Mbong Amata, Trailblazer & Ladybrille Woman of the Month April 2011 (Exclusive Interview)

In Entrepreneurs, Film, Magazine Editions, Woman of the Month by Ladybrille Woman4 Comments

Nollywood emerging Actress Mbong Amata who is also a trailblazer is our Ladybrille Woman of the Month for April 2011. In this exclusive feature story/interview, Amata discussed in-depth with us about her foray into acting, her work with Hollywood actors in her upcoming political suspense and controversial film Black Gold, the Nollywood industry and need for professionalism and the death threats against her and her family warning against the release of Black Gold. Sit back, relax and get into her story on your mobile devices or on your computers. If you will be commuting, print a copy to read on your commute in the subways or trains and of course don’t forget to share! This young woman is coming to a theater near you in the USA or Europe soon. You heard it first on Ladybrille Magazine.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: How are you Mbong it is really nice to speak with you over the phone. We are thrilled to have you as our Woman of the Month. How are you?!
Mbong Amata:
Oh! I am doing really well. I feel really humbled and privileged on being a part of this.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Congratulations on your career. I have been following it quite closely. My first introduction to your work was in “Amazing Grace “and since then I have been paying attention.
M.A:
Thank you! “Amazing Grace” was like a stepping stone for me. It was a giant leap because the cast was just amazing. When you are involved in a major high end production like that, you can’t help but make friends and walk away with great relationships. “Amazing Grace” was indeed an experience.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: We will definitely get into (that) experience. But, first let’s talk about another experience for a minute. How did you go from acting in Jeta Amata’s film “Amazing Grace” to marrying him and having his baby? Are you crazy?! (Laughs)
M.A: (Laughs hard) You know when I met Jeta, I met Jeta when I was seventeen years. He came to do an audition in the city that I lived in.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: What city was that?
M.A: Calabar in Cross River State which is the South-South of Nigeria

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Yes. I am familiar with the State. I grew up in Lagos but my family is from what is now Akwa Ibom but back then we periodically visited Calabar. . .
M.A: Did you know I am originally from Akwa-Ibom?

LADYBRILLEmag.com: (No I did not) Very cool.
M.A: My father is from Akwa-Ibom and my mother is from Cross-River.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Nice! I am still getting (familiar) with the Akwa Ibom culture. . . I’d love to know a lot more but I am not as savvy as I am with the Yoruba culture where I was raised. But, let’s go back to your story on how you met Jeta Amata since this is about you?
M.A.: Yes. He came to conduct an audition for a movie based on the Efik culture which is the culture of the Calabar people; and I went for the audition and we spoke. He was like “Oh you belong here” and I said, “seriously, did I just land myself a role on your movie?” He goes, “yes.” Then we went on location to shoot the film.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: (Interrupts her) At that time what was your experience in acting and starring in films? Had you ever acted?
M.A: No! Growing up as a young girl I used to yearn to see myself on TV but I was more inclined towards pageantry. I did a couple of pageants here and there. (Laughs) I even did Miss Nigeria sometime in my life. (Laughs)

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Hmmm . . . when was that?
M.A.: That was in 2005 and I came third.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Aha!
M.A.: (Continues with how she met Jeta) so one of the days on shooting on location, he walked up to me and said, “do you know I am going to marry you?” I was like “seriously dude, get serious with your life. I am not even 18 yet.” He said, “never mind, I will wait for you.” The rest is history. I am now married to him and (have) his baby. (Laughs)

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Wow! (Laughs) How old was he at the time?
M.A: Jeta I think was about 28 at the time?

LADYBRILLEmag.com: I know you are an adult now but back then how did your parents feel about the age difference?
M.A: You know Jeta is blessed in looking very young. He could pass for a much younger guy. He went to my parents but I think my mom thought given his looks that the age difference (10years) would not be much of an issue. Today we are married for almost three years and we have a two year old daughter and she is the most amazing thing that has happened to me.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Interesting story. Why don’t we transition from that to your educational background. Tell our audience what college you attended?
M.A: I attended the University of Calabar and studied History and International Studies which has nothing to do with acting. Like I said, I just found myself in theater.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: [H]ow did you hear about the films you auditioned for? Was your first film Amazing Grace?
M.A.: No it wasn’t. It was Mutanda. I was with a modeling agency in Calabar called Eclipse Models Agency. That was where I heard about the audition.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Okay. So, your agency served as both a talent and modeling agency?
M.A.: Exactly.

