I'd love to dress like Stella Obasanjo - Inyang
The name Ekaete Inyang is older than Nollywood. She twinkled faintly in Tales by Moonlight (TV series)and loomed large in Destroyers, where she played a wicked woman, a role she seems to be fixated in. Away from the scripts, in real life, she is a victim of marriage and the media. The 55-year-old actress, in this chat, tells Correspondent, Franka Nwusulor, a bit of her life. Excerpts...
How did your journey into the movie world start?
I taught for 15 years before I resigned and went into acting, which came as a result of the talent I discovered in me; I used to make people laugh a lot, and when I was exposed to a lady presenter in Tales by Moonlight, she encouraged me to go into acting. So I started my acting with Tales by Moonlight in 1993. Then I featured in other TV programmes like 'At Your Service', 'Yet Another Woman' and 'Twist Away', before I went into movies. My first movie was Princess, seconded by Yesterday. But my first major movie was Destroyers recorded at Enugu. That was what brought me to lime light.
In Destroyers, you played a very wicked woman. How was it like playing such role?
Yes, I played a totally wicked woman, a killer, but it wasn't me that was wicked, it was the character I played. The character, Nma, was a very wicked woman, who out of jealousy for her rich neighbour's son, arranged for the boy to go down. Nma used the money the boy gave her for her child's school fees to track him down by taking the money to a witch doctor.
Considering your experience in the movie industry, which character can you not play?
At my age, you don't expect me to play a young girl because there is no make up that will make me look your age; I play the role of a mother. As an actress, I can play anything that comes by; I have played a good woman, a witch, a wicked woman, a counsellor, a pastor. In Seven Days, I was the pastor. I have played an aunty. I have played all sorts of roles because that is my job. Right now, I am trying to produce my own film, which is a Christian movie because I feel I have the talent to preach to people through movies. In Seven Days, I saw myself preaching to people and I feel I can create a film that can speak to people and touch individuals, families, villages, towns and the nation at large. The film will revolve around a conflict between a bride and the parents-in-law. She was not accepted because she was older than the groom. The message is to let people know that if you get married to a family where the in-laws hate you, you should do something to bring love to the family.
What's the title of the movie?
I don't want to talk about it yet until it comes out. It will soon be out, latest September this year, and it's going to be the first movie I have produced on my own, although I have co-produced before. The film has a lot of moral lessons and the essential one is: what will be will be.
How many doors has acting opened for you?
So many doors! On the physical part of it, the industry made me popular; if not for the industry, you wouldn't have known my name. On the spiritual, it has given me favours, in my state and beyond. I can walk into my state governor's office whenever I want, because I am an actress and also an executive member of the state. I was the social secretary of my local government, but because of my social responsibility, I dropped to be only a representative. I don't want to occupy an office where I cannot execute my duties. The industry has also taught me a lot of moral lessons. In Destroyer, the man that gave me money Ike (Zack Orji)was very rich, but he never prayed, even when he got into trouble. I have learnt that whatever you sow, you reap, because the character I played ended up mad in the film. I also learnt that people should secure their homes. Nma entered Ike's home and picked up his singlet because there was no security in the home. I have learnt a lot from movies that I act.
Are you saying that most of the things that happen in movies are real?
Oh my God! Every movie has an element of truth; it might be surrounded by some fictitious stories, but most of them are experiences we go through in life. My new movie is based on real life experience and I will like every young girl to watch it and learn how to tolerate a bad in-law, if they are unfortunate to get one. They should use the love of God to follow and win them over.
How much do you charge for a role?
I'm flexible when it comes to finance. If a young man, who has just started life, asks me to feature in his movie, I do it with consideration and I will not charge him much because he is still coming up, but if I'm acting for a pronounced producer, my fee differs.
When you played a mad woman in Samadora, your acting was so remarkable. How did you get into the character?
I changed; I got out of Ekaete, into a mad woman, watched myself in the mirror, trained myself to speak, walked and acted like a mad woman. I was supposed to ask the man, who was being tormented by a spirit woman to urinate on her; the aim being that the urine is the antidote that will stop the spirit from following her. I was thinking of how to make it real so I brought two apples, sat down and was eating. I dropped one apple in the dustbin, picked it up and started eating it again, but of course it was a film trick. I just dropped one and continued eating the good one while people thought I actually ate the soiled one. When I said "piss on her", I really showed how he could urinate on her and people were convinced that I was mad, and I was congratulated for that role. If I want to play a beautiful young woman, I will be made up to look at least 10 years younger.
So who is the real Ekaete?
The real Ekaete is a born-again Christian, an usher in the church, the assistant director of Bliss Theatre in her church, a role model to other women who believe that when everything fails, God is there. Ekaete that has passed through thorns and tumult in life was once forsaken but was picked from the dustbin by God. She was once banished but God comforted her.
How were you forsaken?
I was forsaken by someone I believed loved me, someone I loved, who I felt with him I was covered, could go places. A woman to be loved and cuddled was forsaken by him, bastardised.
