How did you get into acting ?
It was actually by accident. I was in the right place at the right time. I stepped into Fidelis Duker’s office to drop a letter from the organisers of Reel Awards because I was part of the marketing committee.
At that time Fidelis Duker was about to take off on a soap opera production titled Images, which he later turned into a home video. He was auditing that day I went to his office. As I just walked into his office, he pushed a script to me and asked me to read for him.
I said, ‘no, I’m here to give you a letter and he said “you can’t act” and I said no, I can act. He said ‘that’s what everybody says’ that I can’t act.
Then I told him, I can act. He then asked me how I know I can act whether I had acted on a script before. I told him of how three years of my secondary school was paid for, by acting scholarship, then he got interested and asked further.
I explained to him that in United Church of Christ where I belonged, we had this drama group called “Children of God” which is meant for children in their teenage troubling years.
During my teenage years, I was a total tom boy, so to keep me off the streets, off climbing trees and playing football with the boys, my mother had to register me in that drama group.
So after school hours, instead of me going to play football, I go to church to act. In the drama group, the best student in drama is given a scholarship for one year making it something to look forward to. I grew up in Aba but I was born in Enugu
So, I won that in a row, 3 years. Fidelis was shocked and my career in the movies had started. That was my very first time acting on script, he later turned it into a movie called Visa to hell. Some how, Adure, another movie came out before it.
What are the challenges you faced?
The job comes with challenges but you will always tell yourself that you can make it. What you might see as challenge might not be that to me because I’m doing what I love to do. I’m being paid to do it, it stops being a job to me, it become a way of life. The challenges are the things that come with the kind of life style I live as an actress.
How did you overcome these?
By being me. Yes, I always believe that life is too short to attach too much importance to things of the world. When you let go easily on things that are worrisome, knowing that there’s always a supreme being over there who is there to make things better, your mind will be at rest. I try these days to focus more on positive things and free my mind off negative ones.
How true is this notion that actresses sleep their way to the top?
I hear that too but, trust me, if I was sleeping with the director, it will not take me a whole nine years to be where I am today.
But the truth of the matter is, you can not as a person say may be, you heard, you cannot even confirm because the only person that you know is you, you can only trust yourself, because you don’t know what the other person has done.
You don’t even know if the story you heard about her sleeping with the director or producer to get role is true. But God must be with you for things to be okay.
My attitude to work six years ago is still my attitude to work today, but I’m a lot bigger today to what I was, six years ago. So, I guess it is just God’s time
What is that driving force that keeps you going?
By believing in myself and telling myself that I could do it. When people talk to me and say they want to be an actor or actress, that they want to be just like me, I always tell them to start by believing in themselves. If I did not believe in myself , I would have long ago, left the industry to look for work, because I can’t imagine how many times they had family meetings on me just because I live by acting.
It got to a time that I felt may be, this profession is not for me. But knowing well that this is what I’m supposed to do for life, I am strongly convinced and I stood by what I believe in. That is why I said you must start by first believing in yourself and everything will definitely fall in place.
I’m not saying that there will not be doubts, there will definitely come a time when discouragements will set in. Sometimes you will lock up yourself and cry, you even ask yourself sometimes if you’re threading the wrong path, but having that confidence in yourself is what keeps you going at such trying times.
Having been through all of these, could you say it has been exciting?
I’ve worked hard for it so, I should enjoy the work and basically I’ve always enjoyed what I do. Even now, some ask me that, “Uche, you still have time to write knowing you’re always busy” I always tell them that the time just comes because I enjoy what I do. Sometimes, it’s not really like you’re working. It’s a way of life.
Flashing back to your childhood years, especially the time you were the drama queen, did it ever occur to you that you’ll end up being an actress?
Even when I was the drama queen of the house, I never thought that I’ll end up an actress. I used to think I’ll end up being a talk show host, have my TV show, interview people, especially celebrities.
This was why I grabbed the opportunity of the MMS presentation job when it came. That was what I dreamt of growing up to do, not acting.
Who is that soul mate of yours and when will the bells ring?
Mr. right? Am I engaged? No, I am not, am I in a relationship? Yes I am. I do not want to talk about it?
No, I don’t. Seriously
If you have an opportunity to change anything in the Nigerian entertainment industry, what will it be?
That’s a tricky question because, I don’t know how to answer it. There are lots of things to address.
Having the support of the government, for instance, may be I want to shoot in Aso Rock, and I get it without cracking my head to think of what Aso Rock looks like. Things like more corporate bodies coming into the business.
Making this job corporate where you’ll shoot on high definition cameras on its regular grounds. Also make your money before the film gets to the market, so you’ll not just be relying on only the market.
The thing I probably won’t change is the talent because I think Nigeria is blessed with lots of talents. But technically, distribution wise and what is accessible to us, those are the things I would want to change.
How do you unwind?
I watch films a lot. I go to Silverbird to watch films and I also enjoy football.
What is your grooming taste like, are you a designer freak?
Not really, I wear what suits me, if it happens to be labelled, so be it.
Being a star, what are those things you used to do that you’re not able to do anymore?
There are lots now. Part of the things you give up as a celebrity is that your life is no longer yours. Everything you do is under scrutiny, you have to defend everything you do.
