By CHRISTIAN AGADIBE
Star actress, Uche Elendu, is back with a bang! And to make sure she takes her rightful place among Nigeria’s galaxy of stars in 2015, the graduate of International Relations has just relocated from the Southeast to Lagos. Born to a family of four, Elendu took a break from Nollywood a while ago to raise her daughter. She came back to produce a film, Enemy At The Gate, which is making waves in the industry. In this chat with The Entertainer, the Abia State indigene opens up on the journey so far and her plans in the New Year. Excerpts:
What are you currently working on?
I started an NGO for the less privileged and the motherless babies five years ago. I kick-started it on July 14, my birthday, and I make sure I visit at least three homes every year, giving out gifts and scholarships to those that win our quiz competitions. The objective is to give these children a sense of belonging. It is my own little way of giving back to the society that made me who I am today. And this year, I am hoping to do something better and bigger. Though, I started out in the east, I intend to visit other states by the grace of God and extend my love and generosity to the less privileged. Talking about other projects, I am working on my second movie by the third quarter of this year; I am hoping to start filming here in Lagos. And it is going to be a movie all my fans are going to be proud of by the grace of God.
Tell us more about the movie you have produced?
I produced a movie which was released last year entitled, Enemy At The Gate, starring Emeka Enyiocha, Uche Obodo, Adaora Uko, Rita Edochie, Jim Lawson, Maureen Solomon, Scotch, and of course, myself. Enemy At The Gate is the story of a girl from a rich background who rejects her dying father’s wealth and his plea to take over the family business. Rather, she insists on doing charity work, giving the proceeds of her father’s company to charity. However, she’s surrounded by childhood friends she didn’t know had scores to settle with her family. So, it is all about betrayal of trust, blackmail, slander, conspiracy, and of course, romance. The story tells us that in life, you don’t know who is who; your best friend could be your worst enemy.
What inspired it?
It is actually based on a true-life story. I didn’t go to the cinemas because it was my first shot at producing, and besides, it was a shoe-string budget movie, so I just let it go straight to the market. But my next movie, by the special grace of God, will hit the cinemas.
Could you share the challenges you had as an up-and-coming actress?
Honestly, I wouldn’t say I did not stumble on challenges and I would also not say I encountered difficulties, harassment or maltreatment. I actually stumbled into the industry because it wasn’t as if I have always wanted to do movies. I just went to deliver a message to Larry Koldsweat in Surulere, Lagos; his daughter is my friend, when he saw me, he was with Uncle Olu Jacobs and he said that from the way I was talking, I could make a good actress. They were having an audition for Fear of The Unknown. They gave me a script to read and I read it well. That was how I got my first lead role in Fear of The Unknown while still in school.
It sounds like you were born with a silver spoon, how was your growing up like?
I wouldn’t say I was born with a silver spoon but I was well taken care of. I grew up in a very humble but well-to-do family. My father worked with the Nigerian Ports Authority (NPA), while my mum was headmistress with, Loral International Schools, one of the biggest schools in Lagos. We had the best of childhood and upbringing. We grew up to fear God and to love one another.
There was this thing about me as a child, I always outshone my peers; I was always different and seen as a star. I sang in church, was a lay reader in the Catholic Church, and whenever I acted it was so real. I never thought about acting back then even though I spent so much time watching movies. fear God and to love one another.
You have over 200 movies to your credit, which would you say was the most challenging?
I think Last Occult was very challenging because I had to play the role of a goddess. And it was a bit difficult getting me into that character because of my desire of always wanting to make myself whatever character I am playing; you know, I need to have a different voice and a different carriage; I had to be in charge because I was lord over Kenneth Okonkwo. It was a very spiritual thing and it gave me some sleepless nights. It affected me in a way because I kept trying to be that witch goddess; that was quite challenging for me.
You did the English version of Ada Mbano, why didn’t you finish up the Igbo version?
I was supposed to do the Igbo and English versions of Ada Mbano, but unfortunately, my Igbo wasn’t really strong like that of a typical village girl that the character was supposed to portray. I didn’t want to make a mess of that script, so I opted to play the English version of Ada Mbano while my colleague, Queen Nwokoye, played the Igbo version. I didn’t feel bad; I was happy the movie was a hit and my friend interpreted the role well. I only felt bad because my producer wanted me to do it and I could have done it if I had insisted, but because I knew I wasn’t going to give it my best shot because of the language and accent barrier, I had to cede it to Queen Nwokoye.
What would you say is the craziest thing a fan has done to you?
That was on Oxford Street in the UK. I was shopping when a girl walked up to me to say ‘hello’. And as I turned around to see who was talking to me, she gave a very hot kiss on my lips. I was so embarrassed having a girl kiss me. She said she loved me and that I am so beautiful. She said that I was the best and I should keep it up, adding that she’s one of my biggest fans.
How have you been balancing your marriage and acting career?
I was at the peak of my career when I got married. I still believe that marriage is important in a woman’s life. After I got married, I had a three-year break because I had to take care of my daughter and keep my home. And after that, I returned to my job.
Was it that easy to get back to limelight after the break?
It wasn’t easy, but funny enough, the way God made it; I didn’t have to make much effort. The movie that launched me back was Ada Mbano.
You are one of the few actresses without scandals, how do you manage to do it and how do you safeguard your marriage?
I am not in a position to judge anybody. Marriage is a union between two different people with different background and mentality; different thought processes, different ambitions, different characters and behaviours. Consequently, it is a normal thing for couples to have problems but it is your ability to keep your head down and bring things back to the way they used to be that matters. It is not as if I don’t quarrel with my husband. If you stay with a man for 24 hours in the same house, you are bound to have arguments, but it is your ability to be mature about it and the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life that can turn things around for good.
As a married woman, do guys still toast you?
(Laughter) Of course they do, if they don’t then I would have to re-examine myself. Well, I handle them like I’ve always done. I just make them my friends and tell them we can’t do more than that. You just have to handle it maturely because when you are in the public eye and you’re pretty, you have no right to expect people not to admire you.
How come you have not got any endorsement deal despite being in the industry for almost a decade and half?
Actually, I think it is because I took a break as a result of my marriage, and the fact that I have always been in the East. But this year, I am moving high.
Is that why you relocated from Owerri to Lagos this year?
The reason I am moving to Lagos is that I want a change of environment; I want to give entertainment a full shot this year, I mean give it all my time. Meanwhile, if endorsements come, they are very welcome. I have worked hard and I am still working hard to earn them so I will be grateful to God when it finally happens.
Do you watch your movies? Do you sometimes feel that some characters you played could have been better?
Oh, definitely. I am my greatest critic; I criticize myself a lot. When I watch my movies sometimes I feel bad. However, recently I have stopped watching my movies because when I do, I begin to think I should have done this or that better. I criticize myself a lot and that helps me to do better.
What lesson would you teach up-and-coming actresses from what you have learnt so far?
My advice to the up-and-coming actress is to discover herself first; be sure she wants to act. You shouldn’t go into acting because you want to be seen on TV; they are two different things. You discover your ability so as to give it your best shot because you love acting and not because of the money or the fame that comes with it. It is not easy being in the limelight; you have to work hard, you have to do a lot of free jobs at first, and you have to discomfort yourself to be able to get there, and most importantly, put God first in everything.
What is your assessment of Nollywood?
Great! There has been a lot of improvement; we are doing so well. And the government is also encouraging us in their own way, even though, we wish and pray they could do better by investing heavily in Nollywood. We are the third largest in the world, I know that in time to come, we will do a whole lot better and make the country proud, just as we are doing now.
The Sun Newspaper Nigeria