LADBRILLEmag.com: What was your role in “Mutanda?”
M.A.: Mutanda was originally made for TV but because of the marketing and distribution issues for films, it was released straight on DVD.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: What was the reception when the nation saw you in Mutanda.
M.A: (gets excited) Oh! My classmates from high school were overjoyed. They were like “oh yeah we have a super star in the making.” (Laughs) When I think about it, I laugh and say they actually had a vision into my future. It is really great that till today, I actually have the support of friends from way back and family. It has been an amazing, amazing experience.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: From Mutanda, you get this amazing reaction. What happened next? What films did you act in?
M.A: The next movie was one called “Wheel of Change” which I hold dearly to my heart. The first Lady of Cross River State at the time Onari Duke (seen more like a Michelle Obama) funded the movie to teach kids in high school about AIDS and I played the lead role in the movie.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: What was your role? Where you the teenager who got pregnant?
M.A.: Yes I was. I got pregnant and my character contracted HIV AIDS.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: That’s deep.
M.A.: Yes. It was really deep and highly educational. It was distributed all over Nigeria and went straight into Nollywood. Then producers from Nollywood started calling stating they wanted to work with me.

THE AMAZING GRACE HYMN, JOHN NEWTON & THE EFIK PEOPLE

LADYBRILLEmag.com: You ultimately get the chance to star in “Amazing Grace” which was the story of how John Newton came to pen the song Amazing Grace which the hymn is from the Efik (Calabar) people. What was it about the script, when you read it, that connected with you?
M.A: When I read the script, it knocked me off my feet for a second. Number one, I didn’t know where that song came from which was the main goal of the film. We needed to tell the world that you guys need to know the roots and history of the most popular hymn in the world. I don’t think there is anyone in the world that does not know that song. It was a thing of pride for me to be a part of a cast that had such powerful story to let people know Amazing Grace was an African story and was also indigenous and something Africans should be very proud of.

MBONG TAKES ON STEREOTYPES ABOUT THE EFIK/CALABAR PEOPLE

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Let me take you a slightly different direction but centering on the pride and rich history of the Calabar people you speak of. (This is lengthy) I am Akwa-Ibomite by ancestry but grew up in Lagos. I never knew or heard stereotypes about the Calabar people until I returned to the US. I came to find that Calabars have stereotypes very inconsistent with my reality growing up and the community of extremely talented and accomplished Akwa-Ibomites/Calabar people that I met here. Entrepreneurs, Engineers, Doctors, Lawyers name it, we are there. I also notice in Nollywood, there are extensive lineup of really talented Calabar people in the industry driving the industry from actors to producers and film makers. How did you feel about being a part of a movie that really, I think, began to rebrand who Calabar persons are to Nigerians since they are primarily the ones with these stereotypes?

M.A.: (Adopts a serious tone) Yeah. This was something we really thought about. That the little nasty roles are always (given) or meant for the Calabar people; i.e. using Calabar people in Nollywood films to play houseboy and housegirl roles. I thought that was a major challenge for me and I took it as a personal challenge that (Calabar) people can be good at whatever they decide to do, not just being the house help, the drunks, the palmwine tappers. I don’t know if you understand?

LADYBRILLEmag.com: I get you. In the films Calabar people are not the shot callers, the boss ladies and boss men. The images on Nollywood screens are inconsistent with our realities of who we are.