When you do something, which is not as if it’s totally bad, people will definitely talk as long as you’re a celebrity.
When do you consider the happiest moment of your life?
It was the first time my script was produced in year 2000. When I was able to balance acting and writing well and I sold a lot of scripts that I wrote. That was one of my happiest moments.
MORE INTERVIEW OF UCHE JOMBO
From the look of things you are obviously a Manchester United fan. Do you like football?
I like soccer a lot.
Despite your being a soccer fan and your working out regime, complete with a mini gym in your living room, you seem to have added weight.
You think so?
Maybe it is because of what I’m wearing. I’ve not added weight.
You seem to be on every movie set. What has made you the toast of Nollywood?
It is God. I don’t really know what is happening, I don’t think it is anything I did. I just think that my time has come.
You must be making a lot of money then.
If you think so, who am I to argue that?
Looking back from your days in Adure some nine years ago, do you have any regrets?
It is easier for me to say there is none.
Would you have found fulfillment in any other career?
I don’t know but I think I would have also found fulfillment in being a talk show host. That has been my dream from childhood. Maybe I would have pursued that.
Why did you give your first degree and post graduate diploma up for acting?
I don’t think there has been any decision that I have made regarding my career that has not been fully calculated. There is nothing learnt in life that is a total waste. What I studied has been of help at certain times.
Where did you obtain your post graduate diploma?
At the Federal University of Technology, Minna in Niger State, while my first degree was at the University of Calabar.
Has acting been worth your while? Does it pay the bills?
Absolutely. It puts food on my table.
Why did you rest your TV programme?
I was getting too busy going to locations. It was a live programme and I wasn’t on locations mostly in Lagos so it was kind of difficult. It was difficult keeping a live show every Sunday.
Would it be right to say that acting has taking away your first love?
No, at least I am still in front of a camera.
How many movies have you done this year?
Six I think.
You mean you’ve been to six locations this year? You must have made a lot of money then.
I won’t tell you.
People are saying the reason you are not married is because you are friends with only single ladies.
That is not true. I have married friends as well. Monalisa Chinda is my friend and she is married. I don’t think being single has anything to do with my friends. Marriage is something that will happen when it will happen. And I don’t think it is anybody’s business that I am still single.
Is it true you’ve been complaining about producers giving you bitchy roles?
I would say I’ve been lucky with the roles I’ve been playing. I have been playing too many different roles. I don’t think you can say I play this particular kind of role. I have really been lucky.
What role did you play in the Abuja movie?
I played the role of a lawyer who is in love with the wrong person. You need to wait for the movie to be released so that you can get to know what happens.
Why do you end up doing love stories most of the time?
It is not always about love. The story I am telling you is about what goes on in a girl’s mind. I wrote the script so I should know better.
Ok. Let’s talk about you. What goes on in your mind?
Why would I tell you what goes on in my mind? I cannot tell you that.
Ok. Why are you always secretive about your age?
It is so because it is nobody’s business. Just as it is nobody’s business that I am not married, my age is nobody’s business. The person I’m dating is also nobody’s business.
Don’t your parent pressure you to bring home the person you are going to get married to?
My perception about marriage is also my mothers’. She believes it will happen when it will happen.
What kind of man are you looking for?
I want an intelligent man who can stand on his own.
‘Who can stand on his own’ means someone who has money, I guess.
Yes, of course. Do you want me to marry a jobless man?
It is amazing that people no longer refer to you as a club girl.
That was an impression that was created by you journalists. I’ll take that as a compliment.
Are you saying you are not a club person?
Yes. I just love dancing and I can dance anywhere. People just assume that since I love dancing I should love clubbing. People’s perception about me does not bother me? I cannot please everybody and I know that I cannot avoid living in a world where people hate me.
I heard you told somebody now that you pay tithe. Is that true?
Why won’t I pay tithe?
Do you still remember the first time you had a kiss?
How old were you then?
I can’t tell you that.
I can’t even remember how old I was but I remember the kiss.
Were you a graduate then?
No way. How could my first kiss have been when I graduated from university? The reason I remember my first kiss is because I did not know what to do. I felt so disgusted because I was like what is the guy’s saliva doing in my mouth? It was more of shock. It was then that I started listening to other girls talk about kissing.
Was that when you learnt you ought to kiss back?
Yes, but at first I did not.
Can we say the guy is lucky?
Will he even remember?
Can you remember the first time you had sex?
I remember but I am not going to tell you.
Why can’t you tell me, is it because it was disgusting as your first kiss?
If I tell you that, then I’ve told you everything.
What will it take for a guy to capture your heart?
A lot, if I say it that would be telling. I don’t want to give some guys the clue.
Are you romantic?
What makes you think so?
I am still teaching my boyfriend how to be romantic.
So your boyfriend is not romantic.
Yes, he is learning.
What if a more romantic guy comes along?
Maybe my boyfriend will be in trouble.
You told me about a boyfriend of yours two years ago. Are you still together?
Why don’t you guys just get married?
Marriage is not as simple as that.
What is so complicated about it?
So, you don’t know that marriage is complicated. Marriage is something you have to tell yourself you are ready for.