BENUE State-born Ene Ogiri aka Miltex is making her mark in Nollywood. In a career spanning over a decade, Ogiri has starred in over 40 movies and still counting. In this chat with TONY OGAGA ERHARIEFE, the thespian opens up on her career, saying that as far as the Nigerian movie industry is concerned, sexual harassment is a myth. Excerpts:
Can you tell us about growing up?
Growing up was fun. I’m not from a perfect family but we were one close-knit Christian-oriented family with very strong values. We were 10 kids and I was number seven. Two of my elder brothers died a few years ago before turning 35, and my elder sister died about nine years ago, after giving birth to four kids. My father also died mid-last year but we give glory to God for everything. As a family, all these experiences have only made us stronger.
At what age did you discover you had talent for acting?
Wow! That was before I hit 16. I finished secondary school at 16, and back in school, I was a member of a social club, which was mainly about drama. I didn’t only act but also wrote most of the plays.
How did you come into Nollywood?
That was through Hints magazine (laughter). Do you remember Hints magazine of those days? I don’t get to hear much about them anymore. My first time before the camera was in 2002, and it was in Obi Osotule’s Love Medicine, where I played a major role alongside Kate Henshaw, Shan George and a whole lot of other fantastic actors, and it was great! I really felt good after the shoot because I was told I acted well (laughter).
What were your challenges as an up-and-coming actress?
My major challenge was not getting roles because I wouldn’t play ball. Also, some filmmakers were not willing to take chances with me, because financing a movie is not beans. But it’s a challenge and not a bother. I’m a very patient person. Guess what, I believe in what is called ‘the right timing’. When the time ordained by God comes, all the negative forces in the world cannot stop you no matter how formidable, and even those who couldn’t stand you for a second, for no reason, will run after you just to favour you.
Did you start from doing waka pass or you just hit it big from your first movie?
Sincerely, I didn’t really play waka pass roles. Like I said, my first movie role was a major, and then in my sophomore movie, I did seven scenes. It was a Chico Ejiro blockbuster entitled, Pastor’s Wife. However, I left the industry and came back again in 2004. My first movie after I returned was a lead role alongside Jim Iyke in Ghetto Language, and ever since I have never looked back.
What’s been your most challenging role and how many flicks have you starred in?
Hmmm… every movie role comes with its own challenges. All the roles I’ve played so far have been very challenging. And I have starred in at least 40 films.
Have you ever experienced sexual harassment in Nollywood and how did you handle it?
My dear, people talk about sexual harassment in the industry all the time and it doesn’t make any sense to me; nobody harasses anybody sexually. We have women in the industry who are ready to give their bodies and still pay money to get juicy roles, and when things don’t go the way they planned, they complain about being harassed! Come on, that’s not true. If you ask me, I will admit that yes, some filmmakers make crazy demands on some actresses before giving them roles, but it’s a matter of choice. No one forces you as an actress to do what you don’t want to do. For example, a male filmmaker asks me: ‘Ene, I want to have sex with you in other to let you play a lead role in my film’. I say no and walk away with my dignity. But he doesn’t give me the lead role or any role at all in his film. Now tell me, was I harassed by him? Women come into the industry in the morning and desperately struggle to become A-list actress in the afternoon. Now, the question is, what do you expect? Your answer is as good as mine, anything! So, no, I have never been harassed sexually in the industry.
Who are your role models in the industry?
I have no role models but there are certain actors I hold in very high esteem. I won’t name them but I learn from a lot of them; our actors are really good.
Tell us about your love life; are you in a relationship?
I was in a relationship but it didn’t work out, and as the saying goes, life continues even without a relationship (laughter). I’m very single right now and ready to mingle (laughter). I’m not in a relationship with any man at the moment.
Could you date an actor?
Haba! An actor is just like any other man out there, if we make a connection, why not? I’ll date him wella.
Describe your ideal man and what it would take to conquer your heart?
My ideal man is one who sincerely loves Jesus and will do well with any woman.
What’s been your happiest moment as an actress?
That was when I beheld my son for the first time in the delivery room. I have a son and the joy of a child cannot be described or quantified; it’s one of the sweetest feelings ever.
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
That was when a fan gave me an unexpected hot slap on my back, because according to her, she was shocked and happy to see me. That was in Abuja two years ago.
What are your dreams?
I’ve one dream and that is to become that woman God wants me to be.