M.A: (gets very passionate) Yes. I took the film personally as a challenge to change the mindset of people generally. We are a gifted people and a gifted nation. I call us “nation” because we can stand up tall anywhere. We can speak and make people actually listen to us. I feel we are passion driven people and it is high time people see us from a different point of view. That is my stance.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Hmmmm. . . Educate us a bit about the Calabar people. The Efik you refer to, that is a language right?
M.A: Yeah. The Akwa-Ibomites broke out of the Calabar people formerly Cross River State. There are a lot of commonalities between the two groups in terms of the language, food and costumes. There are, however, differences. There are some local governments in Akwa Ibom that do not understand each other. For example, an Oron man could be in the same room with an Eket man which is where I come from and they wouldn’t understand each other.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: I am actually Eket.
M.A: (Screams and laughs) Oh my God!

LADYBRILLEmag.com: (She asks where and I tell her)

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Let’s go back to this epic film out of Nollywood telling the history of a famous hymn. Tell us about the preparation that went into your role in Amazing Grace?

M.A: I went back and did my research on slavery, how the Calabar port played a major role in exporting slaves out of that part of Nigeria. I did research online, at my school, went to the local communities and picked the brains of the local chiefs to see what their forefathers had passed on to them about slavery.

LADYBRILLLEmag.com: How did you get into character?
M.A: The thought about slavery and everything that went into it. . . I don’t mean to be racist or sound racist in anyway but for a quick second it kinda freaks you out for a second. . .

LADYBRILLEmag.com: I agree Whites played a really bad role in history when it comes to slavery but l also blame our African forefathers. Nigerians, Ghanaians and other leaders in African countries sold their own people to these Whites.
M.A: (In a passionate tone) You know we had an argument about what you just said on set. To a certain extent, the people sold their brothers out. But to a certain extent, the people agreed on their own to go see what the white man’s land had to offer. For instance, like an example I like to use when I talk to people about modern slavery, if you put a ship in Lagos and ask that people who want to go to America should come on board, can you imagine the number of people that will get into the vessel without anyone pushing them?

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Yes. Millions!

M.A: Exactly. It is just how it is. It is not rocket science. So, I think to a certain extent, the people actually gave their brothers up into slavery but to a major extent the people agreed to go willingly just to see what the white man’s land looked like.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: So, let me ask you about one of the stellar characters you had the opportunity to work with, Ms. Joke Silva who is considered one of the iconic names in Nollywood’s film industry?

M.A: (Raises voice in passionate tone) Oh my God it was amazing, are you kidding?! It was overwhelming experience for me. I mean the way she speaks. You can’t help but take a couple of words with you and try it out later when you speak to another person. (Laughs) For some reason I think she went to an etiquette school. She is so polished. So on point. She is the real deal. The total package. It was a mind blowing experience.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Let me take you a different direction. You go from a movie like Amazing Grace and then a few other ones I observed where non-impressive roles you took on. I am forgetting their names now. But I remember thinking to myself how do you come from a film like “Amazing Grace” to take on roles that do not enhance your acting skills the way Amazing Grace did? Isn’t there a need to take on challenging roles given you have tasted and performed on such high level already?

M.A: I am guessing. . . I am trying to think what that movie will be. (laughs)

LADYBRILLEmag.com: In one of the films I saw, you were one of the supporting cast members and I remember it had Actress Rita Dominic in it.

M.A: Oh I think I know what you are talking about. That would be “Sweet Tomorrow.” Emem Isong approached me to do the film which was a catch for me. Most of the films she does is on Video. There are few producers in Nigeria that produce high quality films. When Emem approached me, I read the script, I thought it was something different and it [w]as appealing. It gave me room to explore my abilities by trying my hands on different characters I would not play on a regular basis. I think it was a learning process for me.

BLACK GOLD- MBONG SHARES PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Now you are going into another learning process with your latest film Black Gold. I know you are married to Jeta but I assume the same professionalism in casting characters for films is extended towards you as an actress. How did you get the role? Fill us in on all the details?

