producer, Faithia Balogun, was recently on location for the shooting of a new television movie, Roti, by Kunle Afolayan. In this interview, the award-winning actress talks about what she is up to, her dress style and why she loves reality television. Excerpts.
HOW has your experience been on this set?
I guess that you know that Kunle’s (Afolayan) set is a professional set to the core. So, I’ll say I feel so honoured and proud of myself. My feelings are so very high. Kunle has been my friend for a long time and I’m very proud of him. He’s someone I want to associate myself with. So, I’m very pleased to be on his set. As for the story, the story is fantastic. It’s called Roti. Roti is the name of the kid lead character. And I’m playing the mother to Juwon that looks like Roti.
I’m playing alongside with Kate Henshaw. And you know, Kate Henshaw is a fantastic actress, a very deep one. So, you have to like buckle up. I’m playing with Kunle too. I’m just overwhelmed being on the set. My character is local Mama Juwon. So, I spoke Yoruba and pidgin together. I like it. It’s interesting. The cast and crew are fantastic. The crew are so pleasant. And Kunle as the director too is a very understanding director that wants you to work when you’re very comfortable not when you’re stressed. So, being on Kunle’s set is fantastic.
Not too long ago, an actress complained about harassment while ding films in Lagos. How has your experience been like?
Well, I was very sad when I saw that. But for me, I’ve not seen as bad as that. I’ve seen when they (Area Boys) come to you and ask you to give them this and when you tell them you don’t have, it’s like, why won’t you have? The harassment is huge. We just pray that as time goes on, they’ll help us clear some of that.
When you look at the role some governments, like Lagos State is playing in Nollywood, do you think the government is doing a good work?
I’m not going to talk about that because in the past, I used to think governments are not doing anything. But seriously, they are doing something because there are some other projects that I listen to that say governments are doing this, governments are doing that. So, what are we talking about? If you say government is not doing something and you hear some people saying, ‘this government did this to me,’ then government is trying. So, we should manage our resources. If government gives us like 50 per cent of some resources, then, we should do more. Rome was not built in a day. We can’t think like the western people that we want to get there. But funny enough, we’re getting there. If you go to cinemas these days, if you see movies, you’ll be proud of movie-making thing. I go to the cinemas now not to go and watch western films. I go to watch Nollywood films and I’m proud of it. So, I think, for me, government is trying. So, we should help them to try more.
Now you’re an actress and producer, what movie are you working on?
I just did two English movies but they’re not coming out soon. I’m taking them to TV houses. I’m not doing any premiere or something. I just wanted my fans to know that I can do better than what they think because some of our fans think because you do Yoruba movies, you can’t speak English, you can’t do this, you can’t do that. And I want to tell them that I’m an actress and I can do whatever you want me to do. Soon, you’ll get to see it. It’s done already. It’s just to be seen.
Yoruba actors have not really entered the Nollywood scene. Does that bother you?
I don’t think there is anything like Yoruba actors or Yoruba actress. I feel Nollywood is Nollywood. because I’m a Yoruba speaking actor does not mean I’m not Nollywood. Because someone is an Hausa-speaking actor does not mean he’s not Nollywood. For me, Nollywood is Nollywood. Is there any Hollywood? We don’t have the whole of America in Hollywood. We have other countries there. So, why didn’t they say, ‘because you’re not American, you’re not Hollywood.’ So, for me, everyone is Nollywood. But some people would feel, ‘you do Yoruba movies,’ so? So, because I do Yoruba movies, I should go and die? No. Prove yourself. Do your thing. Let them know that because you do Yoruba movies does not mean you cannot do other movies. So, I’m proud of what I do and I’m not ashamed that I do Yoruba movies and I know I can do whatever you bring to my table.
Big Brother Naija is on and there’s been a lot of cries about whether the show truly represents Nigeria and why is it being shot in South Africa. What is your take on it?
For me, I don’t like to criticise any reality show or anything anybody does. I’m a fan of Big Brother. So, I don’t want to say because it’s in South Africa or it’s in Zambia. For me, Big Brother is making me laugh. Do you know that Big Brother is making me to learn because Big Brother is like a country? It makes you to know the kind of person you are.
You know that this guy is not a good guy, this guy is a two-face and that is the way we are (in) real life. I was telling one of my staff that ‘some people think that Bib Brother is useless, it doesn’t teach anybody anything.’ But for me, I’m learning from Big Brother because there are some people you’ll see there that you’d say, ‘I have somebody that is like this. This my friend is like this. She would tell you something else and she’ll go and tell somebody else something else.’ Do you know that’s what happens in Big Brother? I’m a huge fan so, I will not criticise Big Brother.
Who is your most interesting character?
Now, I like Efe because Efe is Warri and I’m Warri. So, Warri go stand for Warri. Then I like Miyonse and T-Boss because they’re not fake. It is on and it is on. Then I like Bassey. Bassey is real. Those are my favourites. Of course, we know how Big Brother comes. If you sabi act, act well.
You talked about acting. Do you think Big Brother is all acting?
I’m not saying that. I’ve done reality show before. And Big Brother is Big Brother. And whatever games they are playing, I like it. I’m a fan.
Your movie won at the AMVCA some years ago. Do you have any entry for this year?
Africa Magic award is one very proud award that I would never forget in the history of my filmmaking because when I actually won the Best Indigenous award, I wasn’t expecting it and my movie, Alalake, got it. That was my ever first comedy movie I was going to do. And thank God I won. If I need to bring in any movie into Africa Magic now, it has to be like talk of town and right now, I don’t have any movie on hand that is going to Africa Magic award but trust me next year, heads are going to roll because I have a very big project coming up.
Would you like to say something about it?
I don’t want to talk about it yet. It’s going to be like a wow thing.
There is something about your mode of dressing that is always decent…
I will give that to my father because my father trained me to always look good and look responsible. And when you leave wherever you go to, let them talk well about you. So, if I’m going anywhere, I’m so conscious of what I’m wearing. Then my kids are growing up too. I would not want my kids to grow up and meet bad history of me. Then, I like it very simple and classy. I don’t have to reveal my body for you to like me. so, I think that’s the way I was brought up. Dressing is the first thing my father wold caution when I was growing up. And that’s what I do with my kids now, especially my girl. Her dressing is what I’m particular about.
So, have you had cause to turn down any role, maybe because the producer or director said you had to dress in a particular way?
I won’t turn it down. I will just have a meeting with the producer, maybe the production manager or the wardrobe manager, that do you know I can dress like this and still get out this character. And most of the time, they agree. There’s no role I cannot play. I can count the number of scenes I’ve kissed before. Like my movie that I’m telling you now, there is a scene where I kissed. That is the first movie ever that I would kiss a guy in the movie industry. But doing that, the script said you should do that.