By CHRISTIAN AGADIBE
Actress and indigene of Enugu State, Rachael Okonkwo aka Nkoli Nwa Nsukka, hit Nollywood 10 years ago and ever since, she has continued to grow from strength to strength with movies like Pinging Ladies, White Ladies, Agatha, Blackberry Madness and Tears of Olamma among others. In this chat with Entertainer, the brand Ambassador for Rapha Juice and Rapha Mineral talks about her career and the challenges she overcame to break into Nollywood. She also debunks rumours that she had an affair with a Nollywood director among other interesting issues.
How did you break into Nollywood?
It was very difficult getting lead roles initially. At some point they featured me as a maid, sister, adviser and all that. Getting a major role was a very big task but Ikenna Emma Aniekwe gave me my first shot in Parish house; it was my first lead role ever.
One of your biggest movies to date is Nkoli Nwa Nsukka, how did you land the lead role?
It was not easy I must confess. Before then I had done Olamma the Cripple, King Harold and Marine Daughters among many other movies. I went through an audition and impressed the director. I thank McCollins Chidebe for giving me that opportunity.
What was your biggest challenge interpreting that role?
When I got the script I was sceptical but I was also curious and nervous and I prayed to God for help. It was quite challenging because before then, I didn’t know I could be comic. But when I started I just got better and the director also worked on me. It was really challenging.
Were you ever discouraged and told that you won’t make it as an actress?
Yes, so many people did that back in the day. They said I wasn’t tall and that I wasn’t from a wealthy home. They told me I won’t make it but I said to myself ‘Rachael you will make it.’ In fact, a lot of prominent men, directors and production executives told me to look for something else to do but I thank God it has all ended in praise.
You had a carnival for kids during Easter, what inspired it?
It was the desire to give back. Ever since Nkoli Nwa Nsukka came out, people have been showing me love. And with the help of my director, I came up with the idea for the carnival. Last year, we had the first edition and we had more than 6000 guests. This year we had over 7000.. I also want to use this opportunity to thank the sponsors of my carnival like Aqua Rapha, Eforevo TV and Royal Edge Celebration among a host of others.
A while ago you had to go bald for a movie. How did it feel?
The first time I shaved my hair was in Oja Wa but I did not go bald. However, in Alobama, I shaved everything. I felt good because my fans said I looked good and when I put the picture up on Instagram, I got very nice comments.
So, what should your fans expect from you now?
Wow! They should expect good movies, good news and of course, my wedding card (laughter).
Really?! Is marriage near of far?
It is near-o but my brother, I don’t want to let the cat out of the bag for now.
You recently shot a movie alongside Mercy Johnson and Tonto Dikeh. Could you tell us about it?
It was exciting. Everybody on set was nice to me and nobody treated me badly but I have developed a personal love for Tonto Dikeh.
What is your relationship with her?
She is nice and free-spirited. She is someone everyone would like to have as a friend.
What did you like in the character you played?
I loved the fact that the character was wicked. I played Mercy Johnson’s younger sister who gets married to a rich man and it goes straight to her head and so she maltreats everyone including her elder sister, Mercy Johnson. However, her husband has problems and everything crumbles and she is left with nothing! She is forced to eat humble pie as she pleads for forgiveness but it is too late as her elder sister is already made. I loved everything about that character because it was challenging.
Would you marry an actor?
Of course, if a man in the industry is destined to be my husband, why not? I just want a responsible and reasonable man. Though my fiancé is not in the industry but if he was to be in the industry, I wouldn’t have a problem with it.
What is your advice to the young ones looking up to you?
Be patient, focused and pursue your dreams. Don’t be scared because it will get better so keep moving forward and challenge yourself with things you know you can’t do and you will be surprised that you will pull through.
Rumour has it that you once had an affair with your director. What really happened?
The rumours were all lies; even the devil knows that they were all lies. I didn’t grant any interviews and I didn’t talk about it and eventually, it fizzled out and the reason it all fizzles out was because my hands were clean.