As a kid, I climbed trees, played pranks and football like the boys— Uche Jombo
Believe it or not, pretty Uche Jombo is currently one of the hottest actresses to look out for. From a humble beginning, Jombo, from Abiriba, Abia State, has risen to the top of her career with a lot of movies to her credit. Interestingly too, Jombo who is also a producer is among the hottest spinsters in Nollywood.
Despite her late father's warning that she should not venture into acting, “very stubborn” Ucheobi Jessica Jombo, damned all consequence and gave her body and soul to Nollywood.
How did you get into acting ?
It was actually by accident. I was in the right place at the right time. I stepped into Fidelis Duker's office to drop a letter from the organisers of Reel Awards because I was part of the marketing committee.
At that time Fidelis Duker was about to take off on a soap opera production titled Images, which he later turned into a home video. He was auditing that day I went to his office. As I just walked into his office, he pushed a script to me and asked me to read for him.
I said, 'no, I'm here to give you a letter and he said “you can't act” and I said no, I can act. He said 'that's what everybody says' that I can't act.
Then I told him, I can act. He then asked me how I know I can act whether I had acted on a script before. I told him of how three years of my secondary school was paid for, by acting scholarship, then he got interested and asked further.
I explained to him that in United Church of Christ where I belonged, we had this drama group called “Children of God” which is meant for children in their teenage troubling years.
During my teenage years, I was a total tom boy, so to keep me off the streets, off climbing trees and playing football with the boys, my mother had to register me in that drama group.
So after school hours, instead of me going to play football, I go to church to act. In the drama group, the best student in drama is given a scholarship for one year making it something to look forward to. I grew up in Aba but I was born in Enugu
So, I won that in a row, 3 years. Fidelis was shocked and my career in the movies had started. That was my very first time acting on script, he later turned it into a movie called Visa to hell. Some how, Adure, another movie came out before it.
What are the challenges you faced?
The job comes with challenges but you will always tell yourself that you can make it. What you might see as challenge might not be that to me because I'm doing what I love to do. I'm being paid to do it, it stops being a job to me, it become a way of life. The challenges are the things that come with the kind of life style I live as an actress.
How did you overcome these?
By being me. Yes, I always believe that life is too short to attach too much importance to things of the world. When you let go easily on things that are worrisome, knowing that there's always a supreme being over there who is there to make things better, your mind will be at rest. I try these days to focus more on positive things and free my mind off negative ones.
How true is this notion that actresses sleep their way to the top?
I hear that too but, trust me, if I was sleeping with the director, it will not take me a whole nine years to be where I am today.
But the truth of the matter is, you can not as a person say may be, you heard, you cannot even confirm because the only person that you know is you, you can only trust yourself, because you don't know what the other person has done.
You don't even know if the story you heard about her sleeping with the director or producer to get role is true. But God must be with you for things to be okay.
My attitude to work six years ago is still my attitude to work today, but I'm a lot bigger today to what I was, six years ago. So, I guess it is just God's time
What is that driving force that keeps you going?
By believing in myself and telling myself that I could do it. When people talk to me and say they want to be an actor or actress, that they want to be just like me, I always tell them to start by believing in themselves. If I did not believe in myself , I would have long ago, left the industry to look for work, because I can't imagine how many times they had family meetings on me just because I live by acting.
It got to a time that I felt may be, this profession is not for me. But knowing well that this is what I'm supposed to do for life, I am strongly convinced and I stood by what I believe in. That is why I said you must start by first believing in yourself and everything will definitely fall in place.
I'm not saying that there will not be doubts, there will definitely come a time when discouragements will set in. Sometimes you will lock up yourself and cry, you even ask yourself sometimes if you're threading the wrong path, but having that confidence in yourself is what keeps you going at such trying times.
Having been through all of these, could you say it has been exciting?
I've worked hard for it so, I should enjoy the work and basically I've always enjoyed what I do. Even now, some ask me that, “Uche, you still have time to write knowing you're always busy” I always tell them that the time just comes because I enjoy what I do. Sometimes, it's not really like you're working. It's a way of life.
Flashing back to your childhood years, especially the time you were the drama queen, did it ever occur to you that you'll end up being an actress?
Even when I was the drama queen of the house, I never thought that I'll end up an actress. I used to think I'll end up being a talk show host, have my TV show, interview people, especially celebrities.
This was why I grabbed the opportunity of the MMS presentation job when it came. That was what I dreamt of growing up to do, not acting.
Who is that soul mate of yours and when will the bells ring?
Mr. right? Am I engaged? No, I am not, am I in a relationship? Yes I am. I do not want to talk about it?
No, I don't. Seriously
If you have an opportunity to change anything in the Nigerian entertainment industry, what will it be?
That's a tricky question because, I don't know how to answer it. There are lots of things to address.
Having the support of the government, for instance, may be I want to shoot in Aso Rock, and I get it without cracking my head to think of what Aso Rock looks like. Things like more corporate bodies coming into the business.
Making this job corporate where you'll shoot on high definition cameras on its regular grounds. Also make your money before the film gets to the market, so you'll not just be relying on only the market.
The thing I probably won't change is the talent because I think Nigeria is blessed with lots of talents. But technically, distribution wise and what is accessible to us, those are the things I would want to change.
How do you unwind?
I watch films a lot. I go to Silverbird to watch films and I also enjoy football.
What is your grooming taste like, are you a designer freak?
Not really, I wear what suits me, if it happens to be labelled, so be it.
Being a star, what are those things you used to do that you're not able to do anymore?
There are lots now. Part of the things you give up as a celebrity is that your life is no longer yours. Everything you do is under scrutiny, you have to defend everything you do.
When you do something, which is not as if it's totally bad, people will definitely talk as long as you're a celebrity.
When do you consider the happiest moment of your life?
It was the first time my script was produced in year 2000. When I was able to balance acting and writing well and I sold a lot of scripts that I wrote. That was one of my happiest moments.