are aiming to be like Genevieve…
I may move. I have other things on my mind now. I would want to go into some other things later. For now, I am still concentrating on my career. I have not gotten to the level I would want to be. I am being focused right now. I want to go higher than where I am now.
How high do you want to get?
Very high. It is not as if I want to be a Hollywood star. I don't even want that. Nollywood is blooming and expanding. I want to be a part of that progression. I want to learn more in directing, acting and every other thing. I want to be here when we get to the zenith in the entertainment industry.
How many movies have you featured in since you joined?
They are not that many. I think I have done well over 25 or 30 movies.
These days, you don't have to lobby movies…
In fact, they are even looking for me right now.
Everybody wants you to be in his or her movie, you must be feeling...
I am just like the girl next door. I come from a very humble background. I am an Igbira babe. I am very down to earth. Anytime I want to do something, I look back. I remember where I am coming from and I think twice. I wouldn't have been where I am today if not because of where I came from. I thank God for everything. There is no change in me. I am still the same person I have always been. I lost my privacy but it's fine.
You lost your privacy, yes. But you should be happy with the razzmatazz in your profession…
Not really. There are things I cannot do any more. But I see it as a sacrifice.
Will you swap Acting with any other profession?
I will not. Even for the whole luxury in China.
How much were you paid in the first movie you acted?
I did it for free. But when the movie came out, the producer called me and gave me N50, 000. According to him, I did so well. So I see it like a gift and not payment for a job.
How much do you pocket these days?
Come on! Why should I tell you? I will tell you later but not now please. But all I can tell you is that I am very comfortable.
How do you cope with the challenges of being an actress?
It is not easy o. People expect so much from you. They seem to forget that you are a human being. They see you as a superstar. But in any case, I just believe in being myself. I try not to embarrass my fans; at the same time, I try to live my life. Come on, this life is meant to be lived.
But what are those things you can no longer do because you are an actress?
I don't think I should tell you.
Just tell me...
Hmmmm… It is so annoying. Well, I and my friends used to go somewhere in Shitta (Surulere) to eat amala. I can no longer do that. I can no longer eat boli (roasted plantain) on the road like I use to.
Is that all?
It is not all o. These days I have to go to Shoprite to buy things and I even have to be careful the way I walk. I cannot even go to Yaba anymore
So you used to go to Yaba (Okirika) market to shop?
Ha! Why are you doing this to me? I didn't say I shop in Yaba.
I know. But at least you used to buy some things there.
I have told you. I buy things in the boutique. I don't buy them at Yaba market.
How old are you?
I am a very young girl.
Can you give me a figure, please?
Do you know what I am scared of?
If I tell you I am 22 right now, by the time I spend another ten years in the industry people will now know I am 32 and I don't want that.
So you are 22 years old?
I didn't say that o. Lets' just say I am in my early twenties.
Since you are this 'young', marriage shouldn't be on your list.
It is o! Ha! Are we friends at all?
But you claim you are 'very young'…
I don't know what to say again o. Okay, I am not yet 25 but just take it I am in my early twenties like I said before. It is not as if I am thinking about marriage right now. But it is an opportunity every woman would not want to give up or allow to pass her by. The earlier you begin to get serious with a particular relationship, the better for you.
So let's just say I am 'arranging' myself now for marriage.
So you are in a relationship…
Oh yes. I am in a very serious relationship.
Will this relationship lead to marriage?
Oh! Have you not seen my engagement ring? It is white gold!
What if he tells you to quit acting?
He loves my job. Peradventure he tells me to quit, I will beg him and I will beg him and I will beg him. If he insists, I will quit but I will still be in the entertainment industry.
Is the guy in your industry?
Hell no? Were you not doing something with Nonso Diobi back then?
Ha! Nonso is my very good friend. I just finished speaking with him now. I don't have any relationship with him. I even know his girlfriend.
What of Benedict Johnson?
He is my friend. People even think we are related since we share the same surname, but we are not. He is an Igbo guy. We are very close. I am not dating him.
So you are saying you have not dated an actor…
Eemmm… Can I tell you later?
Why not tell me now?
This 'no', is it for me or for the public?
You really want to put me in trouble. My answer is no.
But what of that guy that bought that Rav 4 for you?
Ha! I bought my car by myself.
I said I bought my car myself. But I am working. What would I use my money for? I bought my Honda by myself.
I am talking about the Rav 4 and not the Honda. We hear that you dumped the guy after he bought the Rav 4 for you.
I heard that story as well. But honestly, I bought the car myself. I am making my money. No matter how small, it is still my money.
You are a student of Lagos State University…
But we hear you are no longer there.
Yes. We hear your G.P was less that one point so you were asked to withdraw from the school.
Well, I saw something on the net with the caption, 'An Illiterate Star' with my picture on it. I really felt bad. People had to comment on that.
Since you think it is just a rumour, where do you think it came from?
I don't know and I don't intend to find out.
So you are saying you are a bona fide student of LASU…
Yes. I knew when I was coming into this industry; there might be some scandals. But I tell you, this illiterate own really got to me.
Did it get to you as much as it got to you when they said you sleep around with different men?
It is still better than somebody calling me an illiterate star. I felt bad.
Do you think these scandals will affect you in any way?
I make mistakes. I am human after all. I am not perfect. But what makes me a person is the ability to fall and stand up again. Even if I am an illiterate, I still have time to buckle up. Once there is life, there is hope. I am not going to fight anybody concerning this scandal. People have their right to their opinion. I am still going on with my work and doing all the things I should do. I am not going to allow such rumour to affect me. I am living my life like Mercy. That I felt bad about that didn't mean I had to stop doing my work.
Since you said you are still a student, how are you combining your studies with your career?
I would be lying if I tell you I go to school all the time. It has been pretty difficult. But I just try to do my best.
Which of the actors do you love working with the most?
I love working with all of them. They all have their weak points and their strengths. But I do enjoy all the actors I work with. I don't have any problems with them.
How come people say you are wild?
Do you mean 'wild' as in the roles I play?
No, they say you are wild even in reality.
I don't know o. I can't judge myself. But I know I am not wild.
What do your parents do when they read and hear such bad stuff about you?
They just encourage me. My family has been great to me. They all knew it is part of my job and they try to encourage me all the way.
What is the toughest role you have played?
I see all the role I play as a challenge. I always try my best in all of them. I give each and every one of them the same dedication and all that.
Since there is a heavy rivalry amongst actresses, who is your own rival now?
I don't have any rival. The industry is too big for me to have a rival.
Okay. Who do you envy?
I don't envy anybody. I only admire Genevieve. She is my idol. I just can't compare her with anybody.
Have you had an opportunity of working with her?
Yes. I have worked with her twice. She is wonderful. I didn't even work; I would just say I was learning. While she was acting, I was just looking at her. When I met her, it was like a dream come true.
What is your vision?
I want to get to the zenith of my career. In the nearest future, I think I would want to give back to this society that has given me so much. I am going to go into charity. I may not need to give anybody millions, but the little I can do, I hope to do it.