I haven‘t seen a Nollywood movie they have kissed properly - KC Ejelonu, up-and-coming actress
England returnee, KC Ejelonu, tells 'Nonye Ben-Nwankwo why she had to relocate from the UK to pursue a career in acting at home
Why did you move back from the UK?
I will not say I got bored. I am done with my degree programme and I now have my master's. I got a job, but I just knew that wasn't what I wanted to do. Even at the age of seven, I had always wanted to act. I quit my job before moving back to Nigeria. I was always crying in the toilet and my manager at my place of work would ask me what was wrong with me. I would tell her I was not happy doing that job and she was the one that told me if I were that passionate about acting, I should go for it. I went back to my desk and wrote my resignation letter same day and I handed it in. I got home early that day and I met my mum, who wondered why I had to be home that early. I told her I had quit my job and I was going back to Nigeria. I had already booked my flight. She just told me that she didn't hear what I just said.
How did your dad take it?
My dad is the normal Igbo man who will want his child to be a doctor or a lawyer. When I told my father, he just acted like he didn't hear me. He just didn't understand because I was always coming home every year by myself. My parents haven't been home for over 10 years. I am the one that is always coming home. I am the one that is always giving them Nigerian movies to watch. They didn't understand what the love was all about. Anyway, he eventually gave me his blessing and they prayed for me and I came back on my own.
So you came back and rented your own apartment?
No. Currently, I am staying with my uncle and his family. They are just like my second family. They knew I wanted to come back home. They had to speak to my father. My father actually wanted me to do my PhD. But my uncle had to tell him that I am 25 years old and he should let me do what I wanted.
Did you have an idea of how you would penetrate the movie industry, even as you were itching to come home?
Yes. I have lots of friends in the industry. They tell me stories about things that happen in the industry. I asked them if they do auditions in Nigeria. I knew I went for auditions in the UK and I wanted to do same here. I was told that if I go for auditions here, it might take a while before I get a break. But I know that God didn't give me this passion for nothing. I started going for auditions. I would sit in the sun with over 300 people. Before then, the day I landed in Nigeria, Joke Silva had a seminar somewhere in Lagos Island. I went there. She gives me advice all the time. There are a whole lot of them that also advice me all the time. Sometimes they would want to introduce me to a director or producer, but I always tell the director or producer to let me audition for the role. I wouldn't want to get a script based on the fact that I am related to this person or that person. You have to see what I am capable of doing so you can know what role you can give me in your film. Omoni (Oboli) introduced me to Desmond Elliot and Emem Isong and I auditioned for them. That was how I was given a role in Catwalk and Kidnap. I didn't want them to treat me any different from the way they did others. I sat with the others and I was given a role.
Have you been getting scripts since you came on board?
Oh yes. The trailer of one of the movies I did is already out on YouTube. I am currently doing a movie with Joseph Benjamin. I have done some jobs with Empress Njamah, Chika Ike, Mike Ezuronye and some others. I just did a musical video with an artiste as well.
Now that you are in it, are you happy with what you have seen so far?
I am happy. I am so happy because I am doing what I have always wanted to do.
Will you kiss passionately in a movie if the script says so?
It is not a big deal at all. I haven't seen a Nollywood movie where they have kissed properly. If you want to kiss, you might as well do it properly. Don't put your mouth all over my face. Kiss and let the audience see you are doing it with passion. But then, I will not act nude. Kissing is not a big deal because when I am in front of the camera, I am not KC, I am the character I am playing. If I am married in a movie and I haven't seen my husband in a while, I will kiss him passionately. The romantic scenes I have seen in Nollywood movies are not done right. If you want to do a romantic scene, do it very well. I will not show you my breast, I will not let you touch my breasts, but I will kiss passionately in the movies.
Why did you guys move to the UK?
My dad has always been in the UK. My mum would come and go. My dad was based here before he moved. I was here with my sister. The rest of us were there. My dad got tired of my mum shuttling between Nigeria and the UK. He just said all of us should relocate. My mum came to get us. She told us we had just one week left to stay in Nigeria. I couldn't believe it. I told them I wasn't going but my mum said no. The night we were supposed to leave, I told my mum that I wanted to go and say goodbye to one of our neighbours. That was how I took off. I went out and I didn't come back till much later. They didn't know where I was. I wanted us to miss the flight and we did. My mother had a cane and she dealt with me. But later on in the UK, I was able to get a job so I saved some money and I came back home.
