Sexy role not for me –Tope Oshin-Ogun
Tope Oshin-Ogun is one actress that is better known for her roles in Super Story and other television soap opera though many have missed her as she decided to stay off the camera for about two years. She spoke with atim ikpeme on her absence, the Maltina Dance All deal among other things. Excerpts:
How did your romance with acting start?
Basically I would say I accidentally stumbled into acting and at the same time I did not stumble into acting. At a point I went into school to study Theatre Arts, I would have eventually gone for any other course because I had lost two years and my peers, my mates were already in 200 level and I needed to go to school and the first available course was Theatre Arts and I said its all about literature and I went into it not knowing what it was all about.
When it was time for me to perform in my first play because I was supposed to play the lead in convocation play I refused to take part because I am a very shy person and had concluded that I couldn't act. But my lecturer said I had to act, she threatened me by saying that if I don't do it she will score me zero for my test and I said ok. One way or the other I stumbled through the convocation play and it came out well. I started giving it a thought and started acting in more plays at school till I finished my course and that was just how it started.
Who introduced you to Nollywood?
I won't particularly say that I'm a member of Nollywood or that I belong to Nollywood because looking around you would realize that I have not done a lot of Nollywood movies. I have basically done a lot of soap opera, sit-coms and drama series, so I won't particularly say I am into Nollywood to a very large extent.
I started out from school, one of my lecturers then who is also an actor, Sola Fosudo, told me about productions outside the school and recommended me to the directors. That is basically how I started out and I can say I haven't done a lot Nollywood movies, I can actually count how many Nollywood movies I've done, about five but mostly I have done soap operas, voice over, radio dramas and all that.
Why are you not really into Nollywood movies?
I'm a very reserved person as a lot of people most have noticed and very careful about what I appear in and the roles I take. My career has spanned close to ten years and I am obviously not one of the biggest faces. There are lots of big actors and actresses in Nollywood who probably had just five years of the career but are big faces.
I am very careful about what I appear in, what roles I want to do and all that; I'm not someone who would do anything to get to the lime light. I love acting, I enjoy acting, and I love performing so that is what it's been for me, its not hook or crook thing. Most of the films I've done is because of the relationships I have with people, people that I have worked with that say I am good so they call me again, not that I am the next big thing and all that. I get satisfaction from it and as for me that's enough, that is something I love to do and for me it is not by hook or crook. It's my passion, its everything.
Do you envy those who have made it to the peak? Won't you want to be like them?
I've never wanted to be a star. I've never wanted to be on every newspaper. I've never envied them; I've never wanted to be on every bill board. What I want is to be the best at what I do and do it well if it's possible but if it's possible for all this popularity to come along with it that is okay but as long as I get job satisfaction I am happy. Because for me it's all about the job satisfaction, it must not always be about the limelight or being a star. At the beginning of my career I was reluctant because it wasn't what I wanted to do, I just wanted to get into school and get a degree not entering into Nollywood, so for me its not about stardom or limelight its about what I want to do and doing it well.
Are you going to stick with the soap operas?
I won't say I will stick with the soap operas but I will continue to do good soap operas. I actually have done movies and there are movies people have enjoyed watching, movies that people see something different in. That is what my career has been like and it will always be like that. I will always be seen in quality productions, good stories with good directors.
What do you categorize as good movies or bad movies?
A good movie is what is well put together, like well produced; everything is in place perhaps first and foremost a very good script, a very good story line. If the role does not make sense to me, if I don't believe in the character I'm being asked to play, I will reject it. If I don't believe in the story, if it doesn't reach out to me, if I feel the story is not complete or I feel bored and if it something that I will be embarrassed when play back, I will reject it or if it's a role that will represent me in the bad light I will reject it.
What kind of role will you play that will present you in bad light?
Definitely I will not take steamy roles. I have never and will never take such roles. It has nothing to do with the fact that I'm married and people who know me even before I got married will testify that I do not do steamy sexy roles not because there is anything wrong in them but because I will not enjoy doing it and I don't believe in it. Working as an actress, performer or director for me is not about the money.
not feel good doing steamy sexy roles and there is no point doing it, so I rather do roles that will make me feel good.
