I adopted the name Dominic because difficult to pronounce’
You cannot fail to notice her.And as she walked through the doors of the VGC Club, situated along the Lekki Express road, Lagos, where this reporter was already waiting, her poise and elegance filtered beyond the dark glasses and no-make-up face she probably thinks would give her some privacy. The pool side soon provided some relaxation and in no time, top Nollywood actress Rita Dominic, who has just returned from a trip abroad, opened up in this exhaustive interview with Victor Akande on what she's been up to.
What has been happening to Rita Dominic in recent time? Rita Dominic has been kind of quiet. Quiet in the sense that she's been taking her time, doing some challenging works and being very selective too of the kind of job she does. You know, I did a film last year in England called Saidi's Song with some international cast and I did a film with Amstel Malta called White Water which is going to be out soon.
Talking about the Amstel Malta sponsored movie called White Water, were you auditioned along side other established actors to have come tops?
They just called me and gave me a form. I'm sure they had done their home work properly. Then, I read the script and I felt good about it.
More so, Izu Ojukwu, the director is some one I always wanted to work with and I loved the story, it was something very different and I thought it was going to challenge me as an actor because I played an athlete in the film. And I tell you, we were in some bush in Nasarawa State and we spent about a month shooting the film in the forest, it wasn't what I was used to but somehow we got the job done.
One recalls that in the last film, Sithanda, the lead character, Stephanie Okereke overshadowed the AMBO girl, Azizat Sadiq. In White Water, how were you able to carry the young actor along, even though we know it is more of the director's duty?
I think the problem with Sithanda was the story. Because this story, White Water is centered more around the AMBO boy, Okechukwu Ukeje. Though I played the lead female role and I was his love interest, the story was built around the boy.I don't know what happened with the first movie, but this one is all about the boy really.
Let's get more personal. You lost your dad last year. How have you been able to get over it, especially as the last child?
(Sighs) No matter how strong one may be, even though I knew he was sick for a long time, you can never be prepared for death eventually. I try to be strong, few days ago, I actually broke down because I thought of my parents; both of them are late and I just started crying because I missed them. Well, I just find a way to live with it. What would I do? God knows best. By June this year, we are going to do his first year remembrance. In any case, I have older ones who are out for me, I'm fine, I guess.
Considering the nature of your job, you come across different people, some of them, needy. Are you moved in any way to set up an NGO or foundation like some of your colleagues?
We are actually working on one or two things at the moment, my self and my management, but we'll like to keep it to ourselves in the mean time.
This is my own observation but it could be wrong. Yours is not a common face at social events, even those within the entertainment industry. Is this by design or coincidence?
The truth of the matter is that left to me, I'll want to be at home alone, watch movies all day, eat food, do my exercises. Left to me, I wouldn't do all these outings, I mean; I can hang out occasionally with my friends. Not withstanding, I do attend functions, but I choose the ones I attend.
This brings us to the question of how sociable you are, or how really close you are to people in the entertainment business in Nigeria.
Ehmn, how do I put it? If you are asking if I have friends in the industry, I won't really say I have friends. I may have one or two people, who I get on well with, and I have some that I'm civil with. When I am on set with my colleagues, we have fun, we play but most of the time after the production it ends there because every body is busy doing other things. So we don't really get to see each other more after set. But when on set, we interact well, and I think that's what is most important, to be able to have a certain kind of relationship so that we can interpret the role better or achieve certain chemistry, especially where you are meant to play together.
I can't remember the last time you 'emceed' an event.
Have I ever 'emceed' one? (Laughs) I don't think I've ever 'emceed' an event.
Good! I didn't want to assume. But I thought it goes with the job; a popular face, good will and the aura of a celebrity leading the proceedings at event. Most of your colleagues have taken advantage of this and it's really adding to their take-home, especially through patronage from corporate organizations.
I have been approached several times but I think the closest I have gotten to was when I presented an award at the City People Awards ceremony and that was some two years ago. That's the closest but I used to do that a lot in school when I was in UNIPORT. I've been approached so many times, but I will do it some day if something motivates me, but really, it's not really 'my thing'.
I guess you are just trying to be more of a private person than a public person. How do you reconcile that?
Let's look at it this way, my life is out there for the public, it's open, so the little I can keep to my self, I keep to myself. So, that's what I've been trying to do.
Now, what do you do at your leisure apart from watching movies, you already mentioned that?
Right now, I am kind of addicted to exercise. You would notice I have lost a lot of weight. I do an exercise called Taikwando and boxing, it's shortened as 'Taibo.' What else? I read books; I'm reading James Patterson's book right now. I love to travel; I love to travel to islands really. Even though I travel to the US or Europe, they are not really my idea of vacation. I love to go to a place where there's a lot of sand and water; places like Hawaii etc and as stated earlier, I watch a lot of movies.
Talking about movies, what kind of movies do you watch, American, Indian movies?
I watch all kinds of movies; so long as the story is good. And as long as it captures my interest, I really don't care.
Do you watch your own movies?
Yes! I try to because I think I'm my own greatest critic. I criticize myself constructively, so I try to watch my own movies. The genre of movies I like to watch; especially with the foreign movies; thrillers, horrors.
When you watch your own movies for instance, how much do you yearn to improve on it? Do you have to argue with your director to make a script better?
