By Ephraim Nwosu
Chioma Orji, better known as Chioma Toplis in the movie industry, is a screen goddess, super model, and fashion, cosmetics and interior design entrepreneur.
With over 50 movies to her credit, the adorable mother of three, who is married to a British engineer, Andrew Toplis, has had her fair share of fame, controversies and, of course, unforgettable moments since she delved into acting in 2004.
In this interview, the charming red carpet stunner opened up on her career, why she has been on and off the movie set, her many controversies, as well as her charity works. Enjoy it.
You seem to be more visible in social functions than in the movies these days. What is responsible for that?
No! It’s not true. I am more like a seasonal actress because I am not based permanently in Nigeria. I run other businesses as well, therefore, I am not expected to be in every movie or in 20 movies a month. I take movie job if it comes especially when I am in Nigeria, and when it is convenient for me. I also take jobs in the UK and US, but it all depends on my location at a particular time. I programme myself like that to enable me accommodate my other roles at home, and also businesses and fortunately, it has been working well for me. For now, I am in Asaba where we are working on a movie that would soon hit the market.
Can you play sexy role in a movie?
Yes I can. I do play sexy roles in movies to an extent. I cannot do complete nude if that is what you are asking. I could have done that when I was a younger actress if the price was right. But now? No way!
What motivates you when you are on set?
What motivates me when I am on set of a movie is mostly working with positive people. People who encourage each other, not the ‘I too know (ITK)’ type. Moreso, for the fact that acting brings joy and smile to people also inspires me to put in my best whenever I am working.
What’s your selling point as an actress?
My selling point is my hidden unique talent. That is the first impression I leave on the memory of anyone who hires me to do a job, be it movie or any other thing.
Can you recall when you had your breakthrough as an actress?
I don’t know about breakthrough, but I can remember vividly when I became a household name in the movie industry. It was my very first movie in Nollywood titled “The Stolen Bible” in 2004.
At what point in life did you discover you have talent and future in acting?
The dream started while I was taking my children to drama/dance school in the UK. That was where the inspiration came from.
How do you get into character when you see scripts?
I get into character naturally depending on the story. I am always myself, hence I do not need to take alcoholic drinks to get high before I can give my best.
Is your husband in support of your acting career?
Yes, of course. If he isn’t I would have left the industry a long time ago. He is 100 per cent solidly behind me.
How do you combine acting and business and at the same time make out time to play your role as a wife and mother?
Women are naturally multi-tasking. Although, it was not easy at the initial time; but as time went by, it became a routine and by God’s grace a lot easier. More so, my children are grown and a lot more independent now.
What has stardom robbed you of?
A lot, especially my privacy. I don’t complain anymore these days because I am used to it, even though, I never knew it will be so bad like this especially here in Nigeria where the majority of people do not commend well done jobs or even encourage you to do better, but rather prefer to look for unnecessary flaws in order to bring you down. Even where there are no loopholes, they will still find a way of twisting it and make an unnecessary issue out of it. It’s unfair because it is discouraging. I think it is rather pure hatred and sheer envy. Sometimes, I ask ‘why are people full of so much hatred and bitterness?’ But God is forever faithful.
What is the craziest thing you have done as an actress?
I don’t think that I have done anything crazy yet. Of course, I can do something crazy if it enhances the story line. May be I will do so in the near future, you never can tell (laughter).
Who really is Chioma Toplis?
Chioma Toplis is an actress and entrepreneur. She was born in Ohuhu, Umuahia North Local Government Area, Abia State. Chioma lives in London and partly Nigeria. She is a down to earth person, easy going and fun to be with. I am also a caring person. I carry people’s burden on my head which explains why I have deep interest in charity and passionately involved in the project, Home For the Elderly. With me, what you see is what you get. Simple and real. I hate fake people.
Do you party a lot?
I used to party before, but not a lot. It’s not that I have become anti-social, but because I have grown up so much, I have no tolerance for drama and fake people. In other words, I choose where I want to be, who I want to be with and do not let people choose for me.
How do you cope with rumours?
Rumours? It hurts a lot. It is natural that it makes you feel sad especially when it is coming from your fans. I used to get really angry and depressed, but with time I became matured and overcame it. Because I am used to it so I know how to handle it as well as control my feelings. But I listen to the advice of my loving fans who find better medium to relate, advice and criticize me constructively.
There is no perfect being on earth and I am not an exception. We are all human so we learn everyday.
You are married to a Briton, how much does he love Nigerian food?
Ironically, my husband does the cooking at home, so the question on whether he likes Nigerian dishes is not necessary.
What has been the most challenging role you have had to play as an actress and what made it memorable?
What I find most challenging in a movie role is kissing. It may sound funny, but that is the simple truth because I don’t like kissing in real life. So, when I get kissing roles, I find it difficult to do because acting is all about make believe. I am most challenged when I had to kiss. Some people may say it is easy, but for me it is a tough assignment. On my most challenging movie, I will pick “Irak & Iran’ directed by Theodore Anyanji of blessed memory. This is because there was a lot of kissing and you must act according to the script, no twisting. I acted as a live-in-lover to a gigolo which was played by Ken Eric. As a matter of fact, every role I have played has been memorable and challenging. If I can recall, my most trying moment was when I had an accident in 2017 and another in 2019. It was a very terrible experience for me. I had to undergo series of bone surgeries on my legs. I was scared it would bring an end to my acting career. But by God’s grace, I am back to my feet doing what I know how to do best.