That means you are not versatile
According to my own dictionary, versatility doesn't mean not being able to do steamy roles, it's basically choice and in my career I have taken different kinds of roles. Two years ago, I took a role where the character was not particularly a good girl, she was always bitchy, she was always fluting around, I had fun playing the role and I was not harbouring any negativity but because it was so different from whom I am, I enjoyed playing it. It did not involve me exposing my body, it was fun because the character was not me, but I didn't have to preach anything negative to my audience or people watching, it was just fun for me, so when versatility comes in I have actually played a couple of different roles. Three or four years ago I played a role in Amaka Igwe's movie as a 17-year-old and at that time I had two children and almost pregnant with another one. They were two movies, one is Full Circle, and the other one is still in her cupboard.
What brought you to limelight?
I will say the most prominent thing I have done on television in the beginning of my career was Saints and Sinners by Tajudeen Adepoju. I acted alongside Desmond Elliot it was at the point when Desmond's career picked up. I will say that was my most prominent role at the beginning of my career.
I won't say it brought me to limelight but that it was my biggest role as at that time, that was in year 2000.
How much were you paid for that role?
I can't remember, I was the lead role but it's been long so I can't remember, it's been eight years now.
Let's talk about Maltina Dance All
For almost two years I deliberately decided to stay off the camera I mean in front of the camera. I've not taken any acting roles or presenting, I basically have been doing voice over and directing. I've taken part in directing movies, creating instead of performing. I've read a lot of books such that when I watch movies I'm always pointing out the wrongs so I dedicated two years to learn directing. I deliberately stayed away from the camera.
I have done about one or two assistant director jobs free of charge so I could say I have paid my dues. I have directed about three radio commercials and one radio drama. I was actually on a radio production job, I was producing a radio drama and I got a call that I should please come for an audition as presenter of the Maltina Dance All, so I just said okay and after I dropped the call I told myself that I had decided to stay off the camera but I had the conviction that if I went for the audition I will be picked.
I don't know why but I just had that feeling, so I just had to sit and think about it, I almost did not go for the audition but I later went and a couple of days later I was called to come back. I did a two or three coming back and then I got the news that I was picked as the presenter, inside of me I was very happy. I was happy though it was a new experience for me because I have presented on radio before and I have done like two studio television programmes but this was the first big presenter job I have ever done. I was put under a lot of pressure because I knew it was big, I knew Nigerian Breweries wanted a better production than what they had last year, I knew they wanted it to be more exciting, so I was a lot under pressure so I fasted and I kept praying until I got there on the first day.
After that first day I came off stage and people said I did well. So that was the journey for me and I will say I'm glad that I went for that audition.
How much were you paid?
You are not expecting me to say that. I was paid well and I will spend it well and like I told you money is not important in my career, it is job satisfaction and I got job satisfaction.
So if you are called again you will do it?
I definitely will do it because they are people I would love to work with.
Do you think Maltina Dance All will open more doors for you?
As regards to that, basically in my career God has been the one that has been opening doors for me. So whether Maltina came or not I believe God has been the one opening doors for me and he will take me to where he wants me to be and I want to believe Maltina was part of where God is taking me to and part of the plans He has for me, I believe its another step.
After this what next?
Actually I am thinking about taking one acting role before the end of the year then I am going backstage again. I worked on apprentice Africa last year as associate producer and I'm going to work on this year's own again and I look forward to it. I'm looking forward to all the other television commercials and my movie that I intend to shoot first thing next year with all prayers and all dedication.
Now that people have seen your face again, do you think that scripts will start flowing in?
As regards human nature I know that is what is going to start happening, I expect it because during Maltina, people that had not see me for over a year were happy to see me. So that's human behaviour for you, so I expect that a lot of producers with one script or the other would want me to take roles and as I always say I will only pick the roles that I believe in and I will do that and it must not be at the detriment of my directing career because that is very important to me.
You got married after you have become an actress. How did you do it?
Actually I met my husband when I came on a movie set, we went to shoot somewhere and he was working there. My husband is a script writer, one of the best in the country if not in Africa, he is also a producer and to a very large extent he understands the industry and my work and also to a very large extent he has not had any cause to be embarrassed by roles I've taken in the past or about my dealings in the industry.
