I’VE BEEN MARRIED SINCE MY FIRST MOVIE - CHINYERE WILFRED
You have been in the industry for more than 15 years. But of recent, your face hasn't been regular in movies. Have you left the industry to younger ones?
There is no way I will leave the industry for the younger ones. Old soldier no dey die. Actually, I have not been around. I have been out of the country and I spent so much time abroad. I just came back, and since then I have been on location. My fans have been calling me. I had something doing in London, I just rounded it up.
You look like a correct chic, compared with the elderly woman you play in the movies. Not many would believe you are really chic
Well, that has to do with the scripts that come my way. Some of our producers here are fond of typecasting. If they give you a particular role and you do it well, every other script that comes your way would be like that.
Are you okay with playing stereotyped roles? You seem to play the role of a 'bad' woman more often.
Some other people think that I play the 'cry cry' woman more than any other role. I am here and there. My scripts are always mixed up. But I think I play the emotional woman more. The 'bad' woman role comes once in a while. I like it when I get those parts, so that I can show the other side of me.
So you are versatile...
Yes I am. The latest movie, which will come out soon, is very different from what I used to do. It is entirely another character.
With your looks, how come you have not played the part of a high class chic?
I have, but very few times. In Government House, I played such a part. It is just that I am not really known for that. In my movies that will come out soon, I played such roles.
You are a producer as well…
I just produced one movie, and I am about producing another.
Why go into movie production? Are you not satisfied with being an actress?
I am. But I have to expand my coast. I want to do other things as well. If an opportunity comes for me to produce, I will grab it. That was what happened. I needed to see how challenging it was. I needed to see the difference between producing and acting.
How has your experience been in the industry?
It has been wonderful.
Have you ever thought of leaving the profession for any other thing?
I have never felt like quitting. This is what I enjoy doing. From childhood, I have always wanted to be an actress. When I was in school, I was in the Dramatic Society. I have always been a part of this industry.
How did you get into Nollywood?
I started years back in the days of soaps like Ripples. I went to NTA (Nigerian Television Authority) and I met Zeb Ejiro there. He invited me to come over for audition. I did well and I was given a role to play in Ripples.
When Nollywood came on board, I was going for auditions as well. Taboo was my first movie. Then I featured in Circle of Doom.
Did you hit the limelight instantly?
Yes. Taboo was my breaking point. It was a sell-out. From there, I started getting jobs.
Obviously, you no longer go for auditions…
No, no, no. Audition ke? Not at all. Those days are long gone. Producers just call you and send the script to you; if you feel you like the character given to you, then you go ahead and take the job.
We hear that for you to get jobs, you have to belong to a clique…
I don't believe in all that. Which clique do I belong to? I don't belong to any clique, but I am working. I don't know why people say this. I don't agree with that misconception at all. I don't buy that idea.
Do you beg for roles?
Why would I beg for roles? I don't beg for roles! Whoever needs me calls me. Listen, I have paid my dues in this industry. I went for auditions many times. I was just climbing up, till I reached this height. I didn't beg for it when I was coming up. Is it now that I will beg for it?
Who do you see as a rival in the industry?
I don't have a rival. The industry is big enough. We have many marketers and producers. We have a lot of artistes and directors. There is no need for you to compete with anybody. There is space for anybody who comes in tomorrow. There are a lot of jobs.
Have you ever done a movie you regret doing?
No. You don't have to regret a role you played. You were given the script in the first place. It was your choice to do the movie, so you don't have to regret it. I have never regretted any movie I did.
How do you cope with fame?
I am used to it. People see me and admire me and all that. It has become part of us.
So it does not get to your head…
No way. Do I look like somebody with that kind of attitude? This is my job. I see it as a profession, so there is no reason why it should get to my head. I have been in this industry for more than 15 years. If it didn't get to my head in all that time, I don't think it will get to my head now. I just go there, do my job, get my money and then I go.
You sound as if you are very satisfied with your job.
I am very satisfied. If I weren't, I would have left it since. The reason I have been in the industry all these years is because I am satisfied. I am very much fulfilled.
If you weren't an actress, what do you think you would have been?
I don't think I would have been any other thing. I just love acting. I can't even imagine doing any other thing. This is a job I like doing.
But how come you didn't study Theatre Arts in the university?
I had Theatre Arts as one of the elective courses. It wasn't as if I didn't have an idea of what the course is all about. However, acting comes natural to me. I thank God for the gift.
So your family was okay with their daughter venturing into the make-believe world?
