Angela Okorie is an accomplished actress and movie producer. The actress, from Ebonyi State, born in Cotonou, Benin Republic, shot into limelight as a model for major detergent brand, Delta soap, a job she did for eight years. Angela later found a career path in the movie industry in 2011 and is prominent for her tomboy roles. She talks to Newton-Ray Ukwuoma in this interview about her marriages, scandals and how the make-believe world found her, among other things.
Why did you decide to relocate to Nigeria?
I gained admission to study Public Administration at the Lagos State University [LASU] when I was 17. I wanted to study in Nigeria. And no sooner had I settled to study than I began to model for Delta soap. I modeled for eight years.
And having earned a degree in LASU, why did you study Theatre Arts at the University of Lagos [Unilag]?
At the level I was then, it was important to acquire more knowledge about acting. I had started acting at the time. I wanted also to boost my status.
Now, how did your journey into the movie industry begin?
Initially, I didn’t know I would become an actor. I followed a friend to a movie location just for sightseeing. It was her turn to audition and she left only for her to return minutes later with one of the producers. He needed a fine girl to play a particular role. And since I didn’t know a thing about acting, I told him I wouldn’t do it. But he persuaded me until I agree to give it a try. I was given the script. After I read it and after thinking about the prospect of acting, I accepted to do it. The movie was directed by Ifeanyi Ogbonna. It featured Nonso Diobi, Oge Okoye, Yemi Blaq, Ruth Kadiri and some other actors. I read the story. I understood it. When I came on set, I shot it.
Were there no teething problems?
Honestly, acting is very stressful. At some point, I said, “Is this what you guys go through?” I told them I would not continue after that shoot. But the producer kept urging me on.
What year was it?
It was in 2011.
And since then you have been acting?
What in particular kept you going?
Acting began to put food on my table from the first work – till now. I tell myself that whatever provides daily bread must be taken seriously. I decided to drop my initial levity. When I started I didn’t know how to act. It was not my thing. Modelling was. In modelling, you are very conscious of your face, body and gait. But for acting, you are not only conscious of these things, you also had to tailor them to the character you are playing and make it appear as real and believable as possible. You need to create an illusion of reality. I realised I didn’t have these qualities in the beginning. What I did was to get the requisite knowledge about acting so that I can become a professional. That was why I studied Theatre Arts at the university. Consequently, I have met a lot of people through acting. It has opened doors for me. It has become my career. But I have not stopped modelling. Companies still want me to work for them. It is needless to say now that I am a brand.
You implied that you got your first job because of your beauty, is that your only selling point?
Yes. In the beginning it was. In fact, it was the only consideration for some roles. I have overheard producers murmur about my bad acting, but later called me for the job. If you wanted to call me for shoot then, you would say, “That Delta soap girl, she no sabi act o, but if you put am for film, the movie go sell anyhow”. That was actually what producers were saying back then. Personally, I had to up my game. I had to know what the best knew. My beauty was paying them, that was why they kept calling me.
Tell us how did you transform beauty to excellent skill?
Here are the guiding principles I discovered with time: acting is make-believe and practice can make you better. It was a phase in life, I must say. But I realised that even the best actors practise all the time. I practised on my own, in my room, before a mirror. And with time it became a part of me. Role playing became much easier.
Did you mirror any actor or actress while you were building yourself?
Yes. I admired everyone who was good at it. Producers were very helpful. Companies like Magic Movies, D Cross, Coruma Productions were very supportive.
You are popular for your tomboy roles, how did it come to you?
Yes. I have played a lot of tomboy roles. I am an actor and I am expected to play any role. I think it was my fourth film, ‘The Maiden’, that I was given that role. I played a young girl fighting for the widows in the community. That was the film that shot me into limelight. That film and ‘Holy Serpent’ shot me into prominence.
Which of your movies would you consider most challenging?
A movie I played a vampire.The character brought out the best in me.
How challenging was it?
I was really, really demonic. At night I would come out to look for blood to drink. Though it was make-believe I wanted to make it as real as possible. There was a scene we shot, I was supposed to eat the intestine of an animal, but they brought pepper soup stained with make-up blood. I didn’t feel the taste, so I asked if we could get the real intestine. The producer of the film asked, “Are you serious?” I told him I wanted to get it. It was brought with real blood. The difference was clear. The scene became more real to me.
Did you eat it?
I ate it a little. I didn’t swallow it though. When I am on set, I like to put everything in me to make the shoot real. I do not want people to feel like they are watching a movie. I want them to see life in every scene. That vampire role was very scary. When we were shooting the movie, the vampire teeth I was given wasn’t real. I wasn’t convinced to shoot with what the make-up artiste brought. I had to go to a dentist, who designed two pairs of vampire teeth using my dentition. It was carved in such a way that they could be removed and fixed at will. I did it for the love of filmmaking, not for the producer. When I want to shoot, I try to give it everything.
These roles, do they affect you after shooting?
No. They don’t affect me. It is my job.There are times we shoot at night and midnights. But before I play such roles I pray. One that affects me and perhaps other actors, is shooting two movies at the same time. Left to me, actors should not be allowed to shoot two films at the same time because there is a huge possibility that you might switch roles when you play two characters at the same time. I don’t think it is professional.
Do you have any particular experience?
