Nollywood sensation, Nse Ikpe-Etim, is one actress that you can’t ignore. Whether it’s her impeccable diction or her sense of humour, Nse is a sweetheart that gets you cracked up each time you come across her. Witty and assertive, her profile continues to rise steadily in the midst of innumerable talents springing up in the highly competitive Nigerian movie industry. From Reloaded, which was her first movie, Nse has continued to endear herself to more fans and attract major nominations within the industry. In this interview with MERCY MICHAEL, the actress speaks on sundry issues. Excerpts:
EGO Boyo named you as one of her favourite Nollywood personalities. Coming from a senior colleague, how does that make you feel? Can you see the smile on my face? It’s an honour for Ego to mention my name. I will tell you that much because it is not easy for your name to be dropped as anything. It means you did something right, even if it is in one scene. So I’m thankful. I don’t know what it is. Should I say it is the directors that bring out something in me? Apart from the grace of God, the director brings something out and then the people you play with as well matter. They help you and if that doesn’t happen then you just rely on the art itself. Honestly, with what you just told me, I’m going to be smiling for days.
What is it you’re doing right?
I always say that people should never rest on their oars. If you are told you cook well, you should know that you have to keeping making that food so that the recipe doesn’t change. You have to get use to it. And then you start adding little spices here and there. You learn to add these things to make your food stay sweet. It is not that you cannot cook but you need the staying power. I don’t know what it is but I cannot run away from the fact that I’ve got God’s grace on my life. I can’t run away from that. But as I said, you must learn not to rest on your oars. When I see something I’ve done before, I look at it, I find fault in the way I’ve reacted and I say I could have done this better. If I get a role that I think is similar, if this person was an Aquarian, I will make her a Libra the next time because everybody is different even if they live the same life. There is always a difference, even if they were born of the same mother.
One thing will make the difference. For every role you play, you must find one little thing with which you connect. In The Meeting for instance, Bolarinwa, which was the role I played, was a cameo. When they give you that kind of thing, you know that it’s ok, you are trying. Looking at the character, I’m like this chic, she was stupid. She was a silly person. Everybody has stupidity somewhere in them so I brought it out. My director cannot get over it and with my co-actors, they brought it to forefront. She’s very silly. Honestly, it was stupid. I can’t even talk about it.
Can you recall a particular scene you wish you had played differently?
There is a scene in Reloaded where Femi, the character played by Ramsey Nouah, walks into the living room and I am with the girl. My character dropped for a second or two there. People might not notice but I saw it. These are things I’m trying to work on. Sometimes we just have to learn not to over heighten our emotions.
Of the roles you’ve played, which will you say has challenged you the most?
Everyone has been challenging but I think the most recent is the one I just shot in Abuja. It is called Broken. That broke me. Mr. and Mrs. broke me to a point. Phone Swap broke me physically. Bolarinwa, having to be stupid like that, even I kept asking, is this how I want people to know me? Broken made me; see the strength of a woman from a different stand point. Having a family, yet not having one; trying to look for love, being able to tie your love and yet you have abandoned others. It was crazy but I was thankful for the cast I played it with, Bimbo Manuel and Kalu Ikeagwu.
What was it like acting alongside Bimbo Manuel?
It was amazing. They were two people I always said I hoped I get to work with, so working with them, I liked it. Everyone had their breaking point in it because the movie will pull you and then you will break. A man cried on set and the camera wasn’t rolling. He will kill me if I say it but I will say it. Can you guess who it was? It wasn’t Bimbo. It was Kalu that broke. And he doesn’t look it.
You’ve been off and on set in recent times. How do you cope?
I always give myself a break, no matter what. I do not go from one set to the next. I don’t have the power. If I have a script, I dedicate everything to it. When I’m done I rest. I cannot do that because I won’t give you what you want. I cannot pretend. If I lie, directors like Mildred Okoh will catch me in myself.
Do you hope to delve into other parts of the art like producing and directing in the latter part of your career?
I’ve always said I’m predominantly an actor. I want to stay that way and milk this cow (laughs).
So, are you saying it’s a no, no for you?
Because change is constant, I don’t know; but for now, I am loving my work in terms of loving the people I’ve been working with and loving the directors I work with. I just love putting a smile on people’s faces because we need something to remind us of who we are. That is what the art does for you. Acting reminds you that things have happened and things can happen. It is a constant reminder. Sometimes, these are the only things that people have to put a smile on their faces. So for me, that’s it.
Everyone has had one good thing to say about the movie, The Meeting. Let’s have your take on it?
There have been romantic comedies but this one is satirical. There is no character you will not identify with because there is always a Makinde in someone’s office, there is always an Ejira, that girl that is very around. She’s playful, she’s almost innocent yet she knows what she wants. Then, there is always a Bolarinwa, check all these offices, there is always that Bolarinwa that will come in, there is always that Clara Ikemba, there is always that receptionist that will either make or mar your life. There is always a big man. The Meeting was like the man in the mirror. You look at it and you go like, ‘Oh! That’s me. I should change.’ It will make you laugh. It doesn’t condemn you because we are not saints, yet it says this is what we are doing. Let’s look into ourselves and make the right decision, make it right but with a laugh basically.
Before now, you had your perception about up-comers. Did it change after working with Femi Jacobs and Linda Ejifor?