M.A: When Jeta wrote the script, he wrote it over two years ago. One morning he looked at me and asked, “do you want to the read the script.” I read it and thought it was very interesting and it was something that needed to be (produced) quickly. He said to me he had already started casting and was in talks with a couple of Hollywood actresses. (Laughs) He called me up at a (later time) and said, “I think you are the best person that can do justice to this role.” I wasn’t expecting it. In as much as I wanted to be a part of the production, I wasn’t expecting that I would be the one to play the lead role in the film. I asked him, “why me?” He said, “because you have first hand experience about what the people are going through in the Delta.”

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Really? (Getting very curious) What is your first hand experience?
M.A: My father used to work in Port Harcout for years. He used to work offshore. . .  We lived close to the river raft area. I tell you it was so horrible to the point where, when I stepped out of my house, all I could see was oil in the water.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Whooooa. Just like the BP oil spill we saw in the USA?
M.A: Yes. Like oil, oil. Really black oil. We were not wanting (family was well off) but we had neighbors and people around us and they could not afford three square meals a day.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: What did your dad do for a living?
M.A: He was a sailor. The people around us could not afford drinking water. (Getting passionate) This was not a luxury. It was a necessity. All humans should be able to afford clean drinking water. You actually see kids going into this very disgusting water to get water to drink. It was so shocking. It might seem like something we can just waive and just forget about it but we can’t. These are images I grew up with and it took the grace of God for me to get where I am today.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: So, let’s go back to Jeta Amata. He says you are the best for this role. I haven’t seen Black Gold yet. In Amazing Grace you were strong but I wanted to see your character be even more forceful. Do we see you play a little bit more of a forceful character in Black Gold.
M.A: Yes. I am an activist in the film. The only way I am able to get my voice out is through peaceful protest.

MBONG SHARES THE BIG SCREEN WITH HOLLYWOOD’S RESPECTED ACTORS

LADYBRILLEmag.com: At some point I am sure he tells you, “we’ve got Vivica Fox and other American characters acting.” What happens when you learn who your co-stars would be?
M.A: Of course I flipped. (Laughs heartily) I just couldn’t believe it. I mean watching Hakeem my co-star who was from “24: Redemption,” and just knowing I’d be working with him for months, it was overwhelming. Then Sara from Prison Break, Vivica Fox, Billy Zane of Titanic, these are amazing actors. People I never thought I would never have anything to do with. I worked with them and also walked away with them as my friends. I can easily pick up the phone and say, “hey are we hanging out today?” We can take our children to the beach and just hang out. Sometimes I literally just pinch myself and tell myself, “this is happening and it’s for real.” These are people the world admires for the work they do and how they carry themselves. It was and is amazing.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: I have a feeling that your film has the ability to receive an award in the same prominent way that Slum Dog Millionaire did. Those actors you mentioned are not cheap. Were you guys able to get funding for your film?
M.A: Shockingly it has all been personal funds. Every executive producer with their names on the film credits used their personal funds to fund the movie. The film is ready but not released yet. We did not approach any corporate or government agencies. We just approached people who believed in the story and that we need help in Nigeria.