Are you talking about your divorced husband or any other person?
This happened 25 years ago before I started acting. I was barely 29, with four children. When I was 17, I was not yet in secondary because my parents could not afford the school fees of my older brothers and I at the same time. That was when I met my husband who agreed to take care of me in school, which he did. He was very caring until after my fourth child when the problem started. He was bewitched by another woman, (and he)left my children and me.
Why did you not remarry?
Six months after the problem, I became born-again and when I read the Bible, I saw that God forbids remarriage.
Even when the person had already divorced you?
Well, the bible didn't say when someone divorces you. When you go home, read Romans 3:7. It says as long as your husband lives, you are bound to him. Another place says he who marries a divorcee commits adultery, and adulterers can never get to the Kingdom of God. When my husband started marrying other women and I was frustrated, I went to my pastor and asked him if I can remarry, my pastor showed me these verses from the Bible. So I'm bound to him as long as he lives and the last thing I would wish my husband is death. He is the father of my children, so I could not wish him death.
So how were you able to withstand temptation, being single for so long?
To be frank, I fell and rose. The Bible says a child of God will not fall flat. I saw myself some time getting out of the way, being frustrated but when I woke up, I go to God in prayer and ask him to forgive me and he really forgave me and took me to a standard were I was able to stand without falling. I went into a covenant with God and I can boldly say that I have overcome those disturbances. Sex is the sweetest sin on earth, but you can still overcome it if you are determined.
Did your husband make any attempt to reconcile with you?
He did, but then it was a bit late. I still love him, though, and I still bear his name; he is Friday Inyang while I'm Akaete Inyang. When I go home, I stay in his house and I love all his children, both mine and those that are not mine.
What do you have to say about the rate of divorce in movie industry?
Divorce is not the best. What I believe is that people should learn to seek the face of God before marriage. If it were now that I'm born-again, devil wouldn't have cheated me; my knees would have fought for me. My husband was under spell, a man that cherished me suddenly turned into something else. If it is now that I know God, who is that devil that will come and snatch my children and I out of our house? So the advice I'm giving to young girls, especially those in the industry, is to ask God to give them their own husband. Don't marry him because of his riches but because you love him, and when trouble comes, present it to God in prayer. Challenge God and he will remove whoever is using diabolic means to place you and your husband's picture in opposite direction. People should please tolerate marriage, at least for the sake of their children.
There is this latest trend of actresses 'sleeping' with marketers?
I have heard of that as a rumour, but I have not seen it with my eyes. I will not say much about what I don't know. But if it is happening, it is bad because that man will use you and dump you; he will finish your career. The marketer might have got a wife and you are going to make love to someone else's husband. Remember, someone else might make love to your husband.
Since your journey into the movie industry since 1993, have you noticed any change there?
Nigerian movie industry is growing in so many ways. It is trying to meet up with foreign standards and the directors and scriptwriters have improved tremendously. It is one of the tools of communication recognised and used by the government. We might have some loopholes because it is not easy to sit down and create a film; we are human beings so we are not perfect. Even the white people have some levels of imperfection in their films. What matters in a film is the moral lesson in it. There was a film I watched and I made up my mind to reconcile with my husband. In the film, a woman inflicted her daughter-in-law with full-blown stroke and her two children were snatched away from her, yet she was able to forgive her husband. I totally forgave my husband immediately I watched the film.
What's your advice to up-and-coming artistes?
My advice to them is: if you know you can't act, then don't waste your time trying. I have been on location when a young man was asked to play a native doctor and he couldn't. For those ones, there are other things you can do in the industry; you can learn make-up, costume, and continuity. Acting is a talent and if it's not in you, you cannot do it.
How come none of your children is taking after you?
They see acting a bit difficult because some times when I'm acting a vigorous part like jumping on a car, or falling from somewhere, and I come back tired, they see it as something difficult. The cramming of lines, the crying; anytime I finish crying, I develop serious headache, and this discourages my children.
How do you relax?
Any time I'm not working I relax, think of what to do, how to get children involved in Christianity and plan how to turn women into better wives and mothers.
What's your fashion style?
I love to dress well. If I have money, I would love to dress like the late Stella Obasanjo, when she was alive. I don't wear trousers because the Bible says a woman should not wear a man's clothing. I love Nigerian fabrics and I love 'to match'; if I want to wear a cloth and I don't have anything to match it, I keep it. I don't wear colour riot.
What is your best food?
Ha! A Calabar woman? My best food is fufu and afan soup, of course.
Being so proud of your Calabar origin, how come you criticised Calabar men in a national newspaper?
I said something and the person published another thing. That Akwa Ibom men don't treasure marriage is not exactly what I said. I just advised the boy as an Akwa Ibom man to marry someone he loves and stick to the marriage. Another one wrote that I said if I were a girl, I would torment men. I did not say so, that person wrote that to sell his paper. I merely said that if I were a young girl, I would allow a man hunger after me, pay my bride price, and wed me before I will allow him to sleep with me. I did not say I would torment men because I'm not a spirit.