Don’t be fooled, there’s sexual harassment in NOLLYWOOD — Arinze
How long have you been in the movie, music industry?
Ehmm, this is about the 24th year I'm in the industry but some years back.
You celebrated something some years back, what was it, music or movie?
Both of them, acting, music and all that. Well it's a shame that the music aspect of me didn't really work out. I didn't really nurture it and most of my concentration was for my acting career. But all of a sudden, I find myself wanting to sing again. I want to come back to music..
Funny enough, I didn't see it as music wasn't paying, as a professional you don't see it that instead the passion you have towards that particular profession is what counts. Yes of course, we would come down to the bottom line, money.
You need money for, publicity, promoting the album, recording the album, clothing yourself and all that, but for me it wasn't that. I went into music because I wanted to make a statement. In those days we had passion and with the likes of you nodding us, pushing us the sky was the limit.
I remembered in those days you used to come to Premier Music and sit down and listen to our music and make some comment here and there even call up the artiste to advice.
Those were the days and I can count very few of you on my finger tips, FAJ, Biola Ogunduyile, Ladi Ayodeji etc. But today's journalist, what they do is just listen to the music and they write. So when we were playing music there was constructive criticisms and one didn't have to take it to heart. All you do is you take the criticism and say this man has told me this.
I also remembered the day you were advising Edmond Spice about his works and he listened carefully. That advise was to help him become what he became then. But my grouse with my recording company was that they wanted to change my style of music.
As a young artist I had a vision about the kind of music I wanted to play.
So what kind of music had you wanted to play?
I wanted to play R&B then, but because Alex O and Edmond Spice were playing R&B then, Dean Disi felt I should do something else. He felt I was on collision course with Alex O. At that time it was word for word, lyrics for lyrics, voice for voice but I had an edge in terms of voice and gradually I started seeing the politicking.
My album though a world beater wasn't pushed. See I tell people who cared to listen, that my album wasn't that bad artistically. I had a very good album but commercially it was a successful disaster.
That's how I can put it. But I was willing to work until politics got in the way of it, hey you have to do it like this and like that.
Was that the reason why you switched to movie?
You came in accidentally?
No, I didn't come in accidentally. I trained as an actor in the University of Ife. The passion of an actor came in, though I was more focused in music then until when I got into acting full time, I went on to do Ripples, Fortunes and Fortunes. And from Mega Fortunes things were just following and before I knew it, I was more in the movie than music.
Music started slipping of my hands and I found myself doing more of sound tracks and sitting down and watch people produce and sometimes get involve in production, but not actually coming to the forefront to sing. But now it's a different ball game I have the urge to sing and I'm calling the new album “In the Mood”.
In most of the movies you acted, you played the role of the bad boy, why?
Against the background that some producers and directors are a bit lazy and wont go into the act of harnessing new talents, I don't have anything against producers wanting me to play the bad boy role. But when it comes too often, it becomes dangerous because people don't want to see you for who you are.
The bad boy aspect image came into being when I played a second lead role as the son of James Bumez in Fortunes. Cobra was the son and he was a drug addict . He was sent to rehab and when he came back he wanted to take over his father's business.
First because the second son whom the father entrusted the business didn't do the job well. So when he came back the father started seeing the real him in Cobra and said “fine my son takeover the business”.
Did it make you feel uncomfortable?
No, I didn't feel uncomfortable at any point in time. When Chico came to me (it was that period home video started), Fortunes had collapsed because the producers had gone to court. He wanted to do something called Dark Goddess which was taken from the concept of Fortunes.
The movie didn't work out but officially it was the first English movie to be made as home video. Andy Amaechi directed it. My second role as a bad boy was Zeb,it was about shooting Domitila. He came to me and said he has a script and wanted to know if I could play the role of Black arrow. We sat down and discussed the role.
Then a director would sit down and discuss a script with you unlike these days directors will throw the script to your face. He told me what he wanted and I said yes I would do it. I did my research, read the script and shaved my hair as he said and we shot movie.
I wasn't the lead actor but when the film hit the streets, Black Arrow took over and from there we came out to do Silent Night 2 and 3. And that's how it all started and gradually everyone wanted me in their movies to play bad boy role..
How did the public react to you?
Initially it was gosh, this guy might be a criminal in real life, I remember one woman stopped me at Adeniran Ogunsanya shouting that couldn't I play any other roles? I told her madam, It's just a job.
We Africans haven't really gotten to the level of understanding the fact that first and foremost the man doing that thing is an actor. But now things are beginning to change, now they understand that you are doing your job, back then they would not even give you that chance.
But now they are beginning to come to terms with it, that this guy make a living from the roles they played.
For me I had to stop at a time and re-assess myself and see myself as more of a brand than as an actor and that's where we are today. I told myself even if I have to play bad boy it has to be worth my while, so I have shifted. Since then people have seen some of the movies that I didn't play bad boy.
Atlanta for instance, people saw another part of me playing Atlanta, they found it very hilarious and funny. I just came back from London, on the streets in the black neighbourhood they were like “oh we saw Atlanta on Ben TV, we saw it on AIT so far it's a welcome development.
What will you say has been the most challenging role you ever played in a movie?
