Fresh off the set of Uduak-Obong Patrick’s directed film on sickle cell disease, ‘Strain’, Gloria Anozie-Young continues amassing more movie titles to her filmography, with roles that are impactful.
In the film, she plays the role of a grandma to a child inflicted with sickle cell anaemia. Describing her role that deviates from the typical tyrannical grandmothers, she sets the standards of what relationship between mother, wives, and grandma should be modelled after in contemporary times.
She also discusses Nollywood as a dynamic entity that embraces new talents whilst retaining the old. She goes one step further to discuss years of marriage to actor Norbert Young. And lastly, she reveals the key to retaining her glow two decades after she first debuted in the industry.
What have you been up to?
I’ve just finished shooting ‘Eve’; it’s a soap opera for Africa Magic. We’ve been on set for three months. It was very hectic because I played support/lead kind of role – I was supporting the lead. It was an entirely stressful thing… everyday on set, going to Lagos back-and-forth. It was not easy. After that, as a wife and mother, I still have to take care of my home.
Was the ‘Eve’ shoot concurrent with that of ‘Strain’?
Yes, definitely. And I also was planning for ‘August Meeting’ stage play.
Tell us about your character in ‘Strain’.
I played the role of a grandma in ‘Strain’. And it wasn’t easy trying to play the emotions at the right time, because if we didn’t have a director who was able to guide us, we will scatter the whole thing all over the place… it’s normal. Imagine a Nigerian grandmother finding out that her grandchild has sickle cell. In fact, it will be all about her and her wailings. To be able to tell the story properly, you should find a way to harness it, which was what the director did. They needed to harness my emotions where that was concerned. You must be able to show care; you know what your fellow woman is going through, in this case, your daughter-in-law. What she is going through at this particular moment, and not just the fact your son is also… but as a woman, as a mother, this is what has been going on in her life. How is she handling it? What support can you give her? Those were the questions I had to ask myself to create that role. And then, how much love and care you give. In Nigeria, for instance, if I hear that my grandchild has sickle cell, I will blame my daughter-in-law, and everything will be on her.
Do you think your role will positively influence women in their relationship with others?
There are no old women in Ghana anymore. At 60 or 65, as long as she can move, she will make sure she makes up, looks good, and all that. In fact, if she starts to wear those things that make her look old, people will start to shift her to the background. She will feel relegated. So, she always wants to feel like she is a ‘happening’ woman. Imagine if that happens, and you find out that your grandchild has a problem. In normal circumstances, you have wrecked her world, you have wrecked what she figured is her life, her own idea of family, and all of that. She will carry all the blames, all the problems, all the issues, and dump on the daughter-in-law, and that’s why I said we moved it away from them so that any grandma watching this will understand that there is an issue that she has to support the family for, not make it worse.
In the industry for over two decades, how have you seen the Nollywood landscape evolve in terms of being a woman?
Daily, we grow in leaps and bounds; and not just as a woman, but as an industry practitioner, because I am involved in movies, stage plays, television and radio. I’ve noticed that we are evolving. As a woman, we were very free from the beginning; we were telling ourselves that the sky was big enough. We couldn’t find others to come and compete with us. There were those who insisted on staying on the stage environment, and those of us who were in television – people who were in movies. It was only now that we are beginning to merge: you can be a stage actor, you can be on TV, soap opera, you know, do all. You can do all at the same time, and that’s what is happening.
As an actress advances in age, she gets fewer roles. Is this something you also relate to?
Yes, and I am totally fine about that. The grandmother here (Strain), you understand… there is always a mother in a story, there is always a grandfather in a story, there is always a need for, I mean, you cannot be young forever, you must grow. And the fact that I have been able to play daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, that’s even more credit to my CV. Yes, you will think that you get fewer roles, but the older you get, the less you should do. And then again, there are so many people who are coming in who are my age, coming in to play grandma now.
I had a glorious youth. I loved my youth. I loved the fact that I had parents who taught me the fear of God, and so, I didn’t make so many mistakes. Now, I can look back at my youth and smile. Yes, one or two things I could have done differently, but at the same time, I can say ‘I tried’. So, when I look at the young ones coming up, I’m like, ‘if I advise them now, them no go hear word’. And those who do, they come closer, they learn from me. Even on set, they learn from me, and I am happy about that. I have a lot of these young ones who are close to me, because they are learning different things. I am able to come down to their level. I know when they are talking Marlians and those kinds of things; I am able to flow with them.
Still on young people in Nollywood, there is this impression that ‘old Nollywood’ being more authentic than ‘new Nollywood’. What’s your view on this?
There is no old and there is no new, it is continuous. It must grow. In the beginning, you make money from different things; you won’t make money from movie. It is your talent, and you are willing to showcase this talent. You have to be able to show this talent that God has given you because you’ve been told that if you don’t do something about it, He will take it away. So, we were focusing on talent, yes.
Yes, it is becoming more corporate. The corporate world is beginning to understand the value of the entertainment world, and they know that there is a lot of money, not just the talent. Everybody wants to watch movies now. In the north, the wives that stay at home buy all the movies. They make sure they are buying 20, 50 because that’s what they do. Now, in the west, south, we need to enjoy these things. And then it is so beautiful that even in Lagos, we have cinemas all over the place. What we are saying now is, ‘don’t box yourself; don’t put yourself in a corner’. I don’t want to be a statistics at all. I don’t want it to be said, ‘Gloria Young of those days’. I will continue to act till I die, because you will see a 90-year-old man in Nollywood, why can’t you see a 90-year-old woman in Nollywood?
Consistency, seemingly, is your winning formula. Do you think you could have achieved this if you were not married to another actor?
It takes another actor to understand why my wife has to be kissed. It takes another actor to understand why she is not back home by 10:00p.m. It takes another actor to understand why she doesn’t even come home until the next two, three days. And then, it also takes a supporting person, even if he was an actor, he might not be supportive of your career. So, he (Norbert Young) is pushing me as I am pushing him. And that’s the way it is. It is just the fact that we have good communication skill, that we have good friendship between us.
How do you stay looking this good at your age?
I think it is God (laughs). I do a lot of movements. I move a lot. I won’t say that I go to the gym because I rarely have time for that, but I do a lot of movements. I do that all the time. I do walks… I do daily walks, and as long as you are walking, you are exercising your body. I could have been bigger than this because in my family, we are big; but somehow I try. It is very difficult but I try.