By Christian Agadibe
Nollywood star, Mercy Macjoe had the passion for acting from childhood. But despite this, her soldier father wanted her to step into his shoes by joining the military.
Now, how did she escape her dad’s rigid plot for her? And what’s her mom’s role in all of this? Mercy Macjoe bares it all in this exclusive interview. Enjoy it.
Tell us how you ventured into Nollywood?
I started acting professionally in 2011. I had the privilege to play a major role in a film entitled, Lonely Princess. My mom helped me to get a number of a talent show; I called the number and was told to come over for an audition which l went with other people. I was shortlisted and fortunately for me, I got my first movie role.
Unlike other actors, what gave you an edge to break into the limelight? Did you have any kind of formal training?
No, I didn’t. Acting has been what I’ve always wanted to do. As a matter of fact, my father was an army officer who invited me to join the army. I went to an army school, and he got the form for me to be a fully trained soldier, but I eventually didn’t go. I told my parents I wanted to be an actress and my mom supported me. So, I would say because of how dedicated I was and also because of my background, I put so much dedication into acting ever since I was young. Anyway, that’s just who I am. I invest my time and then invest in myself too. So, when I got the opportunity to act, it was like ‘yes, this is me’. I would say that is what stood me out. On a good day, people think I’m naturally very aggressive, that’s because of the way I act in movies; I put in so much energy. So, you can say that is who I am.
Aside who we see on screen, who is Mercy Macjoe?
To be honest, Mercy Macjoe is a totally different person from what people see and watch on TV. Naturally, I don’t like to shout. If you are a fan, we can always be friends. I’ve met a lot of fans that later became friends. In movies, I’m always shouting; it’s like I want to break everybody’s head, I’m beating my husband here and there; but in real life, I can’t even stand it. I am the typical opposite of my film character. I am an easy-going, soft-spoken, and no-too-much-drama kind of person. But in movies, I am full of all the dramas you can think of.
What are the top five movies you’ve played lead roles in?
I’ve done a lot of lead roles. I’ve been fortunate enough to always get lead or major character.
Which of the movies was your turning point?
I did Sugar Sisi, an old film and replica of Nigerian version of the foreign movie, I Spit On Your Grave; I don’t know if you have seen it. It was low budget, but such a powerful movie. In the film, I played a character that was raped, and almost naked, she came back from the swamp where they thought she had been killed and started killing all the people involved. I wore a boxer pant and bra all through and when the film came out, it had a lot of people talking and asking, ‘who is this girl?’ And then, I did another film, Magdalene, a Tiv story about how they give their wives as refreshments to their friends, but they said it doesn’t happen anymore. We did a story about it that was very controversial and Tiv people were like, ‘why would you break this kind of story, these things don’t exist anymore’. The film was good because it has both negative and positive comments, and it got a lot of people talking.
Could you share your initial challenges? Did you face the sex-for-role challenge when you joined the industry?
In this generation, people would want to give something for nothing, so I always say it is not a do or die thing. If somebody says he wants to give you this for something, it’s your decision. It doesn’t just happen in this industry, it happens in almost every other industry. People want to take advantage of women. So, if you want to do it or not, it’s up to you. But for me, I didn’t do it. I didn’t sleep with anybody for roles. So, I will say get down with somebody if you want to, but let it not be for roles.
But did any producer make sex advances to you?
Of course, that is what I am saying. These things happen. You know I am a pretty girl. Some producers said they wanted to get down with me, but I refused.
Tell us about the awards you’ve won and what they mean to you.
I went into production in 2018; and so far, I’ve produced four movies and planning to shoot another one soon. I’ve done a lot of movies in Nigeria and I’m trying to enter into other parts of the world such as Hollywood. I mean who wouldn’t want to? I enrolled at New York Film Academy and I’m trying to do a film. I won a prestigious American award called, Hapa Award, organised by some black people. When I heard of the award, I said let me try, and I put in my movie, Love In A Puff and it was nominated as one of the first African movies in my category. I was about the only African producer in my category, but I didn’t know I was going to win; I just wanted to be nominated. I was nominated for Best Actor, Best Film and Best Actress, but I won Best Film Overall.
Growing up, did you see yourself as an entertainer?
Yes. Like I said, I grew up with my soldier father who wanted me to also go to an army school. But on the other hand, my mom asked me about it and I said I wanted to be an actress. I was also into modeling for a while and then I went into dancing. I did a lot of things, I was also a video vixen; going for shows here and there. So, I have always been in the industry.
What are you currently working on; and do you still act because you often travel out of the country?
I got stuck here with the pandemic, so instead of me just waiting, I started doing a lot of things. I started a course online and I’m also looking out for a bigger platform because I always dream big. Since the award, I got a few contacts here and there and I got an endorsement for a film academy in California, they are having me for an entire year. But I can’t be in Nigeria and be doing an ambassador for them. I have to be here, trying to do my network, shooting my short films. Basically, I’m just building a bigger picture for myself and I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. So, it’s not that I abandoned Nigeria; it’s where I love no matter how bad it is.
What should your fans expect from you?
They should expect so much more. As it is now, I might be shooting anytime soon, maybe next month or in two months’ time, a very big film. Just like I did that one in London and everybody was asking and anticipating. I took all my characters down to London, so I am trying to do the same thing here, trying to do a very good script and then I have certified my company here. I am not joking, I am not here chilling; I also have a beauty line that has been registered.
Aside acting, what other things do you do?
I have a beauty line. I am a businesswoman. When I was in Nigeria, my friends used to call me ‘money woman’. I do anything that has to do with business. Right now, I’m acting, producing, and running my beauty line, Beauty by Macjoe. I want to do more products and possibly go into clothing too.
What is the craziest thing a fan has done to you?
I was doing a live video and then somebody commented that I came across as an aggressive woman because of the kind of roles I play in movies. Then somebody said it’s a lie. The other person was so furious and was arguing with so much anger, and I was like ‘are you people arguing about who I am or what?’ I don’t understand, but it bothers me till today.
Is there anything being a celebrity has denied you of?
In the US, I can walk on the street and do anything I want, but here in Nigeria I’m restricted from doing a lot of things, and it puts so much pressure on me. Since you are a public figure and you appear on TV, the fans expect that you do certain things in certain ways, that’s the aspect I don’t like, because I don’t like pressure. I’m not a person to follow the rules.
What’s your ideal man?
I like mature guys. I feel that maturity has a lot to do with the mind and intelligence. A lot of people say they want tall, dark and handsome guys. Of course, I also want a tall, dark and handsome guy, but it all depends on how the person treats me. I would definitely say rich and mature.
Was it love at first sight when you met him?
What’s the quality that you desired in him?
I don’t want to say anything about my personal life. Please let’s move to the next question.
What’s your most embarrassing moment?
Two years after I started acting in 2011, I had not bought a car; I was still moving around in public transport. So, one day, I was in a bus and the conductor said, ‘somebody has paid for you’. I turned and looked around, but I couldn’t recognise anybody in the bus. When I got down, a woman also came down and said: ‘I love you so much, I’ve watched your movies’. It was very embarrassing. I lied and said it wasn’t me, but my voice gave me away. She was so sure that it was me because I have a voice that I can’t deny. You know, once people see you on TV, they think you are super rich. But there I was in a (commercial) bus.