The kind of parents I have allowed you to do whatever you wanted to do. I have a very strict father. If he felt acting was bad, he wouldn't have allowed me to get into it. Then again, I was playing decent character, so they were happy with me.
Are you what you act?
There is a difference between what you see in real life and what you see in the movies. As I am talking to you, this is me. You even observed I don't look this chic in movies. As long as it is acting, it is not me.
How have you been coping with male admirers?
Immediately I did my first movie, I got married. That was in 1993. Since then, I have been with my lovely husband and my kids. He is my pillar. From time, the admirers knew I was married, so I didn't have to cope with them.
So you didn't have the opportunity of being 'rushed' by the guys.
Yes, that is true. I got married as I hit limelight.
Your husband wanted to marry a star.
I knew him before I went into the movies. We courted for nine years. We were really together before we finally got married. It wasn't as if he wanted to marry a star. I had only done one job before we tied the knots.
I would say he even grabbed me fast before I became a star. He married me when I was still coming up.
As a married woman with kids, how do you manage leaving your home and staying on location for days or weeks?
It has not been easy, but I thank God. I will always be grateful to my husband. He supports me a lot. Then again, my mum is always there for me. She helps me out most times. My dad has been wonderful as well. Each time I have a job to do, I don't have fears because my house will always be in order. Now, I don't even complain because my boys are all grown up.
Would you allow any of them to become an actor?
Why not? If my parents had stopped me from acting, where would I have been today? There wouldn't have been this Chinyere Wilfred that you know. I think it is proper for parents to allow their kids to follow their dream.
When you are on location, do you fear that your beloved husband could be out there chasing other babes?
Na today? Lailai. It is impossible, not with the kind of husband I have. I know the man I married. I am not saying this because this is an interview. My husband is a very different person. He is used to my job. In those early days, he used to follow me to locations. At times, he would waits for me in the car so as to bring me back home.
There was a day we finished shooting by 1am and we were not lodged in any hotel, my husband was with me that day. He couldn't believe it. He said, 'Oh mummy, is this what you see?' I was happy that he was there watching us.
So he now knows that it is not easy to be an actress. Whenever I come back, he asks me how the day went.
But is he comfortable with you playing love scenes?
How many love scenes have I played, come to think of it? But he understands my job. At times, he would even tell me that I didn't play the love scene very well and he would 'yab' me. He doesn't mind what I do at all.
If he doesn't complain about that, does he complain about scandals that come with your job?
It depends. It is not as if he complains about anything. It really depends on the scandal.
There was a time you were in the news.
Yes. But I tell you that my husband was with me all the way. He is one out of a million.
Was the scandal a figment of people's imagination or were there pictures of you naked?
I don't really want to talk about this. It has been a while and I would want everything to die. When a story comes up, people don't really bother to find out the truth. They go to press without any information.
That is why I am asking you to tell me your own side of the story…
It gets me angry each time I think of that incident. I don't want to talk about it at all.
But did you fight with an actress over a guy?
What? I have never! How can? I have never gone physical with anybody. Please, this is not a story to talk about. I don't know why this keeps coming up in any interview I grant
But the story must come up.
I know. I still don't want to talk about it. What has happened has happened. All I know is that the incident made me stronger. Now, let anybody come and blackmail me again. They will see another side of Chinyere Wilfred.
Let us talk about other things. This is a story that spoils my day and I am going for a contract negotiation somewhere. I don't want my mood to be spoilt. All I know is that I am a stronger person.
Was it blackmail?
Yes. What else would you call it? Somebody used my picture to collect money from me. The only sad thing was that it came from a very close friend and colleague. But I have learnt my lessons. Now, I am careful calling anybody my friend. That time, I was just flowing. I was too open to a fault to the so-called friend. After that whole thing, I am very careful. Thank God I came out of that incident.
Did your husband believe in you that time?
I tell you, when that thing was happening, my husband bought me a new car. Scandal or no scandal, he does not care. He could not believe that my so-called best friend would connive to blackmail me. He used to warn me about her, but I never took his advice.
So you and this actress are no longer friends.
If it were you, would you still be friends with somebody who blackmailed you? If you see me with her, won't you be angry with me?
How do you see your future in the industry?
Well, I see myself going higher. I have not started. When I start, you will know.
Do you think you can compete with any Hollywood actress?
Why not? You don't need to blow your trumpet. But I know I am a good actress.
Any advice for up and coming actresses?
Follow your dream. Don't force yourself to be an actress if you don't have the talent. Have a focus. Don't try to hit the limelight immediately. Start from the scratch. Go for auditions, and then the sky will be your starting point.