Men are necessary evil - Ngozi Nwosu
SHE is a pioneer star actress who made her first appearance in the film Living in Bondage. A great cross-over actress as well, her six-year stint as Peace, in Fuji House of Commotion, earned her fame and recognition beyond description. So loved is she for that role that her fans are crying foul over her “removal”. Adia Ukoyen caught up with the down-to-earth actress at her Maryland, Lagos home where she opened up on why she left the soap opera and more.
When did you start acting?
I started acting when I was very small. As a matter of fact, right from my days in primary school.
You are extremely fluent in the Yoruba Language. How did you achieve that?
I am an Ibo girl but the Yoruba part of me came from Lagos because I grew up here.
Lately, it has been observed that you are no longer a part of the Fuji House of Commotion soap opera. Are you off? What is the problem?
I am finally off the set of Fuji House of Commotion, having been with them for six years. I left because there were certain things I could not take. Secondly, I believe that if you have worked for a person for six years, you deserve an increment. If this increment is done, it should be such that you are happy and the other party is happy too. That was not my case and so, I left.
Can you be more specific?
What I mean to say is that working for Amaka Igwe for six years without an increase was unacceptable to me. I asked for an increase and she refused. The next thing was to increase my fees by N1,500. Compared to the rate in the market or in the outside world, increasing fees by N1,500 will get an artiste nowhere. Fuji House did not allow me to be part of other productions because it was time consuming. You were committed to that set totally. Even other producers would not want to use you because according to them, working for Amaka Igwe tied you down to her alone. I had to disappoint a lot of producers because of Fuji House. Amaka Igwe expected us to be at her beck and call. If she wanted this, then I see no reason why she should not compensate us well. And so, I left.
Now that you have left, what are you up to?
I am into so many other things. I am on the set of another soap. I am working on my own programme. I am also going back to the movies.
The Ngozi we know is an actress. Who is the Ngozi we do not know?
The Ngozi you do not know is a nice lady who drives her point straight. I tell it as it is. Ngozi is a down-to earth, home girl. That is about it.
Do you have any regrets in life?
The only regret I can say I have is losing my mother when I did. I loved my mother a lot because she suffered for us. I lost my father at a very tender age and she became father and mother. So by the time she left us, I believe she should not have because it was time for her to reap the fruits of her labour. Each time I remember her, I feel so down.
And your happiest moment?
I am always happy. I would say the happiest day in my life was the day I won the Best Supporting Actress in Yoruba because it is not easy for an Ibo girl to excel in that genre. You know we have a lot of Yoruba actresses who are very good. So excelling in that industry, for me, was not an easy job and I was happy that others saw that I had done a great job.
As a cross-over artiste, which of the two industries (English and Yoruba) is better for you?
I cannot really say. The people I actually call my people, the Ibos, say Ngozi belongs to the Yorubas and the Yorubas are “omo Ibo ni,” she belongs to the Ibos. So, I don't know.
Being a big player in the industry, what can be done better to move the industry forward?
There are lots of things to be done to make the industry better. As it is, you can see that everything is upside down. I believe Rome was not built in a day. Therefore, we should not rush things. Slow and steady, and we will surely get there. To be third in the world says a lot for us, judging from when we started. We need to get all the necessary structures in place. Then, we can talk of the industry having a life of its own to grow better.
The belief is that actresses cannot keep homes. With one failed marriage yourself, and you hoping to settle down again someday, do you agree with this?
I don't know. The idea of actresses not being able to keep homes is false because other females in other spheres of lives have broken marriages too. Between you and me, we know that keeping homes depends on individuals. It happens to lawyers, bankers for Christ's sake. I see no reason why anyone should pin it to actors and actresses. Is it because we are celebrities? My failed marriage had nothing to do with me being an actress but because the relationship was not working. And rather than be killed or traumatized emotionally, I let go. My ex-husband and I are friends, though.
Why did your first marriage crash?
It crashed because it was not working.
Did you not try to make it work?
It takes two people to make a marriage work. When one person feels committed to making it work and the other is not, then such a marriage will not work. There is no point in dying for what is not worth losing your life over, is there?
How long were you married?
When you are not acting, what do you do?
When I am not acting, I am having fun. Sometimes, I read. I enjoy myself because life is for the living. Enjoyment is meeting friends, being at the right place at the right time, which is mixing with people with panache. You know where to be and who to be with; not being in the midst of gossips, rumour mongers and the no-do-well.
What is your definition of Mr. Right?
Is there really Mr. Right? I think what we have now is Mr. Left! We just have to make do with what we have. For me, men are necessary evil.
When do you hope to find your Mr. Left?
Well, don't worry when I find my Mr. Left, I will let you know.
If you were to change your Mr. Left to Mr. Right, what would you look out for?
An honest man. Are there any left in this world?
Who are your role models?
How do you get into character?
It depends on the character. Mind you, in many cases, the director has a lot to do. Because what you have in mind about a particular character might not be the director's vision. The director has, to a large extent, a better say on that.
Have you ever had to reject a script?
Of course. I reject sub-standard scripts; scripts with no depth. It is not all scripts I am interested in. Some scripts are very watery.
Is there a role you would not play?
Yes o! Remove cloth and be nude, I no fit.
Even if the fee is huge?
My sister, I am a proper Nigerian woman. And because of the “niga” in me, even if the money is as much as what Beyonce earns, I will not do it.
What is the worst thing a fan has done to you?
From the days of Living in Bondage, I saw hell. Thanks to Patience Ozorkwo who took it over from me. The roles Patience Ozorkwo acts now, I was the one doing them and people reacted negatively to some of them. I was once slapped at a bus-stop. A man once has walked up to me and called me all sorts of names, right inside Ngozi Ezeonu's shop in Surulere. He capped it up by saying he could not wait to get his wife there because himself and his household all hated me.
What is the plus side of being an actress?
It is good to know that you are recognised outside and then, you are also given due respect. Being an actress opens doors, especially if you respect yourself. Once, I was at an embassy with my friend, Silo Bankole. The gates were shut and there was a crowd of people waiting outside. As soon as the guard saw me, he flung the gates open and people just rushed in. My friend Silo turned to me and said, “it is good to be a star”, and we laughed.