TGIF Nudity is not in my agenda no matter the price â€“Uche Benjamin, Nollywood actress
Uche Benjamin's pretty face and carriage is not all there is to this Nollywood actress. She is sociable, unpredictable, a hard worker and is pissed off by the wrong impression people have about Nigerian actresses.
In a recent interview with Daily Sun, the Biochemistry graduate of University of Port harcourt bared her mind on sundry issues, and why she will not engage in sex for roles. Excerpts:
What attracted you to the movie industry?
As a child, I acted dramas while in primary school. In church too, I was a member of the drama group and that further re-inforced my interest in acting. I love being able to interpret roles and behave like someone else other than myself. It gives me great pleasure to do what I am doing.
I felt it has always been in me, so when I graduated from the University of Port Harcourt (Uniport), I attended a private acting school where my skills were honed. Later on, Segun Arinze told me of an audition organized by Chico Ejiro in collaboration with Grandtouch Pictures and based on his recommendation, I went for the audition and they were impressed with my performance. I was subsequently given a lead role in a movie. From there, I went for many auditions and got many jobs as well.
What do you love most about being an actress?
I love the fact that I am doing what I have a flare for. It is what I love and have always fantasized about as a child. It gives me fulfilment and rest.
What lessons have you learnt since you joined Nollywood?
I have learnt to have more carriage than I used to and I now know more about life. The industry has also taught me to be humble. Basically there are certain things that people do and they get on your nerves, but you just have to control yourself and overlook them. If you don't, then it actually means that you don't want to work. Overlooking delibrate provocations doesn't mean you are weak, it only means you have emerged a stonger person and can be able to deal with whatever challenges you face in life.
What pisses you off about being an actress?
Nothing much, just the fact that few people have got wrong impression about some actresses. They label you whatever role you play in a movie and call you unprintable names.
In your view, is Nollywood improving?
Yes. It is improving because we are better off today than what we offer our viewers years back. We have great talents and good concepts. In terms of picture quality, Nollywood have improved tremendously showing that a lot is happening. Also, the perception that our films are always predictable is changing though there are still some scripts that can make you laugh. More creative and dynamic producers are invading Nollywood with great movies.
What would you love to change in Nollywood?
I would love to change the stereotyping and using the same faces always. It is not good for improvement in the industry. New talents need to be exposed so as to make them experts too. If opportunities are not given to upcoming acts, they won't become stars in the industry.
Which top Nollywood stars have you worked with?
I have worked with Uche Jumbo, Kate Henshaw, Emeka Ossai and Jackie Appiah. What was it like working with them?
It was a beautiful experience and they are wonderful people. I really admire them when I see them on screen and I have always longed to work with them. So it was a wish granted when I worked with them.
Who is your role model in the industry?
My number one role model is Liz Benson. Though she no longer acts, people say I look like her and have the same facial structure she has. I also admire Uche Jumbo and I love to watch her movies a lot. I felt happy working with her and I love to learn from both of them.
What were your challenges and how did you handle them?
The challenges I have experienced so far have to do with the job. I was at the bank one day when a lady accosted me and accused me of sleeping with her sister's husband. It was actually a role I played in a movie. I was so embarrassed because a lot of people were looking at us as she was creating a scene. She probably felt it was my lifestyle and she was not acting like someone joking. She was talking to me in a hostile manner as though she was very upset.
I had to make her understand I was only interpreting a role and I am not that kind of person that will do such. It is really challenging, because here in Nigeria, when you do something they attribute it to your personality as was the case in the movie, Crossroads. Such roles gave a wrong impression about me. Also, I was required to fight in another role I played.
I laughed when I read the script, because I had never fought before but the producer encouraged me to give it a shot. These are the challenges aside other personal challenges one experiences. In handling these challenges, I had to tell myself that I am doing my job and despite that, I am interpreting a role that can never be me off screen. I distinguish the job I do from my life totally.
Tell us some of the movies you featured in
Ego, Pains from the Heart, Adams Desire, Margaret Thatcher and so on.
Which one brought you into the limelight?
Which one was the most challenging?
Ego. It was very challenging, but I am glad I was able to pull through at the end of the day.
You are also a model, tell us about your journey into modeling and how far you wish to take it.
I was actually brought into modeling while I was acting. I have modeled for Sammie Okposo in one of his musical videos titled Wedding song. I have also done a commercial for Bobo juice and I have featured in calendars for a new soap in the market. I ventured into modeling because when people see me, they commend my good looks and spotless skin. It has been nice and beautiful because it has fetched me some nice income.
How challenging has it been modeling and acting at the same time?
Combining both jobs is not very challenging but very good. It is a question of balancing your time and schedule to make sure your jobs don't clash with each other. I have always been very careful about my duties to both and so far, I am very comfortable with both jobs.
How have you been handling the exposure that comes with both jobs?
I am now careful of where I go unlike before when I used to think that people donÃt know me because I am new in the industry. Surprisingly in places like banks, people say to me ' I watched you yesterday' or even post comment on Facebook which is an indication that they are watching. So, I tell myself that I have to be careful in what I do and places I go. Despite the fact that I am still young in Nollywood I can't have a private life, I wonder what will it be subsequently. Sometimes, I imagine what celebrities go through because they have lost their privacy and are not free to express themselves and live the way they want to live.
