‘I ‘ve a violent temper’--------Ekpenyong Bassey-Inyang
Ekpenyong Bassey-Inyang fondly known as Keppy is one person who doesn't need much introduction. He is a seasoned actor/producer. He tells http://nollywoodgists.com that anger is his weakness and how he strives to curb it.
Have you ever been told you have a lovely, husky and sexy voice?
Yes, I have been told. I'm aware of it. I have a sexy and lovely voice. When you play back your tape at night and your husband listens to it, he would be jealous (laughs).
How do you cope with stardom?
Let's do away with that word. Let's look for synonym. Let's use visibility. What we go through is extreme visibility. Sometimes it is positive,
sometimes it is negative. Sometimes, because you enjoy tremendous visibility, some people want to run you down, some other people want to help you. How you cope with it depends on how your orientation is. For me, I'm easy going. I relate with people one-on-one as humans. So, that's why I decided to substitute the word stardom for visibility.
Are you saying that you are not a star?
No, I'm not saying that, in some context, I will not be referred to as a star. I'm saying that. In the field of my profession, I'm extremely visible.
What's your educational background?
I have two degrees. The first one is in linguistics from the University of Calabar and I have a Master's in International Law and Diplomacy, which I got 20 years ago, precisely in 1989.
How did you get into acting?
It started during my youth service with the NTA and the programme was Platform. Just before then, I had done a soap with Tade Ogidan, a renowned TV director and film producer sometime in the early 80s. He is my elder brother. That was where I started. He called me and said; Keppy, I want you to do a role for me. The moment I heard that I became scared, I had butterflies in my stomach, my knees became a rubber band. I couldn't stand, I couldn't think of it. I wanted to escape from the scene but he calmed me down by saying the role fits me perfectly. Then I was much bigger and I think my voice was much huskier, it hadn't been spoilt by cigarettes. You know I smoke.
He said further: 'I need your voice, I need your size and I think you would do it.' Within three months, he trained me to have confidence in myself. He explained to me how the lines should be taken. The movie: 'Boys Next Door,' started it off for me. So, by the time I got into NTA to serve, I did a lot of tele-movies, I was even on the New Village Headmaster. Then, there was Ripples that ran for five years on network.
Any regrets for being visible?
Come to think of it, I don't really know whether I have ever suffered regrets in my life. Not even in my private life. My privacy is my own, nobody can invade it, I don't think there is anybody in this world, who has the power, the competence, the ability to invade my private life. You choose whether to be noisy or not. If I choose to be noisy, I would be noisy, if I choose to be quiet, I would, no invasion on my privacy.
Do you live to please your fans?
I don't. As a human being I have my good and bad moments, I just try to do my best and be myself all through. I'm human like everybody else.
What are some of the scandals you have had?
Tell me if you know of any.
How did you manage to stay off scandals?
I think I have attained a particular level of responsibility. I was acting Ripples when I was studying for my Master's.
How about babes, how many do you have?
Since I have been discussing with you here, haven't I been talking about my wife and children? Would I be talking to a journalist about babes? Is that the kind of information I would give a journalist? (Laughs). This is not the kind of information you can get from me.
Meaning that you have some babes but you are not ready to talk about them because of your wife?
You can't get any answer from me. What do you mean babes? You may ask about my friends, then I would answer you. I have friends, like you are my friend. I also have male friends, don't you know about homosexuals? Haven't you been harassed by a lesbian? Are you sure I haven't been harassed by a homosexual? Those things are possible, so why must women be the problem when I should also be worried about men (laughs). Think about it girl!
Are you saying you have not being sexually harassed by babes, even at your level as an executive director?
Have you heard about women raping men? But there are a lot more cases of men raping men.
You mean homosexuality?
Is that common here in Nigeria?
Yes, it is.
Have you had the experience?
Me? Being raped by a man? No! It took me that long because I wanted to just imagine that if it ever happen, maybe I would have killed myself or killed the guy because it is disgusting to think about. But I know it is happening in this society.
How do you feel about the economic meltdown now affecting Nollywood?
Is it affecting Nollywood? The product of Nollywood is consumed world-wide, that is our films. Nollywood was never dependant on government. It's always been private-sector driven. What is happening in Nollywood has nothing to do with financial meltdown, but it has a lot more to do with the structuring process the board has put in place so that producers would be able to earn more money, marketers would be satisfied, it is something that is going to have more wholesome compensation for all the practitioners. It has been put in place since last year. What we are seeing now is a move towards professionalism. It's a departure from mediocrity. Before, everybody was in the industry, every hawker on the street, you know. But right now, there is more streamlining going on. It is a revolution, a revolution without bloodshed. For people like me, I have been producing in this industry for almost as long as I have been acting, so I think it is a welcome relief that somebody is actually thinking out of the box to set us back on track.
How do you see the influx of Ghanaian actors into the Nigerian movie industry?
It's a spontaneous reaction to what the market wants. The market is tired of seeing the same set of people, they are tired. So, when you inject a new face, they welcome it. The fact that we have Ghanaians is a move in the right direction. We are hoping for more collaborations of such nature. We are hoping that we have South Africans, Kenyans, East Africans, other West Africans and so on and so fort. I think we should spread it out some more, get some more people involved. At the last AMAA, the Kenyans performed even better than the Nigerians and they are like our children, they did better than us. I think we should be looking at doing some collaborations with them so that those mediocre producers we have in this industry, who seem to think that all they need to do is to get a camera and ensure the pictures are right, should go home and do a rethink.
Apart from acting, what else do you do to make ends meet?
I see myself as an entertainment entrepreneur. So, I do all kinds of businesses, I do anything that can generate more income for me, legally. (Laughs).
What are your other vices apart from smoking?
What other vices are you thinking of? My pastor knows that I smoke. And I'm smoking before you, I can't hide it. I'm an adult.
What other habits do you have?
I don't know which habit I have. I drink alcohol, I don't just feel like drinking beer or brandy today.
Can we know some of your weaknesses?
I have none.
Weakness you have been praying in your closet for God to help you curb?
Let me confess, I have a violent temper. So, most times, what I try to do is to avoid any situation that would force my real self out. I avoid it as much as I can, my mother would tell you that she has been fighting that since I was under 15. My father used to say, 'don't get my son angry,' he would tell you, they have known it. All my teachers, all my lecturers, everybody, all my friends know that if there is anything I have been consciously running away from, it is being violent. And that comes on when there is a false accusation.
For instance, if you say, 'Look Keppy you are a thief' and you can prove it, then I'm guilty. But when you say I'm a thief and I haven't stolen
anything, God bless you, because I would look for you and I would make sure by His grace, that you eat back your words. I'm not scaring you, I'm just telling you the truth. I hate being wrongly accused. It annoys me from within.
How do you react when your wife offends you?
My wife can never offend me.
That's not right because she's human?
That's why she can't offend me because she is my wife.
You have been married for close to 20 years and you are saying she hasn't offended you not even for once? Haba!
When she offends me, because of my temper, I take a walk.
You are now talking, please, go on?
Remember that the two of us are supposed to be one, so I shouldn't be angry with myself. And somehow it is working for me. Yes, she is the only person who can get me; nobody else in this life can get to me.
You mean you have never punched your wife for once and perhaps apologized to her later?
No, that is repulsive when you think about it because a man is naturally stronger. I have been working on gender-based violence for the past two years. Sometimes, it is not just physically, but psychologically as well. Your husband might bully you by depriving you. Deprivation also constitutes violation to a woman's right. So, for men who do that, I think it is a sign of weakness.