In the industry, most times people don’t get to act roles that would showcase their talents because these roles are reserved for the same group of artistes.
Movie producer and actress, Muoghalu Uchechukwu Judith, aka Judy Austin, an indigene of Umuoji in Idemilli North LGA of Anambra State is one act carving a niche for herself in Nollywood. In this chat with Rita Okoye, the thespian opens up on how she made it to Nollywood, romance, sexual harassment and her debut movie production.
How did your journey into the industry begin?
Unlike a lot of people, acting was never my dream. I’d always dreamed of being an artist and a model. The modeling part I achieved but the music part didn’t really click. Venturing into acting all started the day I met Sylvester Mmadu, who is also an actor and director. He auditioned me with his own camera and told me I would do well in the industry if I gave it a shot. And that’s how I started thinking about acting. To cut a long story short, he gave me my first role ever in a movie he was directing entitled Secret of the Riches and today, the rest is history.
Do you still want to take a shot at music?
Well, singing is still my first love because I sing really well and write songs too. My friends will attest to that although I’ve never really sang before a crowd except while doing karaoke or before my family and friends.
What inspired your new movie, Native Girl?
In the industry, most times people don’t get to act roles that would showcase their talents because these roles are reserved for the same group of artistes. I’m not saying it’s wrong but it limits the chances for others especially budding talents with awesome potentials. I realised that the best way for me to show the world the stuff I’m made of was to produce my own film and taking on the most challenging roles in it. I also got inspiration from Ruth Kadiri and Chioma Okoye. That’s how the thought of producing my own movie popped up even when I had no money for it. I kept on dreaming and Native Girl came to light with the help of my director, Yul Edochie. I’d told him I wanted to produce and I wanted him to direct and he told me to find a story that would be strong, different and unique.
Native Girl is an Igbo movie, why Igbo movie?
It’s not really an Igbo movie. It is just that my character spoke only Igbo throughout the entire movie.
You said there was no funding, how did you tackle that challenge?
I started with just a dream which was desiring a very good story and with the help of my director, Yul Edochie, we were able to create something magical! And that’s when I started looking for sponsors and I must confess, it wasn’t easy. Some of the people I met thought the investment was too small for them. It was so bad I had my story on the shelf for almost two years before we shot it.
Talking about sexual harassment, did you encounter any of such as a green horn?
Not really but I definitely got ‘toasters’ and that’s normal but there was never harassment.
What challenges did you encounter during the shoot of Native Girl as a first timer?
I didn’t really encounter any serious problems other than the stress of production and guess what, all my artists were really nice. My director is one in a million and he wanted everything to go well.
What’s the storyline behind the movie and its message?
It’s actually about the Igbo language. It’s like we somehow don’t appreciate our native languages anymore. People teach their children how to speak English but not their native tongues. People travel and come back and all of a sudden they stop speaking their language. The most painful part is that they’re irritated by those that speak their language. So, that’s what the movie is all about. It’s all about a girl that proudly speaks her language and a guy that’s irritated by it. It teaches that we should be proud of the Igbo language.
Are you married?
No, I’m not married yet.
I’ve come across lots of actresses that lamented how they lost their man after venturing into the movie industry, do you have a similar experience?
I wasn’t in any serious relationship when I started so I never experienced that.
How about now? Does he get jealous watching you act romantic roles?
Yes of course. Who wouldn’t?
And how do you handle that?
Please, I’d rather not talk about my private life sweetheart.
What’s your most memorable moment as an actress?
That was in Native Girl. It was very challenging and working with director Yul is not a tea party. You must get it exactly as he’s seeing it or nothing! The second one was a movie entitled Orombo, where I acted as a tomboy. I had to learn how to ride a bicycle on set and it was crazy!
How about encounters with fans, especially male fans out there?
I think you already know the answer to that darling, boys will always be boys.
Aside movies, how else can we halt the Igbo language from going extinction?
My sister, that is a very difficult task and I don’t think it’s something one only one person can achieve. But personally, the only way I know is through my work and my daily encounter with people that speak the language. I love speaking Igbo to those that understand it. I also hope that through my work, I get to inspire people to embrace their languages as something to be proud of.
What’s next for Judith?
I’m just a model and the whole world is my runway darling. I can’t wait to wow everyone again very soon. And also, I’d like to encourage my family as I like calling my fans to never give up on any of their dreams just because it seems unattainable at some point in time. If I’d given up, I wouldn’t be here today.