Uche Elendu Igweanyiba, is one of Nigeria’s foremost and brightest actresses, who has starred in over 50 movies. Uche is married and blessed with a lovely daughter. In this interview she speaks on her life, marriage and other sundry issues
You are one of the most prominent and influential faces in Nollywood. Tell us more about yourself and how you started in the movie industry?
I stumbled into the movie industry in 2002, when I featured in the movie, ‘Fear of the Unknown,’ which was my first movie. I used the word stumbled because I only went to deliver a message to my friend Lisa, whose father is incidentally Larry Koldsweat.
When I got there, I met him and Olu Jacobs, we got talking and they said this girl is going to make a good actress, jokingly they gave me a script to read, I read it and they said they will give me a role in their movie. It worked perfectly well, because I was on holidays. I concluded that it wouldn’t hurt to try it out.
I enjoyed every bit of it because I worked with very accommodating people such as Edith Jane Azu, Olu Jacobs and Francis Agu of blessed memory. It was really a nice experience and I afterwards made up my mind to go into full time acting.
How is life and the acting career treating you?
Life has been amazing, all thanks to God. The acting career is fine as well; I give God the glory for his grace upon my life, family and career.
You have a beautiful daughter…your fans would love to know how married life has being?
Well so far so good, I am still young in marriage but no bitter experience yet and I hope it goes on that way. I’m happy, I married my friend and he has been my pillar of strength and support. My daughter is four years old now, which means I have been married for that long. I have been able to create a comfortable balance by the grace of God to manage my family and career effectively without any setback.
How did you meet your husband?
(Laughs) Funny enough, my husband was a fan, who kept calling to appreciate me. Sometimes, I answer his calls and most times I tell my personal assistant to pick the call and tell him that I am busy. But that did not deter him, he was persistently calling and insisting that he saw me on the screen and just knew that I am his wife.
He was bent on seeing me and getting to know me better. After a couple of months of persistent calling, I thought I should see this patient man and then I invited him over and the rest of the story resulted in this beautiful ring in my finger…(smiles)
How did your first movie help shape your career?
My first movie was ‘Fear of the Unknown’ in 2002, but after the movie, I left the industry to face my studies squarely. I wrote my final exams and after that, I came back to the industry in 2004, got registered with the Actors Guild of Nigeria and started auditioning. My first audition was in Aba for a movie titled, ‘Pride of Destiny’ directed by Ndubuisi Okoh. I was cast for the lead role, which I carried out impressively and I afterwards started getting calls for movie roles.
So has acting in anyway changed you from who you really were…what good has it done to you?
No…Not at all, I am a very natural person and I still maintain that. I only assume the character I am playing on set but out of set, I’m me… Acting has made me realized and discovered myself better including all my weaknesses because as a personality in the public eye, it takes a lot of originality and humility to remain cool headed, and not get carried away. My career has opened doors for me and opened my eyes to a lot of things. Acting also brought my darling husband to my doorstep. (Laughs)
What is different since you got married, what good has it done to you?
Definitely, marriage has given me a sense of responsibility and also made me a fulfilled woman.
How would you describe your husband…How romantic is he?
(Laughs), very romantic in his own unique way.
Your husband was a big fan before marriage…Does he still watch your movies?
A whole lot, he does. He is a big critic so most times he watches my movies to criticize and also commend me.
When you act a sexy role, as a professional how does he react to your kisses on set?
It is funny because all the while I have not noticed anything different in his reactions when he is watching my movies. He knows I am just doing my job; he has been to location to watch me, so he knows there are lots of people behind the camera. When he watches maybe a scene I’m supposed to kiss and I did not do it well, he would ask if the guy had a bad breath… (Laughs).
Sometimes though I don’t feel comfortable with him watching so I try to distract him and it works sometimes but most times he is too engrossed to be distracted. He trusts and encourages me to give my best to my job.
Which would you say is your saddest moment in the industry? Have you had to face any embarrassing situation for playing a particular character?
I really don’t get embarrassed by my fans because most of the time, I know what to expect from them, so I don’t find it embarrassing although, some other person may find it embarrassing.
I can remember on one occasion after a movie, titled ‘Last Occult,’ where I played the role of an occultic witch goddess, I was talking to a friend, and I was actually kidding her.
I told her that I will deal with her and a woman suddenly emerged from nowhere and called her up for a private discussion warning her to be very careful with me, that I am a very dangerous person. She told her that I am an occultic goddess that I could actually harm her judging by my role in that movie.
She concluded that I did it so well because I am occultic in reality. My friend and I started laughing when she told me, I did not find it embarrassing because I expected things like that from fans.
We know you have starred in loads of movie, how many movies do you have to your credit?
Sincerely I have lost count but over 50movies to my credit.
What is your view on sexual harassment in Nollywood and what do you think should be done about it?
There is sexual harassment in every sector of life; in the banks, corporate world, any where you can think of. It does not only happen in Nollywood. I’ve never experienced it though I have heard about it. I don’t understand why some girls that are being asked out by either producer, actors and so on term it as harassment…As an adult if a man asks you out and you feel you don’t like him or you’re not up to it, you say “NO” and that is it. I don’t think anyone would rape you.
Moreover, sex for role is crap because after sleeping with whoever to get a role and you end up not competent enough for the role, nobody would throw away so much resources because of some minutes of sexual pleasure. The basic thing is that one should have the needed skills and potentials to get a good role. So whoever is playing a role has to truly merit it.
The person has to be able to deliver and sell the movie. Different people work on the cast of a movie; like the director, producer, production manager, crew and so on. So it would not work because movie making is not a one man thing. I don’t believe in sex for roles.
Tell us what you do at leisure; do you have any pet project running aside the movie thing?
I do a lot of reading and travelling; when I am not on set, I travel and spend time with my family. I also love to sleep because rest is important. I’m not into any sort of recreational activity, I also create time to visit the less privileged with my daughter to teach her like my mother did, how to reach out to the less privileged. By the grace of God I’m working on a home to empower young abused girls and handicapped females.
How do you unwind with your young family? Has your husband ever complained of not getting enough attention from you?
No… Never… My husband does not live in the country so that gives me enough time for my job, when my daughter is on holidays we travel out and visit places. We also visit my husband regularly and if he misses me a phone call will do the magic, so you see we are doing just fine by the grace of God.
What is your message to young aspiring actresses who are desperate about making a big break in the industry and the new AGN president, Ibinabo?
Well my advice to the young ones has always been, discover yourself first and be sure of what exactly you want to do and can do, everybody must not be in the front of the camera, those behind the camera are doing well too. They should believe in God and themselves and if they are sure they can do it, they should take that bold step and go for what they believe in and the sky will be their starting point.
Ibinabo is a blessing to AGN. I advice her to be steadfast and not relent in carrying out all the plans she has for the Guild. So far she has made very commendable efforts and as a woman, I am proud of her and will support her all the way. She should hold on to God, avoid listening to gossip, ignore her haters and embrace those that wish her well. May God bless her and the AGN.