How do people relate with you as an actress?
They relate very well with me. A lot of people are impressed and happy with me because I am an actress.
What do you cherish most about being in Nollywood?
I cherish the fact that I am doing what I love, what I have great passion for.
What benefits do you enjoy because of your status?
A whole lot of benefits. One of them is the fact that I am given more attention when I go places and am recognised which makes it a lot easier.
Have you won any awards?
I have received Ghana Initiative award for my outstanding achievement. I also got an award from City People as an outstanding upcoming actress.
Are you willing to engage in sex for roles?
No never. It will not guarantee my stay on top.
What script would you reject as an actress?
A script with a sex role I will reject it. Every script that tells a living story about life and its daily challenges is what I will accept.
Would you act nude for the right price?
Never. Nudity is not in my agenda no matter the price. I can't act nude. We all have rules but there are certain things you cant do. I'm not saying it's bad, but I can't act nude.
Have you been financially blessed through acting?
Yes. It has been paying my bills and helping me keep body and soul together.
What are you worth now?
Can't mention it, best known to me.
Who do you look up to in the industry?
Genevive Nnaji, Uche Jombo, Bimbo Akintola.
What was growing up like for you?
Very nice, my dad worked in the airport, so we moved from one state to the other. I speak three languages and come from a good humble christian home.
Did your family bless your journey into Nollywood?
Yes. My mom was a bit laid back about it, but my dad was convinced I was heading the right path because he knew he brought me up well. They have also watched me from childhood acting in the church drama group and further attended an acting academy. So, they totally gave me their blessing and support.
Which of your parents had a greater influence on you while growing up?
My dad is a knight in the Anglican church and he gave us a Christian upbringing. He was so strict that as a child, I used to regret having such a dad, but now I am grateful to him because my background gives me joy. I am also close to my mum, because as a civil servant, my dad was always being transferred and mum was always the one around and we are a family of four girls and a boy. I am the first. So, I had a perfect upbringing with wonderful parents.
What does love mean to you?
Love is a very strong one and not a joke. Love is all about being compatible with someone and being compatible with someone is all about understanding yourselves, but not many people know what it means to love. You see someone says 'I love you' to someone they just met for the first time. I think it's funny and that there is something wrong upstairs with that fellow. I believe that love is a gradual process and actually comes with time.
Are you in love now and who is the lucky guy?
I am in love and the man is best known to me. It is private. Although I am now in the limelight because of my acting career, m y love life is private and I keep it so.
What about marriage?
Marriage is a sacred thing and a very private issue for me. I am just being careful about a life partner because marriage is not something you jump into and jump out of when it becomes tough. It is for life and I want to cleave to my husband till death parts us, I don't have to get married now and divorce tomorrow. I don't want to make any mistake in future, marriage is for a lifetime.
What qualities do you look out for in a man?
A lot but godliness and honesty especially. He should be God-fearing and have a living conscience. He should also be straightforward.
Can you recall your fist shot at love, what was the experience like?
It was a nice one. Love is beautiful when it is with the right person.
How do you know the right person?
Love generally is a nice thing , but there are a lot of tricky people out there. Some guys profess love when they donÃt mean it from their hearts. ItÃs really hard to know the right person especially when you are attractive. So, I take my time to find out a guy's motives and I advise ladies to be careful generally.
Can you date someone you played a romantic role with?
No. I don't think it is right to do so because people will read a lot of meaning into it.
What if it happens that you love the guy in question, what will you do?
I will take my time on the issue because it is a very delicate one. Love happens in processes and not just an instant stuff.
How do your friends handle your new status?
Some of them feel that I don't really have time for them and that I snub them, but I don't do that. When you are into entertainment, what you don't really expect comes, so you find yourself being someone else. I have explained to them and they have learnt to accept me the way I am. I don't really keep a lot of female friends. Girls are something else.
Why don't you keep a lot of female friends?
I don't because girls are unpredictable. Not all girls though. They are not really what they claim to be and so I prefer male friends. My male friends give me good advice and encourage me to bring out the best in me. I learn more from my male friends than female friends.
Can you recall your happiest moment?
When I got a good news for something I was waiting for. It was really a dream come true for me at that time.
Any sad moments?
When I lost a best friend in an accident. After seeing her off the last time she visited me, I never saw her again. She died.
What is the closest shave you have had with death?
My closest shave with death was when I had a car accident with some friends. We were returning from a friend's birthday party and we didnÃt know the driver was drunk. The car somersaulted, but I thank God that nobody died.
How do you relax?
I enjoy going to the cinemas to see movies and I read a lot of papers and magazines to get information about things. I am also a fashion freak and I love good things. I am also addicted to CSI channel on DSTV.
Tell us more about yourself.
I am Uche Benjamin, I am from Owerri town. I am very social, very unpredictable, a goal getter and I love to work hard.
What advice would you give to an aspiring model and actress?
My advice to upcoming models and aspiring actresses is that they should not be very desperate. They should picture in their mind's eye what they want out of their life and career choice and go for it without fear.