Now that you are in Nigeria, don't you miss your people?
I miss them a lot. I haven't seen them in a year. But thank God for the Internet and Blackberry. So, we communicate all the time. I don't have any regrets. It is all worth it. If I die and I didn't become an actress, then what is the point of the life I lived? I don't know why God gave me this talent. Now that I have it, I will utilise it.
What did you study in school?
I studied business administration and for my master's, I did international marketing.
So, where did the love for acting come from?
I remember vividly something that happened when I was seven. In my family, I was the only person that never liked playing with toys among my siblings when we were growing up. I always sat in front of the TV, watching movies. At the age of seven, I was watching a show and I just told my dad that he would one day see me on TV just like the people we were watching. He laughed it off. That was how it started. When I was in high school, I enrolled for a drama course. It was an evening class. My father didn't know about it. I did it for two months without his knowledge. There was this day I was coming out of the school and he drove past me. He saw me and stopped. He asked me what I was doing so I had to tell him.
Why didn't you try to penetrate the movie industry in the UK?
I actually tried. I went for a couple of auditions, but they know what they are looking for. If you go for a certain audition, they might tell you that you are too short. There was one I went for and they told me I was too fat. They told me that they wanted me to cut down to size six. I knew it wasn't going to be possible. I would just have looked like somebody who had kwashiorkor. I could agree to come down to size 10, but certainly not size six. I had to miss that role because I couldn't lose the weight. But remember that there aren't many roles for black people in the UK.
With your British accent, do you think you can adapt to our kind of movies?
I can switch accents easily. I fit switch am fast, fast. When I moved back, the only language I could speak was English. I am proud to say that I have been in Nigeria for a year and I can speak Yoruba. I have been learning since I came back. I now know how to speak Pidgin English. I did a movie with Mike Ezuronye recently. My parents in the movie were illiterates. So I had to blend. Nobody would even know that I have been living in the UK almost all my life.
Are you back for good?
Oh yes. I have no intention of going back to the UK except I am going for holidays. I don't know where my future husband would be. But wherever he is, he would have to understand that this is my career and this is what I have chosen to do.
Oh, so you even think about marriage?
I do want to get married. What is the point of living your dreams, having all the money and not passing such passions to your kids? They might not want to come into entertainment but I ought to pass to them the drive of wanting to do something they strongly desire.
Most actresses in Nigeria are always involved in one scandal or the other; how do you hope to avert this?
I will be myself. I don't smoke. I do drink when I am out with my friends. I don't drink to get drunk. I have my parents, and my family in Nigeria, to keep me grounded. I don't intend to live alone yet. I still want to live with my family. Most of my friends stay alone and they wonder why I still live under my uncle's roof. But these people keep me grounded. I am not going to do anything that will disturb the public. I am not going to wear nonsense just to get attention. But I am going to be me. If I am in a relationship with someone, it will be up to me to decide if I want to make it public or not.
How did your boyfriend take it when you were leaving the UK
I wasn't in a relationship. Before you will ask, I am not in a relationship now. Just because I lived in the UK almost all my life doesn't make me different from Nigerian girls. Some of the guys feel that I don't know anything about Naija. But that is wrong. You just don't judge me. When guys ask me out on a date, I expect you to come and pick me up. I expect you to be a gentleman. But the guys I meet ask me where I stay and I say VGC and they say 'Ah!' If you can't make that sacrifice, then what is the point? Then again, some of them ask for a date and they take me to the cinema. You cannot have a conversation at the cinema! That is true. I am yet to find a correct guy. I am being honest. Most of the guys are rude. If you say you are an actress, they look at you as if you are a 'hustler' or prostitute. Not all actresses are into 'runs' It is wrong to think that.
What do you hope to achieve?
I want people to know me as KC, my own brand. I also want to affect many peoples' lives.