Former model and now actress, Mercy Salma Aminu, came into acting less than a decade ago. But she seems to have seen it all, having experienced the good, the bad and the ugly sides of Nollywood. In this chat with TONY OGAGA & NNEKA UCHE, the Kogi State-born graduate of English Literature from the University of Abuja opens up on her career, dreams and how she narrowly escaped rape. Excerpts:
Let’s talk about growing up, how many are you in the family?
I am from a polygamous home. My mother is the second wife and I am the second born of the family and last born of my mom. We are only two from my mom. It was fun growing up. My siblings and I lived like one happy family and there was never division among us. You’d never believe we were from a polygamous home.
How did you come into acting?
Wow! I used to do commercial modeling. There was a day we had a show at Bolingo Hotel, Abuja, and someone just walked up to me, saying he needed me to feature in his movie. I was like ‘wow! I’ve never acted my entire life (laughter). But he’s like ‘I saw your attitude on the runway and you have what it takes to be a successful actress’. That was how I did my first movie acting alongside legendary Sam Loco in 2008. May his gentle soul rest in peace.
Eight years after, how would you describe your experience in Nollywood?
Hmmm… I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly. I had an experience where a director wanted to take advantage of me. Let me just end it there because the details are not pleasant. But I must confess that the general impression that the industry is a place where you see all manners of dirty stuff flying around is probably true. But I think it applies to people who don’t know their onions, because we have a lot of talented people in the industry.
So, how did you react when it happened?
I was mad at him. At first, I was going to keep it to myself but I was like ‘no, this could have ended in rape if it had happened’. It was a terrible experience. I think that was one of the things that made me stay back for a while as far as acting is concerned. But I had to come back and was like ‘if this is happening in the movie industry, it can happen anywhere. If I can’t stand this here, I won’t be able to stand my ground anywhere else’.
You stood your ground?
Yea, I had a terrible fight with him. The next day, he victimised me on set. He kept cutting the shots and making me repeat my lines, and it set me back emotionally. He was trying to break my confidence. Eventually, we couldn’t shoot so I rushed to my room and cried my eyes out. However, it was my first movie and I eventually got to act my role till the end and it came out well.
Are you friends today?
Yes, he apologised years later. We didn’t talk for like two years but when I came back, he apologised.
You’re a pretty girl; tell us about the man in your life?
Oh my God! Okay, let me answer. I had a relationship and it’s just ended. But I’m trying to build one now.
What led to the break up?
I love to be respected. I respect you and I expect that you respect me in return. You’re into my business and I want to be into your business. He relocated out of the country without letting me know, but when he finally settled down, he wanted me to relocate as well. The annoying thing was that he’s a movie director. He can direct from anywhere in the world because he is already known, but as for me, I can’t; I have to stay here and build my brand. He didn’t bother to plan with me and when he traveled, he started working my papers so I could join him, and I’m like ‘hello, things are not done that way. You didn’t put me into your plans; you didn’t even ask me if I’m okay with it’. It didn’t just go down well with me, and besides, I was facing a couple of challenges, so we just packed it up.
How did you handle the break up?
We dated for four years. It wasn’t easy at all because I found him in everything I did. When I talked to people, I talked about him. When I talked about my career, I talked about him. He was very much into me. There was no situation I wanted to talk about that he didn’t pop up. If I wanted to talk about my career, he’s there. If I wanted to talk about an event or my private life, he’s there. It was tough. Even now, we’re talking about him again (laughter).
Could you date an ugly guy?
Yes I could. I don’t care about physical looks.
You spoke glowingly about growing up in a polygamous home, based on your experience, could you become second wife?
No, my dad is a Moslem and I’m a Christian so there is no room for that.
Are you making money from acting?
To an extent, I’d say yes. You see, as an up-and-coming actress, it’s difficult to really make ends meet just from acting; you have to do something else.
Tell us about your most challenging role?
Drift Beyond Conscience is my most challenging because I had some health issues and I stressed myself out and almost passed out on set. They had to give me a 20-minute break to rest after a scene where I engaged in a fight. And then at some point, during the ‘fight’ I just felt gasping for breath.
Where will we see Salma in the next five years?
I’m going to be a household name, and my name is going to be on everybody’s lips, including kids.