Each role for me comes with various challenges and hiccups and all that. And it depends on how you tackle the challenges head long. For me one of the most challenging roles in my career was The Return. That got me the Best Actor of the Year and Best English Actor of the year at the Reel Awards.
In the movie I played the lead role. I wasn't supposed to play the lead role, but somehow because there was a four years evolution of making the movie, it evolved four years and I ended up playing the lead role. It was very tasking and challenging. My roles in Silent Night and Fuga were also very challenging.
I remember playing the role of Fuga was stressful, because every night I will come back home with waist pain.
And in those days when we do movie we were passionate about it. Its not now that every Tom, Dick and Harry jumps at the back of the train I want to be an actor.
The problem with the industry today is that most of them have problems with their spoken English and its deplorable. And when you talk about acting skills it is lacking, you can't even find any. So right now it's turned into fine face, fine girl come and act.
Have you ever gone down on your knees to beg for role?
I have been quite lucky. I haven't because I'm the kind of person that tells myself, if you think I can do this, I'd go head long for the challenge.
Is there anything like sexual harassment?
Of course. If anybody tell you there is nothing like sexual harassment in the industry that person is telling a blatant lie. There is sexual harassment but it depends on how the opposite sex handles the matter.
But sometimes some of the girls encourage it. You come in for audition and you dressed in skimpy dress and you go stand in front of the director and all that, you'd find out that the guy is a human being.
He will respond to that and some producers will react to it. For me, I think the girls who do that are empty upstairs. Use your talent, believe in yourself and once you believe in yourself then you got talent you can go out and fight for anything and get it.
I tell m
ost girls that if you go and open your legs and the producer or director takes advantage of you, that's your headache and you don't get the role at the end of the day. And the truth is that 90 per cent of the time they don't get any roles.
If Genevieve, Omotola could make it to the top you can do it. You don't have to open your legs, because they didn't open theirs. They had the passion and that was what got them there. So earn the respect and the dignity as a woman but when you open your legs and they take advantage of you, that's your bloody business.
The same thing applies to girl who walks in and sits in front of the lecturer and crosses her leg in such a provocative manner that the lecturer will be seeing through what she is wearing. If I was the lecturer I would walk you out of the lecture room and I would ban you and if possible I will take you to the senate so that at the end of the day I would not be accused of sexual harassment.
Do you have any regrets?
I learnt not to regret anything. I only see it as it's happened, it's happened and I learn from my mistakes and move on. I try not cry over spilled milk.
Are there things you wished you would have done, that you didn't do?
Yes, there are certain things I wished I had done if I had the opportunity, but since I didn't have the opportunity so what do I do? I move on.
Can you mention one of them?
If I had the opportunity of going back to re-do my debut album, I'd do it right and today, I would have been an international music star.
You have been unlucky with women...?
No I have not been unlucky with women.
You have three, four... kids?
No I don't have three, four kids, I have three kids
From different women?
Unfortunately, no matter how I try to explain that to you, it may sound irresponsible. So I'd prefer we don't talk about that, what has happened has happened. Right now my major concern is taking care of my children I don't see myself unlucky with women, God forbid such happening thing. I am not and can never be unlucky with women.
The problem is that these women didn't understand who I am. The real issue is that I am too soft and I think that's my big problem. I love too much and I am not firm when I am supposed to be.
You see when you over pamper a woman you get into trouble. I found out that the average Nigerian woman don't like to be pampered. If you pamper a woman too much she takes advantage of you and that has been my biggest weakness.
So I'd rather say they are unlucky, quote me: “they are unlucky for losing out on me”. But I have somebody right now who is great and who is a perfect match.
So you are not bothered when people say you have three kids from different women?
That's their problem not mine, a lot of them have skeleton in their closet that are bigger than that.
When are you going to settle?
I'm going to settle down very soon.
Right now, what happens to pampering and loving?
All those things I say I don't regret, I just learnt from it. And it doesn't mean I'm not going to be the lover man I used to be but I'm going to be firm.
Yes. If I say this is how I want it done, that's how I'd want it done.
How did your dad react to you adopting an Igbo surname instead of his?
He was a very wonderful person, one who understood that it was showbiz. But the good thing he liked was that I didn't adopt an alias but took to my real name. The name Arinze is from my mother's side and my old man thought I was creative. Arinze is a stage name I'm still Segun Aina. My bank account, my international passport carries the name Segun Arinze Aina but Arinze has taken over my real surname. Funny enough, even my late dad called me Segun Arinze till he died.
What are the qualities of your ideal woman?
Independent minded, liberal, God fearing and thoughtful. Beauty is a thing of the heart and for me it goes beyond face but being able to understand and take my excesses, because I do have my excesses.
So the women who had babies
for you never had any of those qualities?
Well, I wouldn't know where they derailed along the line. I wouldn't know whether they had this or that. Maybe I was too young then to understand.
So now that you're getting married what's the relationship like between your new wife and the mothers of your kids?
Please let me make this clear now that I have thought of it. My brother I have only wedded once in my life time and that was when I got wedded to Ann Njemanze. And although we are separated, we still see and talk. That the marriage didn't work for us doesn't mean it can't work for us as friends