Nollywood actress, movie producer and the voice behind the soundtracks of some of your favourite movies, Angela Eguavoen speaks with Ivory Ukonu about her journey in the movie industry. Excerpts:
Is acting for you a means to an end or a dream come true?
I have always wanted to be not only an actress but also an all-round entertainer. I sing, too. My songs are used for movie soundtracks. I did the theme songs for Dear Sister and Blood of Enogie, an original hit series from the stables of Rok Studios. Also, I played lead roles in both movies, which are currently in the cinemas. So being an actress and singer is my dream come true.
How did your journey to the acting world begin?
I was introduced to the movie world by a producer known as Emeka Amaugho. He gave me my first role in a movie. At the time, I sent him a friend request on Facebook, he accepted and we got talking. A few weeks into our conversation, he sent me a script and an invitation to come on set.
I started acting in 2013, I was still in school. Combining my studies with acting was a major problem and at some point. I had to stop acting to face my studies squarely. I returned to acting when I was done with school and National Youth Service Corps. I am glad I didn’t abandon my education. The course I studied, English/Literature, has really helped in the career path I’ve chosen.
So you had no prior training before joining Nollywood?
I had no training in film acting when I first started. Although Theatre Art was my minor course in the university, I went for proper training after I already started acting. I still go for training.
How were you received in Nollywood?
There are always challenges delving into any new thing. So I had some challenges here and there and it affected my academic performance which was why I had to quit acting temporarily to concentrate fully on studies.
Which movie would you say gave you your big break?
Blood of Enogie, a Rok studios original series. It was produced and directed by Charles Uwagbai. I was shooting the movie when I went for the audition of Enakhe, an Mnet original series executive produced and directed by Victor Sanchez Aghahowa. I eventually got the role of Ivie. These two TV shows gave me my major break yet, they came out almost at the same time and they shot my career to a great level.
What determines the kind of roles you take on in movies?
When I read through a script, I always look out for the relevance of the character to the film. If I don’t see it, I reach out to the producer to make adjustments and they always rework the script. Because when I give my feedback on a script, I give it in a way that would make the story better.
Do you sometimes make inputs in the characters you play?
Yes, I do. I am a versatile actress that can take on a wide range of characters, but when the role is one that doesn’t portray my brand properly and cannot be adjusted, I turn it down.
What determines your appearance in any movie?
The major factor that I look out for is the story. If the story is very good, I am ready to go all out for it. If the production house is a very good one, too, I am ready to go extremely beyond my boundaries to bring the character to life. Like I always say, an actor’s body is like a canvas. You should be ready to act with the whole of your body and being.
Which character in a movie challenged your craft more as an actress?
The character, Queen Osato in Blood of Enogie took me on an emotional roller- coaster. It challenged me mentally and physically. I actually got injured while filming. I still walk around with a big scar on my knee.
Also, the character, Ivie Osakpolor, in Enakhe challenged me so much. The role had so many arches. I became so many people while playing Ivie, switching between so many emotions in a scene. It was one role that really bruised me both mentally and physically. It was one of the toughest characters I’ve played as an actress.
Ivie made me to tap on the part of me I never knew existed and things I never knew I could do so seamlessly as an actress. Again, the character, Isoken, in Dear Sister, an EPI Projects limited film, directed by Uche Agbo is another film that took me on an emotional roller-coaster.
Did you ever expect to be as successful as you are today?
I always knew I’d do well in this profession. I saw it, I still see it and the truth is, this is really just the beginning. God has so much in store for me because He has bestowed me so many talents.
Do you have a dream role on your bucket list and what is it?
I’ve got so many roles I wanna play. But for now, I really want to play a man in a film, a Tom boy or play the villain in an action film.
Like most of your colleagues, you are also a movie producer. How many movies have you produced so far and which would you say challenged your craft?
I’ve produced two films. Both were challenging but Stillborn almost took my blood. I acted and produced it.
Why did you feel the need to join the movie-producing train rather than just stick to acting?
I started producing because I saw it as a way of having another source of income. I get to shoot the kind of roles I wish to play and also having content is a lifetime investment.
If you were given an opportunity to change one thing about Nollywood in order to take it to another level, what would that be and how would you go about it?
I think Nollywood is really thriving. For now, I don’t think I’d like to change anything, but then I’ll look for ways to get more movie exhibitors/distributors into the industry so the filmmakers can have larger markets and means to sell their films in order to make more money and pay actors and crew members better. Every single actor in Nollywood is underpaid, even the ones that are being paid in millions already.
What would you consider to be your greatest challenge in life generally?
Money! I need to make more money. And I think that’s just a normal life challenge. Everybody wants to make more wealth.
What was growing up like for you?
Growing up with my parents and siblings is one of the best things about my life. We saw movies together every evening and I always admired everything about the actors on my screen. Dad will say, “They are not any better than you. They worked hard to get there, you too can.”
But he always chased us to go to bed, especially when we were watching a movie late at night on a weekday and we had to prepare for school the next morning. My parents have always been in support of my chosen career.
What would you say must have significantly shaped you to be who you are today?
My love for the craft, for my family, friends and for God has really shaped me. Along the line, I’ve met really great friends who have been quite supportive.
Who are some of the people you look up to in Nollywood?
My number one love is Viola Davis. I love Rita Dominic, Kate Henshaw, Mercy Johnson. I literally watch Viola Davis, Charlize Theron, Rosamund Pike to enhance my craft. They have the whole of my heart.
Has there ever been a time you thought of quitting acting?
I have never thought of quitting because I was tired or frustrated. But I quit one time because I had to pay attention to my studies and when I was done and dusted with a very good grade, I returned to my love, acting.
What else do you do besides acting?
Aside acting, I make movie soundtracks, produce movies, influence for brands and I am announcing my personal business brand soon.
What is your opinion on your colleagues flaunting their material acquisitions on social media?
We are into show business. Some people are not comfortable and don’t like putting their personal life or acquisitions out there, while some love to put them out probably because it gives them the traffic and buzz they want. Either way, I am a strong advocate for “let people do what makes them happy.”