I was thought in school that your director is like your god on set because I studied Theatre Arts. If I have ideas, I try to be very diplomatic about it because that is the director's domain. I try to approach him by saying, director, what do you think, I think it could be better if we do it this way and so on, but not to try to impose anything on him. For every human being, the way you approach them matters, by the time I talk to a director like that, he'll find himself doing what I want him to do because I've approached him nicely and he'd seen that I made sense. Even though some of the directors are not qualified to be called directors, because a P.A gets up tomorrow and becomes a director without proper training. (Laughs) Anyway, before I even accept a script, the first question I ask is who is directing the movie?
Owing to the fact that not many actors have got the potential to be cast as lead character, resulting in some of you jumping from one set to another or even shuttling between two sets at a time, how much time do you have to remove your person from one character before living the character of another?
I know it's not an easy thing to do but I came to meet the industry like this. So what I try to do is that upon leaving a set, I try to give myself a day or two and by the time I get on the next set, of course I would have studied the script. I can quickly relate to the new character in my head, do character analysis and combine that with other images that I have on my head. That's what I do (laughs). It's not enough time but at least that way I can be different.
Talking about your new chosen hobby, which is exercising, was anybody complaining that you were getting out of shape?
(Laughs) It's a life style I've chosen. I just decided that I have to live healthy, shed some weight and get my self tuned up and this is the best time for me to start to do it.
Isn't it for your job?
Ehmn, yes, my job and of course because it is a better life style for me, to live healthy. Like there are lots of things I don't eat any more. For instance, I try to live without oil because you would not believe what too much oil does to the system.
In essence, you deny your self a lot of things because you want to remain in shape. That's sacrifice.
But I eat right. I don't starve myself; you must do it right because if you do it wrong you are not going to get the desired result.
I know you would want to be beautiful for your fans, your job; to enhance your patronage by movie producers and of course for you husband or boy friend as the case may be…
Should I tell you the truth? I'm doing it for myself. Honestly, it's just purely for myself because when you are happy with yourself, you are confident with yourself and it radiates and people will see that through you. So I'm doing it for myself first and foremost and then, I'm doing it for my job, you know, to be in top shape.
What sort of confidence does that give you?
Oh! You can't imagine it. It… (Clenching her fist in search of the right words) I don't know how I can explain it. You can't imagine the kind of confidence it can give you. I've come to realize that exercising is very good, a couple of years ago, I didn't know. It makes you feel like a new person each day.
How is you relationship with your fans. How do you take their compliments, how do you swallow the embarrassments?
I don't really know how to take compliment. But it's encouraging that at the end of the day you get a pat in the back for the work you are doing. So, I don't joke with my fans. Any where I meet them, I must smile and appreciate them by saying 'thank you'. As for embarrassments, it happens every day. Some of them say nasty things, but I don't pay attention to those. May be in their minds they are paying you compliments but for me I find it a bit off.
Compare your Nigerian fans with your fans abroad, may be, even Ghana?
The truth of the matter is that in other parts of Africa we are more appreciated than in our own country. I'm not saying we don't have a fan base here but I think in other African countries, they seem to appreciate us more. If I'm in Ghana or Liberia, I'm not sure I can sit down like this with you without people swarming us.
Let's do a little gossip. You used to be very friendly with Monalisa Chinda. You were not at her naming ceremony recently and some one they say you two don't see eye to eye, is this true?
First of all, I wasn't even aware of her naming ceremony. I was not in the country; I just got back three weeks ago. So I wasn't even here to start with. Ok fine, may be we were close in school and all that but you know how it is, after school, one take on a different interest and you know how over the years one just lose such friendship. But it doesn't mean we don't say hello to each other. It doesn't mean we don't talk; she is my colleague, when we meet on set we greet and work together. So I don't know why people get this impression that we are not friends or that we don't talk.
They say you girls were as close as to living together then
That's the point I'm trying to make to you. I'm sure somebody who was your best friend at the time when you were younger is probably not your best friend today but it doesn't mean you guys quarreled or fought.
Now there is this common question we often ask, 'when is she going to settle down?' And if there is a Mr. Right in sight.
No, we are not going to talk about that. That is my personal thing and any time that is going to happen, trust me, you'll be the first to know.
That sounds like a promise?
Sure! A promise.
Beautiful! But even at that, I'm sure you have talked to God. I'm also sure you have made projections like, this year God, this month or even this week... What do you say?
What ever projections or what ever I am doing, it's for me to know and for you to guess. (Laughs) but like I said, don't worry... when the time comes, I'll let you guys know.
How much do you love children?
I love kids. I'm the last child; so I don't really have a younger brother or sister and my older ones, I didn't grow up with really because they started living in England a long time ago because they were born there and I was the only one born here. Because of that I really love kids and I have four god children; one is my uncle's daughter, my brother's son and two of my friend's kids.
You've said that before
No. that was 'last', now is 'last-last.' Tell us a little more about yourself.
My name is Rita Dominic Waturuocha. Why I adopted Dominic was because it's my father's first name and when I first came into the industry, Waturuocha wasn't easy for producers to pronounce. I'm from Imo state. We are four children and I'm the last child with two older sisters and an older brother. They all live in England. I am a happy-go- lucky kind of person. I studied Theatre Arts in University of Port Harcourt. Moved to England after the first two years of being in Nollywood, came back after another two years and found Nollywood has grown bigger than what it was. I did a few movies again and that was how I got stuck, never live in England again. Right now I'm looking for that one movie that will give me the right satisfaction as an actor.
How are you finding your new VGC environment?
Oh! It's very nice, very quiet. I'm already getting used to my neighbors. If there is any thing I crave for after the day's work, it's that quite environment and it suits me there.