MBONG AMATA FLEES NIGERIA AMIDST DEATH THREATS

LADYBRILLEmag.com: I am aware this film has come at a price to you and your family. (I read the The Vanguard Newspaper story to her) including the part that says “you are hereby warned not to release that video or be faced with great consequence.” Is that story true?
M.A: (Gets emotional) It is true and very traumatizing. When the threats began to come, my husband was out of the country so it was only myself and my daughter at home. So, it hit me directly.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: What do you mean by “it hit you directly?”
M.A: The messages were coming directly to my phone. Also, because the Nigerian cell phones roam in America, he was getting them as well.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Oh whoa.
M.A: Oh yes.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Who are the people sending these messages to you?
M.A: I know it is a group of people. It could be the militants, the government, it cold be anybody. But we haven’t really gotten the exact source of the ongoing threats. Black Gold is a very sensitive issue and is really topical. It affects the people, the common man, corporate companies, the government. So we really don’t know.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: It is a very sensitive issue indeed. Will you all still premiere the film despite the threats?
M.A: Oh Yes! (emphatic) Yes, yes! Definitely there is going to be a premiere in the USA and definitely there will be a premiere in Nigeria because we cannot deprive the people of such a great honor.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: When you do a film that forces you to escape from your own country, you are deprived from seeing your family and friends, indefinitely, at least for now. What does that feel like?
M.A: It is very scary. I am on the phone (in Los Angeles) speaking to my mom (in Nigeria). I am concerned for my immediate family back home. (With emphasis and raising her voice) I am living in fear!  All of my family is in Nigeria. It freaks me out completely. They knew my house address and my daughter’s school. It totally freaked me out.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: The film hasn’t even be released?
M.A: Yes. But you know the trailer was on CNN for a couple of weeks and everyone got to see it.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Got it. I remember being a panel speaker on a Nollywood Convention event held in Los Angeles years ago. During my discussion, I stressed the need for period films that told Nigeria’s rich history from the Benin to Yoruba Kingdoms and these dynasties. I felt these period films  would help us connect both within and outside the country much the same way Bollywood has. I, somehow, forgot to factor the political/death threats that come with the territory. What next? You will release the film because our history must be told but what next?
M.A: (In a firm tone) Definitely. We will release the film. We want to show the world that most of the oil that America (5th largest oil producer to the USA) uses comes from Nigeria. The Gulf of Mexico (aka BP Spill that ran for two months last year) experiences an oil spill and the world talks about it. In Nigeria, the oil spil has been ongoing for (decades) and no one is talking about it. It might seem like a Nigerian problem but it is a global issue.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Connect the global dots. How does what happen in the Niger Delta region affect the global community? Why should anyone care?

M.A: Great. (Passionate) I will use the Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill as an example again. Did you know that when the oil spilled in the Gulf of Mexico, it was spilling into the Niger Delta region?! It was on CNN and Fareed Zaharia discussed and showed this. It might seem like a Nigerian problem but it affects everyone. Yet, the (global community) sidelines us like we don’t matter meanwhile most of all the oil that fuels America is from Nigeria. Yet, the people of Niger Delta cannot afford drinking water. They are dying of respiratory problems. They have skin problems and all sorts of issues.

THE NEED FOR PUNCTUALITY & PROFESSIONALISM IN NOLLYWOOD

LADYBRILLE mag.com: Tell us about your work with Vivica Fox
M.A: (Laughs) She’s a sista. (Laughs) One of the things I took away from working with these actors is the professionalism they bring. They say call time is 7:00am, everyone shows up at that time. From the highly paid to non-highly paid actors. This is something we lack in Nollywood and need to have. We have to become conscious as individuals and as an industry about being punctual.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Let me ask you more about Nollywood. I am a very vocal person unafraid to state my positions on things. I didn’t know punctuality was that much of an issue as you pointed out but I have a problem with the absolutely rubbish and downright stupid scripts filled with soft porn and executed horribly saturating Nollywood. What’s going on in the industry? You still have the really good filmmakers like Emem Isong, Lancelot Imasuen, Desmond Elliot, Kunle Afolayan, Jeta but how come the industry is being saturated with these rubbish? What is going on with these crap saturating the industry?

M.A: I don’t care how I come across. The world might think, for example, it’s okay to walk down the street, anywhere in the world, nude and it’s okay. But, that should not be accepted in Nigeria. We are people with high moral values.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Are we though, really? I used to think so but now I question that a lot these days. Are we really? Do we have “high moral values.”
M.A: Yeah. While I am not here to judge or condemn actors (or actresses) who do soft porn, I do feel that if you have a brand, you wouldn’t get involved in certain things and with certain people. I think it is a personal decision for them and I wonder why the marketing guild will let such movies out. It is very degrading and totally unacceptable.

MBONG DISCUSSES NOLLYWOOD V. GOLLYWOOD & RIVERWOOD

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Another thing we hear is the rise of Ghana’s Gollywood and Kenya’s Riverwood really stepping up their game in terms of the quality of their film production and giving Nollywood consternation. We now know Nollywood is unhappy with these competitors/counterparts. What are your thoughts on how the industry can reposition itself to compete and stay in the lead role in African cinema?