Yes. I have shot two films on the same location. I remember I missed the roles. I didn’t know when the character of the last film started manifesting in the new one. I had to break off the shooting and apologise. Ever since that time, I stopped shooting two movies at the same time.
Why do actors take up these roles?
We have a problem in the industry, producers are often in a hurry to shoot films. There are times when a producer might want to use an actor who is already shooting. Instead of waiting for him to finish the movie, he would insist that he begins immediately, especially if he wants to use the same location for the new movie. This sometimes traumatises the actors. It kills you as an actor.
You are one of the accomplished actors in Nigeria, what would it take to get you into a movie now?
It takes a lot. I don’t just collect money because I want to work. I would return the money if the script isn’t good. I don’t jump into any script now. I did a lot of bad stories I shouldn’t have done when I was coming up. But not now. The entire production must be worth it: the script, the director and the equipment would have to be tight.
Why are you selective of directors?
I will not allow a director who is not a professional or a member of the Directors Guild of Nigeria (DGN) to direct me. It will be a professional hazard if I do. There are laws that guide members of DGN. If my prospective director is not a member and knowing it I decide to work with him, I would have to take responsibility for whatever treatment he metes out to me.
The leadership of Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) has been unstable for years now. What would you say to them?
They should pursue peace. A meeting should be convened and an election date fixed so that whoever emerges as winner will lead the association. So that there will be peace.
You are among the group of celebrities whose marriage has endured trying times.
Yes. We have survived because we have learnt to keep our marriage away from the media. So, I don’t like to talk about my marriage.
How do you mean?
The more you talk about your marriage in the media, the more you open yourself to potential danger. So, the best thing for everyone is to keep their personal life away from the media. No one needs a third party to run their homes. Most of the failed marriages crash because celebrities take them to the media. When these stories are out, side chicks, or angry friends or people who hate the marriage use the information to plant an apple of discord between the couple. In the end, a peaceful family would begin to have issues. People think celebrity marriages don’t last. But the truth is their marriages do not only face what every other marriage faces, but also the additional burden of too much publicity. The reason people feel celebrity marriages don’t last is because they are always in the news. Marriages fail almost every minute of the day.
How long have you been married?
We have been married for nine years.
Your marriage has not been badly reported in spite of the challenges, what do you have to say about that?
It is because the challenges were handled within. I say that maturity is not by age. It is about understanding. When couples have issues they should settle them with their significant other — don’t bring the world into it. If he doesn’t want to settle, you can quietly get a divorce. It is not a do-or-die affair. Marriage is about taking shit from your partner. No one is perfect. But most men don’t understand. They always want to reduce a woman to a housekeeper. My opinion is that only two friends should enter into marriage. You should marry someone you can tell anything. Not someone who suspects your moves, not someone who thinks that any man you talk to has slept with you, not someone who thinks all actresses sleep around, not someone who keeps talking about how unfaithful women are. The truth is that when a man keeps saying these things to a woman, it increases the chances of her abandoning him for those other people. Because she meets different people everyday, people who appreciate who she is. I tell you, a lot of women, even celebrities, are dying in silence.
They don’t want to speak out because they fear the media. They think that if they leave their marriage the media would blame them. Forget about what celebrities post on social media, celebrity marriage, and marriage in general, is not as easy as everyone thinks. If you go into some of the celebrity homes, you will not believe what you will hear. But it will become much easier when the partners are friends.
Are you among the celebrities who have been keeping silent?
I said I don’t want to talk about my marriage.
Recently a young actor put up some compromising pictures of you on social media, alleging you have been intimate with him, how would you respond to this?
It’s you people [journalists] now. I have seen the stories. I don’t know this guy beyond the fact that we were involved in a new project. He is new in the industry by the way. Just as anyone takes or wants to take picture with me. He has been taking pictures with me.
One other scandal that almost rocked your career and marriage was the one that involved a South African rapper, how did you manage that?
My husband knows and understands me very well. That was why it didn’t hurt me much. Personally, I forgive people. I forgave Prince Ekeh and Prosper, but I don’t forget. The reason is that I don’t want to be fooled a second time. Someone that can say bad things against you when you have done nothing to them, out of envy and greed, can do it again. They all came to beg me. There are people you should not offend in life. I know that my temper is bad, but I easily forget things once I have voiced it out. But what Prince Ekeh did to me, lying and stabbing me in the back in a foreign land, extorting money from me cannot be forgotten easily. They did a lot of things to me. I have forgiven him so that I can move on with my life, but it can’t leave my memory.
A lot of people believed their version. I had a telephone conversation with the guy in South Africa during the crisis. He told me you were in his house the day the money was missing; that the camera picked it.
Listen. Those people did a lot to damage me. But I would not run them down here, especially Prince Ekeh. It will not do me any good. I am God’s own. I wouldn’t want to offend some people and God. They came to beg and I have forgiven them. I am a prayerful person. People think I am crazy, but I have a personal love for God. Because I know how I started and how God has helped me to where I am today. I don’t joke with God. That is why I don’t miss church services, though I go to club a night before. Anywhere I am, even when I am shooting, I go to church on Sundays. And frankly, I didn’t do all the things they said I did in South Africa.
What is written on your tattoo?
In God Almighty I trust.
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