My Husband Is My Backbone – Joke Silva
Born 50 years ago as the second in a family of five children, Joke was a student of Holy Child College, Lagos State before she proceeded to Wentworth Milton Mount Bournemouth to obtain her A levels. She was later at Weber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts, London and for her love for education, she was also at the University of Lagos and Fate Foundation where she studied English and acquired some entrepreneurial skills respectively. She is happily married to Olu Jacob and they are blessed with children. In this exclusive interview with Ajibade Alabi, the ever competent actress speaks on her acting career, the movie industry and many other salient issues. Excerpts:
How would you assess your journey as an actress so far?
The journey has been gracious. It has been interesting because of the kind of beginning I had. I was so lucky with my start off because I started with the core professionals; the best hands in the movie industry. I am talking about the likes of Jide Ogungbade, John Chukwu, Segun Bankole, Bode Osanyin to mention a few. I went through professional training with these people. So you discover that with all these professionals as my trainers, I could have nothing but the best. I was very lucky. They helped me to achieve professionalism. I remember that I started out at the University of Lagos Cultural Group with Bode Osanyin, Stella Monye and others.
You became popular with the TV soap, Second Chance, what special attribute did you put into the soap?
Well, I may not be able to pinpoint that special attribute because people assessed me, I did not asses myself but all I can say is that I travelled to England to study drama and that gave me the opportunity to work on stage , television , National Theatre and of course, the radio. By the time I came back from my studies, the people who were familiar with me informed me of a series going on and asked if I would like to be part of it. So I agreed and I was invited to play the role that I played in the soap, Roli. Second Chance came on TV and it made an impact so greatly that people were always running home to see it. I hope you now know that special attribute.
You are Yoruba, how come you prefer to feature in English movies?
Honestly I can sometimes be upset about the Yoruba pay. This is a profession and it ought to be treated like that. This is what many of us do for a living for Christ's sake, so one has to be able to make a living out of it; otherwise I would not take part in it. Secondly, I really do not consider myself as being part of the Yoruba movie industry and people see me like that too. So I think this goes a long way to affect it. People see me more as an English actress. That may be one of the reasons why I feature more in English movies.
And what could be responsible for this abnormality in pay in the Yoruba industry?
A lot of things could be responsible but I may not be able to go into that. I would like to say that it is amazing because when you compare the quality of work the Yoruba movie industry produces, it is far better and I think that should give them an edge over the English producers to pay better. Only a few English movies can actually stand side by side with Yoruba movies.
The Yoruba movie industry has really come a long way. The actors and actresses went through series of trainings at young ages and that has really prepared them. In the Yoruba industry, you cannot get up and think of producing overnight. Honestly, it will not be too easy for anybody to become a star suddenly but it is surprising that with all these great opportunities, they still don' t see it as a business venture that someone can actually live on and make something substantial of it. That may be one of the reasons why I prefer the English more than the Yoruba because they are more organized and straight to business. When they call you for a job and you have negotiated, they will pay you and you in return will do that job. No more, no less.
Would you out rightly agree that the Nigeria movie industry has thrived, otherwise, how can it be improved upon?
Like I have always said, our film industry is one that has thrived and also flourished from the beginning. When you examine the works of icons like Hubert Ogunde, Duro Ladipo, Ade Love, Baba Sala and others, though they had their works on celluloid in those days, that could not hold them back, they still flourished. Their works travelled all over and the interesting thing is that many of them featured on international broadcasts. For example, Ogunde was interviewed on BBC when he released Aiye that was prominent and also sold in London. The one we have now is called Nollywood and is growing so rapidly. I can therefore boldly say that we still have professionals in the industry that can differentiate left from right but many are still learning the job.
We will improve Nollywood; if we take training seriously. By training I mean an amateur should work under anybody who is established on the job and see the way specific things are done.
The major problem is that many who have people under them should still be under somebody. We need to aspire more than what we have now and not be satisfied with where we are. I honestly believe in what obtains here and I say we can be the leading producers in the world if only we put in more effort and hope for the best.
One of the focuses of the movie industry is education but in so doing, it has been accused of contributing immorality to the society. What is your opinion about this?
For every film there is a message that the film maker wants to convey to his target audience. It is normal that a film would have a trust so for this reason I would want to advise that anybody who brings a film to a house tries as much as possible to ensure that those who should not watch it do not see it since it is usually boldly written on the films. I know that a lot of films are properly censored by the Nigerian Censors Board before they are released to the public. Also, the frame work on distribution takes care of that. The people, who sell, distribute or even rent out unclassified films would be properly sanctioned. The EFCC, Police, enforcement agencies and all legal authorities are now involved in the process.
Many a times fame gets into the head and this has brought down many stars. What is your relationship like with your fans?
Oh! We have a smooth relationship. Anywhere we come in contact with ourselves we greet. Fans should be held in high esteem because they made you and without them you are nobody.
What if you do a film and nobody buys? The reason why I think anybody should buy your work is because of the likeness they have for you and may be because of professionalism. You see, as an entertainer, it is necessary for you to aspire to be known and thereby be successful. The problem many famous people have is that they forget that once they are famous they lose their privacy. That is just certain and you cannot run away from that.
It is common with Nigerian actresses to unnecessarily expose their body on set, why is it like that?
The first thing I would like to say is that, to a large extent, what you wear on set may be due to the role you want to play in the movie. I am not trying to make a case for anybody but I am just saying the truth. For instance, I will not put on a particular cloth when I am not performing but when your dressing does not have any relationship with the role you are given, then that is a problem which needs serious attention.
You are certainly a simple person, what attributes differentiate you from the fake lives many other female actresses live?
Simplicity is an inborn thing for me. I do not live a life on what people would say rather, I do what I am pleased with. I have a conscience which allows me to have a smooth relationship with people. As Joke Silva, if I feel like taking a walk to the market or anywhere else for that matter. Or if my car breaks down and I need to keep an appointment, I would jump on the next available public bus, it is nothing to me. I just like to be myself and it has helped me. You will definitely not have a negative impression about me when you come across me.
Let's come to your private life. Your marriage to Olu Jacobs is no doubt a success. How did you achieve that?
If God is the foundation of anything you do, the only result you can get is success. So if you or anybody thinks that we have achieved a lot, God is the secret. No wonder the Bible says; except the Lord builds the house, the labourers labour in vain. God has been our foundation from the beginning so I think we have been lucky. I must also add that we have had our difficult times, moments we thought the marriage would be torn apart but because He is always with us, He restored it. Marriage is one institution that is unstable. You will have situations that you are not prepared for. What you have today may not be the situation tomorrow. Life will definitely throw all sorts of things at you and it would then depend on how you handle it. Marriage is definitely not what we see on the surface.
What kind of man is Olu Jacobs?
He is my other half. He is my backbone. He is very understanding and matured too, but importantly, he is my friend, father and brother. He is the most wonderful thing that ever happened to me.
You have been married for a long time now, any plan to change to your husband's name some day?
The bottom line is that my husband and I are happily married and the extended family is also a wonderful one. The decision to retain my name is with the consent of my husband. We have our reasons for that and we understand the reason very well.
The issue of name is nothing to us at all. Apart from that, I have witnessed many marriages in the industry break up and the name changed. Well, to answer your question, this is today, when tomorrow comes we shall deal with it accordingly
At your age you still look very young and attractive, what is the secret?
The only secret I have in my entire life is God and for anything I achieve, He is the one that is helping me, so if there is any secret, God is my secret.