M.A: I think for a while, Nollywood got carried away about the fact that we were on top of things, forgetting to pay attention to scripting and the technicalities involved. We got carried away for a bit and now these people are here to give us a wakeup call like, “guys we are here and we are here for real.” I think we need to step up and step up in every aspect, acting as well. I think the acting quality has to change. I give it up to filmmakers like the guy who produced Figurine, Kunle Afolayan, the lady that produced Ije (Chineze Anyaene), the guy that produced Anchor Baby (Lonzo Nzekwe). These are quality films, and of course Black Gold.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Does Black Gold exceed the films you mention?
M.A: I think it does. I see Black Gold as the bridge between Nollywood and Hollywood and as a film that when Nollywood scripts are given to Hollywood actors in future, they would be interested in collaborating and give it some thought.

MBONG DISCUSSES MARKETING, PROMOTIONS & DISTRIBUTION OF BLACK GOLD

LADYBRILLEmag.com: How do you all plan to market Black Gold?
M.A: From the little knowledge I can gather, we have been getting calls from all over the world wanting to distribute and market the film because it is such a topical issue. Of course we are not jumping at it because we want everyone, the common man to see the film. I don’t know what the marketing strategy really is but that is our overall goal.

MBONG BRINGS IT ALL BACK HOME WITH TIPS FOR NOLLYWOOD, ACTORS & DIRECTION OF HER CAREER .

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Let’s go back to the beginning. When did you get your “aha moment” that being an actor is what you wanted to do?
M.A: Being someone else for two weeks, which is the typical shooting time in Nigeria, was a big part of me picking up acting full time.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: What does the future hold for Mbong Amata?
M.A: (She gives a shy laughter) My dream (continues with shy laughter). My dream is to stand in a perfect theater with an Oscar. (Laughs). I want to work beside Angelina Jolie, Scarlett Johansson and all of them. I mean that is every actor’s dream to make it big and be on the world stage. (Laughs)

LADYBRILLEmag.com: I believe it is totally doable. It is possible, especially with the way you are going. If you can dream it, you can achieve it, really.
M.A: I am keeping my fingers crossed and hoping, personally, that we can satisfy your curiosity and you ike Black Gold. (Laughs)

LADYBRILLEmag.com: (Laughs) I know I tend to be a critique but I also give praises just as quickly if a body of work is good. I expect excellence from our industry. From what I saw with “Amazing Grace,” I can only expect this will be great. Africa’s story must be told in a way that celebrates us: our success and failures included.
M.A: Yes and we are the ones that must do it. We can’t expect a James Cameron to come tell our story. We must do it.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Absolutely. For years we were unable to do so. I am happy that we can now tell our stories. How do filmmakers  in the diaspora and in Nigeria get into the industry?
M.A: First, they must surround themselves with people in the industry because like it or not, they are the ones calling the shots. The distribution network in Nigeria is heading South (as in bad) so people are beginning to use their own personal funds to produce films. If you must do that, then your story has to be exceptional and you need money.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: What about actors/actresses? Explain Nollywood’s structure. How do actors and actresses hear about jobs?
M.A: Right now, Nollywood is in need of fresh faces.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: (Interrupts her excitedly) YES! It’s like the same faces over and over again. We need fresh faces and actors that think outside the box. You are our fresh face on Ladybrille. Amen!
M.A: (Laughs) Awww . . . thank you. (Laughs) (Continues) Nollywood is in dire need of fresh faces and I think producers are open minded right now to see what talents have to offer. If you are articulate, smart, know your industry and have your act together, the sky will be your starting point. Also, it does not have to be about you knowing somebody. If you are in Lagos and you hear of a casting call somewhere, just go like I did. I heard about a casting call and gave it a shot. I am a firm believer in God and I believe that if I talk to him about something, I get it. So, believe, get out there, network, meet people, go out for auditions. . . I have worked with Emem in casting and auditioning for talents. We go to these venues and we can’t find any (talent). It gets really frustrating. So we need more people to come out.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: How do you get these fresh faces out? Are you guys visiting the college campuses to recruit? Do you all establish relationships with theater departments in colleges across the nation so when you have castings they can send some of their talented fresh faces so we are not seeing the same faces over and over again?
M.A: I’ll use Jeta’s Black Gold as an example. When he started casting . . . because we shot part of it in Lagos, Benue State, in Delta and here in Los Angeles. When he started casting he went to Benue State and the theater department and trust me people came out. So most of the crowds and the extras are students from Nigeria’s colleges.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: So filmmakers need to get out to these campuses and theater departments, establish relationships, post their auditions/castings and let fresh faces come out. We also need to move beyond the one dimensional roles that filmmakers force our veteran actors and actresses to play. We need more innovative and brilliant scripts to show their range and flexibility in acting.
M.A: It seems like we recycle faces.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Yes. Filmmakers recycle faces and do not allow the fans to experience these talents in diverse roles. It is very frustrating to watch the same canned roles and results every time. For the female actresses, they are either going to be women who really despise men or sympathetic, sad and needy characters that rely on men for everything. For the males, they are either going to be the bully or heartbreaker, the cheater who gets his housemaid or another woman pregnant, fixes his ways and returns back to his girl. It’s the same story and it is so boring. We have to break free from that.

