PATIENCE OZOKWOR, KNOWN FOR HER SADISTIC ROLES IN MOVIES, SAYS: I WAS ‘SU’ BEFORE I BEGAN ACTING
How come you are based in Enugu when most artistes are in Lagos where the action is?
If 100 movies were shot at a time, 80 were shot in Enugu. That was how they discovered most of us down here. But I do go to Lagos and come back. I can stay in Lagos for a month, then come back home and take off again. You can say that I also live in Lagos, though in the hotels.
There is really no difference. It doesn't affect my career that I am not based in Lagos. The issue is that when some people outside this country need us, if they go to the marketers, they would be given the numbers on which to reach us. But if they mistakenly go through some of our colleagues who live in Lagos, they would simply tell them they don't have our numbers.
If there is anything to share, people up there will pick it up and share it amongst themselves. They would forget that there are people in the East. I can stay anywhere in this country. By God's grace, I made it in Enugu; there is no point relocating. Lagos is congested already.
Then, how can we encourage the younger ones that are still up? I feel I have to be where I am; since I was able to become what I am now from this part of the country.
The day my own opportunity comes, nobody will stop it. That is what I believe.
At what point did you decide to get into acting?
It was not an easy decision for me to make because of my religious background. I was a member of Scripture Union, a very strong member for that matter. I was acting in the church. I was acting on radio too.
But when it was time for me to get into the film industry, it was so difficult for me. I was so shy, but the pressure was so high that I had to join. Things were very difficult for me, very very difficult.
Difficult in what sense?
Generally. To eat was difficult. Some days would pass and there would be no food for my children and I.
When I was retrenched at Radio Nigeria, I had to open up a small business outfit. When my husband became very sick, I had to close down the business. So, money was not coming in from anywhere. At times, it would trickle in from an unexpected source and we would manage it until another one comes.
There was a time Pete Ene and I did one jingle for Chika Okpala. He featured as my husband. We were encouraging Anambra people to go to school in that jingle. We were able to effectively deliver a message.
That was how Pete and Chika discovered me. I became Chika's production secretary.
After a while, Pete was commissioned to run a soap opera. He picked me up because of that jingle I did with him and gave me a role.
I went for the audition, which took place at one hotel in Enugu. You know, they normally do their casting in Lagos and come down to Enugu to do the auditioning for the waka pass (non-speaking, minor) roles. They discovered that I wasn't the kind of person they could just give a waka pass role, so I was given a speaking role.
The role was so remarkable. They called me up for other roles. That was how I started.
How did your church people take it when you started acting in movies?
There was a time they wrote me off. They said I was backsliding because of my roles. Come to think of it, when we were acting in church and somebody played the role of the Devil, did that make the person a devil? I always throw this question back at them.
With all they were saying, I couldn't stop acting. The money I didn't have was coming in from that source, I had to grab the chance with two hands.
Then, I wasn't even wearing trousers or earrings; my Christianity was as strong as that. But I went through the Bible from page one to the last and I found out it was not a sin to wear such stuff.
I felt I was just putting myself in bondage when God has already set me free. When God has set you free, you could allow people to tie you down with their doctrines. For now, my Bible is my standard; I don't look at anybody's face again.
For somebody who had little or nothing then, how did you feel when you started getting big money from your profession?
The first money I collected was N2,000; and then later, N5,000. The way God planned it, I would have more than three jobs at a time. At the end of two weeks or thereabouts, I would have N15,000 which I never used to have. God of Israel, it was awesome! Whatever anybody was saying didn't matter to me again.
I saw hell when I was coming up. Many people felt that they were there before me and I came to hijack their work. Many women became very jealous.
The outburst was incredible.
I would seat in an audition. Fellow artistes who came for the audition would gang up and they would be abusing me. I wouldn't even reply. My aim was just for me to be called up so that I would be able to deliver.
And of course, when the list comes out, my name would be there. They would be boiling. Some would go as far as saying that I smile at the producers so that they would pass me in the audition.
Some even said I was doing juju. I never replied. I remained focused, praying real hard. Look, let me tell you, I am a prayer warrior. I am a woman of prayer. That is my own source of power; I have never regretted it.
Some even said I abandoned my sick husband to come and do movies. But that is where I made the money I was using to treat him. I thank God that before he died, he was happy with what I was doing. Even when he died, his people were happy with me. They said I behaved like a man.
You are reputed for playing sadistic roles. How much of you is in the roles you play?
But I don't do monotonous movies; I also act love stories and the good woman in some movies. I do epic movies and I do comedies a lot. I play various roles and I thank God for that. God is even a God of varieties.
Back to my question, are you really that wicked?
See me see wahala o. I will not speak for myself. Let the people around me be the judge. The person who is close to the mouth perceives the smell of the mouth. Even my enemies would speak for me. And I am not afraid of what they would say.
I know I don't have a heart of stone. I know that I love children. I have four biological kids, the rest were adopted and I am even adopting more. They love me to pieces.
One thing I know is that I make sure everybody around me is happy. If you are not happy, I get sad as well.
Then, how did you develop that nasty character you always play?
I am a perfectionist by nature. Anything I do, I do it to the best of my ability. I pray over all the scripts that come my way. I tell God to help me interpret the script more than anyone else. And He helps me. I don't even know when I act those things. At times, I cry when I act all those nasty roles. I hate people maltreating others. It maybe the reason why I am able to play those roles. It is a way of exposing wicked people. That is why I don't look back when I am acting that role. Some women are terrible. You would marvel at what they do to their husbands. Those are the things I try to show the world. I don't regret doing what I am doing. I will continue playing such roles. I will continue to play them; at least, they pay me well to do that.
How do people see you outside the movies?
It has been hell. Some children, when they see me, would start having a shock. Then I would just go and embrace them and calm them down. Adults even get scared of me, how much more children. I only try to explain to them that if you don't do it that way, the film will not be interesting.
How was growing up?
I come from a polygamous home. My father had ten wives. They didn't all come to live with him. But he made sure all his children were united. Even when our mothers would be quarrelling, we would be laughing at them. We wore clothes together, ate together; in fact, we did everything together.
But I didn't stay with them for a long time before I came to live with my uncle who gave me a very good upbringing.
As a public figure, have you experienced bad press before?
I have never been to club before, so where will you see me and write about me? I was married before my husband died. My children are there for me now. They are my best friends.
I don't have friends, so there is really no way I would go to peoples' houses…
Now that you are through with mourning your husband, don't you think you should get married again?
What for? I am old abeg. My children are all grown up. They are my husbands now.
What has been the greatest challenge?
It is so difficult to become a star. At times, you would find it difficult to cope with stardom. But I have never really had any reason to cry.
Have you really changed your lifestyle since you became a star?
To some extent, yes. But one thing you can never take away from me is the time I spend with my kids. But I can no longer go to the market, I would be mobbed.
Since you are popular, have you thought of going into politics?
If they would allow me to contest in America, I would do that. But in Nigeria, I cannot. I hate bribery and corruption.
You have featured in so many movies, are you not tired?
I can never be tired of acting, even if you make me a minister. I didn't come into the industry early. The remaining part of my life, I will remain an actress. I have so many fans. I have every reason to thank God. Even if I go to hell today, I will be thanking God from there. The truth is that, it is not even getting to my head.
So the industry has opened doors for you…
Yes o. There is no place I go and people don't know me. People want to have me in their midst. I get invited to almost every event. I get a lot of favours. Many people see me as their role model. I am just too much.
How much do they even pay you for a movie?
How much do they pay you in your office? It is okay, but it could be better