Popular Nollywood actress, Chioma Chukwuka-Akpotha is best known for her tearful and emotional roles in the movies. Evicted from the current GULDER ULTIMATE SEARCH Celebrity edition, she speaks with ‘NONYE BEN-NWANKWO about her quarrel with Muma Gee on screen and her acting career.
You hardly grant interviews.
I just like to keep to myself.
Aren’t you a celebrity?
There are bankers who are celebrities, too. Jim Ovia is a celebrity. He is present at every event. It is his choice. I don’t want to grant interviews. I don’t want to be seen in the newspapers. I just go on set and do my job and go back home. That is why most of my colleagues say Chioma is a boring person. It is just work and home for me.
Won’t other people say that you are avoiding scandals?
There are people who are in the public eye and who also grant interviews. Yet they are not involved in scandals. I don’t have any. There is no particular reason why I don’t grant interviews. It is just the way I want it.
Also you are hardly seen at social events. Is that another way of keeping to yourself?
I think that is just the way I am. I am not the outgoing type. It has to be a special event for me to go out. I don’t club, I don’t party, I don’t do all that stuff. But if it is something special and I have to be there, I try to attend.
Don’t you think you are in the wrong profession?
Where do you think I should be? Should I have been a nurse? I am not in the wrong profession. I am where I am supposed to be. I am enjoying every bit of my career as an actress.
Not much has been heard about you
I am not hiding anything. there is a saying that goes that an actress must have a scandal? Well, maybe my case is so different. There is nothing to dig out. My closet is wide open for everybody to see. There is nothing to hide.
How come a quiet and reserved person like you got involved in the Gulder Ultimate Search show?
That is why you got it wrong. I saw GUS as another job. It was something I was glad to be a part of. I jumped at the offer when it came. It was an opportunity for me to tell people that I am not a stereotype actor. I am not an in- the-box actor. Everybody knows Chioma to be the ‘cry, cry’ actress. I always play the role of a good girl. I am not saying I am not any of those. But I used GUS to tell the world that I can be hot. I am a well rounded actor. I am versatile. You can’t continue seeing the one side of Chioma. That was the only reason I took the GUS thing.
Why do you always act soft and emotional in the movies?
Honestly, I don’t know why. I am an actress. Maybe that was the way I started and I played that role very well. It was widely accepted. In Nigeria, we are used to typecasting. Take a Patience Ozokwor as an example. You won’t give her the role of a good mother to play and the movie will do well in the market. Although they call her a ‘bad’ woman, many people still want to watch her in the movies. Everybody is used to one particular role and it is not proper. In a home, you cook egusi, ogbono, bitter leaf and even banga soup. You don’t stick to one kind of soup everyday. Variety is the spice of life and that is what drama is all about. Variety gives it content.
In GUS, you really showed the other side of Chioma
Oh yes. At the unveiling of the show, the host even said, ‘can you ‘cry’ out and welcome Chioma’. That wasn’t what he said when he was welcoming other contestants. Even when he asked me what my strategy in camp would be, I said if they don’t let me win, I will cry. But I had my plans. I knew the strategy I was going to use. I didn’t want to let the cat out of the bag. That was my only opportunity to tell the world that I am not stereotyped. I can be versatile.
Crying comes easily to you. How come you do it so effortlessly or do you rub hot stuff in your eyes?
If I use hot stuff, I will blink excessively. It is menthol. It is more realistic and believable when the tears flow naturally. I think of something that will make me cry. I think of the money they paid me for the job. You just think of how you have finished spending the money already and you are suffering yourself and all of a sudden, you will see yourself saying, ‘oh mama why?’ the tears will now start flowing. There are people who can’t cry…
Is it true that you decided to participate in GUS because the movie roles weren’t coming as much as before?