M.A: I know, I know. I feel the same way. There is need for change.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Speaking of change, let me take you a different direction. We are seeing a lot of your counterparts doing that. I mean Actress Ini Edo is completely changing to be someone else. She is losing weight, rebranding, is now a filmmaker and looks great. Stephanie Okereke is pushing herself and has now added filmmaker to her titles. You’ve got Rita Dominic who has a really great disposition and she is expanding and has added filmmaking to her titles. Omotola is now a musician. Genevieve is also trying her hands on different things. What are your thoughts on these moves?
M.A: I think it is really good they are rebranding and doing these different things. It also leaves room for new faces like we talked about. These ladies have worked really hard to get to where they are at. We have to cut them some slack. They work single handedly to get to where they are today. It wasn’t easy and they are reaping their fruits of their labor. I am loving it, totally.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: One last thing I’d like to revisit and then wrap up our interview is how you get into and out of character?
M.A: I am really blessed to have a very supportive husband because he understand the business and what it entails. When I get a script and tell him I need some time to be this person I am supposed to be in two weeks, he gives me all the time and all the room. If it means me checking into a hotel, he doesn’t mind, which I think is exceptional. If it means me going on a short break or vacation to take in that character and be that person I am meant to be, he is totally understanding of that.

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Okay when you are done being that character, how do you come back to being normal?
M.A: I snap out of it with immediate alacrity. I don’t know how it happens. (Laughs) I just snap out of it. (Laughs) When I get home and my daughter screams “Mummy!” I know my responsibility and status. (Daughter as if on cue screams “Mummy!”)

M.A: (Laughs) Did you just hear that?

LADYBRILLEmag.com: (Laughs) Yes I did.

M.A: Exactly. I know my responsibilities of being a mom has just begun,

LADYBRILLEmag.com: Very cool. Thank you. The pleasure has been absolutely mine.
M.A: Thank you so much Uduak for believing in me and the for the opportunity. You said one of the nicest things I have heard today I am elated and I mean it. You have made my day!

LADYBRILLEmag.com: It is an honor and a privilege to share your story. If there is anyway our audience can help, please let us know, especially given your plight.
M.A: (Gets emotional) I just want them to pray for me. I want them to pray for my family and my husband’s. Prayer is all I need. Thank you so much.

-Uduak Oduok is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Ladybrille Magazine/Ladybrillemag.com.
-Credits: Kem Anyanwu/Photomyface.com /Make up by Veleta Dacosta

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Comments

  1. woow, i really love mbong shes beautifu and talented……and her films i have enjoyed…..and i pray they are allowed to share the story of the black gold, Nigerian has been enslaved by some much political and our leader doing whatever the want with the masses….Nigeria is a great country and needs all the help possible…..Good job Jeta…

  2. It sounds like this story is going to be told honestly and with class. This is good.

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