I try as much as possible to make it easier for him because I know definitely his friends and family would want to question why he decided to marry an actress and God helping me I'm trying to make it possible for him not to regret marrying an actress, and he is proud of me all the way and proud to say Tope is my wife and not cover his face when he sees a particular movie.
All in all I will say its love and that love conquers all.
You are scandal free, why?
I have not had one till date and I hope none ever by God's grace.
What do you think is the reason why? Is it that you are careful?
Yes I am careful but I will not put it on anybody's carelessness or carefulness no, I just pray that I don't get anything written about me because sometimes you see people are really out to get you, they do anything, they say anything just to put a black mark on your name. I haven't experienced any for now and I'm praying hard to God that I will not experience it.
Did you choose your husband because of his place in the industry?
I didn't choose him based on what he does in the industry. When we got married he was a writer struggling to get up. I just met him, he liked me, I liked him, and we became friends and started a relationship
Six years ago – 2002
You don't look like someone that has four boys, how did you do it?
I am a fitness freak even though sometimes I slack like now; I haven't been to the gym for the past two months. I do a lot of working out, I watch what I eat, I try as much as possible to remain youthful, I see myself as a girl and even when I am 80 I will still see myself as a girl.
How do you feel about girls coming to your husband for him to influence them to get a role?
My husband is a producer and he has handled some productions in the past. Definitely actresses come up to him to see if he can help them get roles, its a natural thing and to a very large extent I know how to handle them, that's not a problem.
What if they want to take you husband from you?
Nobody gave my husband to me and nobody can take him from me. God gave him to me and only God can take him from me, so I have no fear for any woman any where.
You trust him
I trust God
Are you born again as you mention God a lot?
He is the very essence of my being, I cannot exist without him, he is everything I have been and will ever be I attribute every thing to him, my failures, my success everything.
You have four boys; don't you want a baby girl?
I am happy God has given me children and I don't care whether they are boys or girls and somewhere within me I am actually happy I don't have girls, yes. Have you been to children's parties lately? Have you seen what those little girls are wearing. So a part of me thanks God that I don't have a daughter so I don't have to cope with all the teenage stress and all that, I am cool with what I have, I am happy.
Why wear cropped hair?
It is easy maintain though expensive to do so. I love it and my husband loves it as well. It's very convenient for me. A couple of times I've tried to grow my hair but it doesn't last six months because I will cut it again.
How was it growing up?
I am the fourth child in a family of six. I am the last girl, my parents are both ministers, my mother is a pastor, my father is a pastor. We lived a very sheltered life; we didn't do a lot of going out in my childhood, that is how our parents decided to bring us up. We are family people, we like to stay indoors, and we don't jump around.
Maybe that is why I don't have a lot of friends, I enjoy company of people but I don't go out of my way to get friends or keep in touch with them, it is not as if it is particularly good, I'm trying to improve on it but that's how I grew up and that is how I am.
My parents were strict, they didn't allow us do what other young girls were doing back then and I was angry at them but some part of me now appreciate that part of growing up because it helped in shaping me to what I am now and even if I wanted to be wayward I couldn't because of the upbringing I had.
Your favourite family in Maltina
I'm not allowed to say that, it is very unethical. Maltina is not over, it will go on and it will not be nice for me to mention that I had a favourite family because they were all wonderful families and any one of them could have been the winner.
How did you feel when they mimicked you?
It was very humbling for me, I felt happy that there was something I was doing and people liked it, I was very happy, and I felt good.
Can you dance?
Way back in school studying Theatre Arts I was one of the best dancers so let me leave you at that. I dance at the corner of my house now, I dance at parties but not professionally I will like to go to dance school because I like to jump around.
How did your parents feel when you decided to study Theatre Arts?
Like me, my father was only concerned about me catching up with my friends who were two years ahead of me. So he didn't know what the course was all about. When he started knowing what it was all about was when I started coming home a little bit later than usual because I was rehearsing on the stage plays and all that. It was a bit hard from the beginning because they didn't understand why someone with the upbringing I had would go for such course but after a while when he started seeing me on television and he realized that it was not bad idea because his friends started calling him and telling him they saw me. He started enjoying it and later relaxed and got to know that there is nothing embarrassing about my career.