I will be very honest with you, I saw Ejira as different from Bimbe, the role she plays in Tinsel. Makinde plays the psychedelic lawyer in Tinsel. I saw him then, I saw a guy play a 40′s role. He walked in a funny way, he reacted in a funny way and I said, ‘Aunty May, where did you get him from?’ I had to ask. I’d watched him literally just blow out of proportion. You see intensity and you are like wow! Good! Our industry needs it. We need faces. We need new people because work is coming. It’s a new Nollywood so there has to be a lot more than we have, because the truth is, we’ve got talents in Nigeria. The question is, do they have a platform to be recognised? Who is willing to take that risk? Rita took that risk and no matter what, I am thankful for them. I was given a chance literally in Reloaded but I was supported by all the A-listers. I came out and there it was, Reloaded. Now, they’ve come out. They have all the other actors, Basorge, Kate Henshaw, Rita Dominic, Chinedu Ikedieze, Chika Chukwu, and then there is poor me there. We all worked and it was amazing.
Do you think that the fact that they had a platform like Tinsel did the magic?
You will never lock talent up, no matter who you are. Talent will rise above everything. What makes it shine is attitude but you can’t lock talent up. You see it, you know it is talent. Even if they had not been in Tinsel, even if I had not seen them anywhere, I would have being wowed. For Linda, she’s willing to learn. She doesn’t think she knows it all. If people who have been there before don’t think they know all, then they will learn a lot more than they know. It is the same with Femi.
So I’m happier than they are for what they have because I literally come from that kind of thing. I was born of that. I know what it is like. When you have the support of the cast, you have a support of the director and the producer, the sky is just your limit.
Unlike TV, we don’t get to watch movies all the time. I’m sure your fans are waiting to see you on soap…
One day, maybe one day, you will get to see more of me. There are talks but when the talk sweet we go do am.
Tell us your experience in Phone Swap
I played Mary (laughs). You know, you have these girls who come to school but you know they are local. They have a degree but they are local. They do not even know how to use fork and knife because that is not how they were brought up. You know those girls, Agaracha. They don’t know anything. That was Mary. Now, Mary now sees the other side. She’s now trying to form like I can use fork and knife. She was exposed to these things but she didn’t know it. It wasn’t her way of life. Yes, I liked it.
On those days when you are stressed out, what calms you?
Cooking calms me a lot. When I can’t sleep at night, I cook. I read a lot. I think that no knowledge is ever lost and reading brings a wealth of knowledge. If you constantly go there you can never lack. One thing I pray for is that our generation, the one after me actually, I’m hoping, will tell our kids to read.
My parents did that. They helped me to do that. I remember someone saying that I speak well. Them no dash me. I read a lot. I see a word I don’t know, I mark it down. I say to myself what does it mean. What’s its origin? Is it Greek? Is it French? Those are the questions I ask myself. So when you know these things when you are pronouncing it, it’s as if your father is a professor. Sometimes, I hang out with my friends. It’s therapeutic when I talk to my friends and let go of my fears. I also like to be alone a lot of the time, which is funny. I can just lie on the bed and just stay there.
What makes someone earn your friendship?
Honestly, you know friendship is two ways but I always say for you to be able to be my friend and I your friend, I must be able to make excuses for you. It means I will not judge you ever. No matter what you do, I will see why you did it from your stand point. Even if it’s wrong, I will understand why you did it because you had told me. I will trust you for it. For instance, I might not see you all the time but we are very close. Some people will take offence; our friendship will cease to be. I have friends I don’t see, the day we see, we continue where we stopped.
They do not judge. They do not feel bad. As my friend, if you feel I’ve done wrong, do not judge, call me to ask me and I will explain why I did it. That’s what I owe you and that’s what you owe me. Friendship is not about getting up and shouting, ha na my paddy then tomorrow I go away. I don’t like to have surface friendships. I like to have friends and if they are my friends I will keep the circle small. That’s fine! But I can have acquaintances. I have people I talk to. I can laugh with anybody. At the same time I don’t have to laugh because not every day is okay for laughter.
As regards marriage, do you have reservations about certain tribes?
No, I don’t. I just think a good man is a good man.
There was a time you said it’s difficult to get a good man; do you still have that notion? Is it not hard?
I’ve checked it; all the good ones are taken. All the ones that have light shining on them are not the ones I’m looking for. I’m just waiting for the one that God will pop up and I will just say, hey! I’m right here. I think a relationship starts with having a friend. It starts with friendship, you get to know someone eventually something can happen or will not happen. You cannot force anything. You cannot say because society says it, then I must be married. What dirty respect? What if the man doesn’t even respect me? I want the society to respect me. Which one is more important at this point in time?
We know a lot of them are taken, but is that to say you haven’t seen any good one?
So I should go and collect somebody’s boyfriend now?
Exactly what are you looking for in a man?
You know when I find that thing I will tell you. I’ve said all sorts in different interviews but I think over the years I just streamlined it, I want a man who I can feel safe with. It’s not about money. But a man that you know has your back. That’s enough.
What about the biological clock…?
My biological clock is not ticking anymore. I stopped it from ticking and when I want it I will tell it to start (laughs). I’m in control of this thing men.
Culled from The Nation