That is entirely wrong. I had done like three movies before I got the offer for GUS. Even in camp, a lot of us were still working. Work was still in progress. It might not have been as frequent as it used to be, but people were working. People are tired of the same kind of story. They want something different. That is why some of us have switched to movie production.
We heard some people pulled out of GUS because of Genevieve Nnaji. Were you comfortable with her role as the anchor of the show?
I was very comfortable. She was there to play her part as the anchor and I was there as a contestant. I didn’t have any problem with that and I don’t think anyone should have had a problem with that. The organisers knew what they wanted when they asked a Genevieve to anchor the show. If they felt she couldn’t do it, they would have given it to some other person. It was another twist to the show.
Are you glad you participated in the show?
I don’t have any regret in life. There is nothing to regret. At least, a lot of people now know that I can be hot. I achieved my aim with my strategy.
But your strategy didn’t work till the end. You got evicted…
That is the only regret I have. I failed a task. Given another opportunity, I will be in the show again with another strategy.
You quarrelled with Muma Gee in the camp. Were both of you friends before GUS?
I knew who she was. I was cool with her before the jungle. Like I said, it was just a strategy. In drama and in reality, there must be conflict, there must be intrigue, there must be a victim and there must be a villain. That is what gives drama content. I played my own part and I played it very well. I played it from the beginning to the end. It looked so believable when I watched it. I might have been upset on one or two occasions, but that was because some things that shouldn’t have been said were said. Those things are not printable and I can’t even say it. I am glad the show was edited.
Why didn’t you let her, when she offered to do your laundry?
When you watched it, did I say that I wasn’t going to bring my clothes? No.
But you didn’t give her your clothes
At the time, I had washed my clothes. I don’t know how they edited that part. That is just the drama. But then, come to think of it, normally, I do my things myself. I am not used to people doing things for me. It was just that at that point, it wasn’t an issue. I had washed my stuff before she made her offer.
Were you merely acting the conflict with Muma Gee in the jungle?
It was pure drama. I am cool with her. I even said I like Muma Gee.
Even when you brought up the issue of her marital status and made a big deal of it?
It was Darey that brought that issue up. That was when I called Princess to come and hear the gist. I never had any issue with her. I just went there and played my drama.
There were other female contestants. Why did it have to be Muma Gee?.
She was the only person that could follow the strategy I had.
Now that GUS is over, what next?
I am off to another movie set. I have a production. I don’t know the time and I don’t know when. It is in the pipeline. But I am off to location.
How did you come about acting?
It has been a passion of mine since I was a kid. It wasn’t only interested in acting; I wanted to sing, too. But I found myself in acting. I had done auditions. In the 90s, it was who knows who. I didn’t know anybody so I just gave up going for auditions. One day, on my way to school, somebody called me and asked me if I would mind reading a script for him. I read it and he said it was okay. He aid I should remove the hair extensions I was wearing. He said he needed to know if I would fit in the role that he had in mind. He said he needed somebody who would play the role of an 18 year-old girl. I had to remove the weave-on. Can you imagine? I had managed to squeeze out money to buy and fix the weave-on. I hadn’t even worn it for a week! What encouraged me to remove it was because he said I read the lines well. I came the following day. I hand wove my hair and I went to him. He told me I looked like what he wanted, but that he was sorry because he had got another person. I was mad. After removing my weave-on? I told him he made me to remove my weave-on and was now telling me he had got another person. I was more concerned about the weave-on. He screamed. He said he thought I was another person. He said he didn’t know I would look that young. I was given the role and that was how I started.
What is happening to your passion for music?
It is a retirement plan.
How do you combine motherhood with acting?
Motherhood and my career are two demanding positions. Even a house wife has her hand full with work. You take care of the house, the kids and your husband. You still take care of yourself. It has been wonderful to manage but only God has been able to do it for me. My family has been kind enough to let me continue.
So he has not asked you to quit?
No. God bless him for that. He knows this is my passion.
But will you quit if he asks you?
He is my boss. I will quit.