It’ll be unfair to Nigerians if I act nude - Joke Silva

With over 30 years in the kitty, Joke Silva stands out as one of the most successful actresses in the country. Married to another screen veteran, Olu Jacobs, for over two decades, her marriage is a testimony that thespians also have happy ever after. In this interview with Stardom, Joke Silva denies recent rumours in the media that her marriage broke up. She also spoke on her career and other sundry issues.


Could you tell us about your background?

I am a Lagosian.

What made you go into acting?

I don’t know. It’s something I have always wanted to do. I believe I am wild. It is crazy to be an actor and after asking the Lord if that is what He wanted me to be and He gave me a positive answer, I took the bull by the horns.

How did you get started?

Professionally, I started acting at University of Lagos Cultural Centre. There was a cultural centre in those days. And I was part of the cultural group. I studied in Unilag, but that was much later, after I got married. My first degree is from Unilag. I actually went to a drama school first. I studied Theatre at the drama school and when I went to the university, I studied English.

How is life as a big Nollywood actress?

For me, life as a Nollywood actress could be better. For you to consider me as a big star is a big one for me because I am not sure about that. But there are several things that could be better. I think the Actors Guild needs to do a bit more, mostly about the conditions under which actors work. For the number of years which the Guild has been in existence, I still have not seen anything or any improvement in the life of the actors. If the individual actors don’t fight for their rights, then they don’t get it. It is sad that actors have to work all hours of the day, be on set from morning, sometimes till one o’clock is rubbish; it’s crazy! These are the types of things that the Guild should look out for. The numbers of hours that you’re working at a stretch. There should be constant breaks. There are so many conditions that don’t make sense. To wrap up your question, yes, there is a lot of work now than it used to be say, twenty years ago. There are very few actors that are out of work; however, the conditions of service are rubbish!

How many films have you acted in Nollywood?

I haven’t the foggiest idea. But I guess it is getting to seventy.

Can you remember your first Nollywood home video?

I know. It’s Iwu Olojo, a Yoruba home video and a classic as far as I was concerned. Iwu Olojo was absolutely memorable.

How do you manage being on locations always and taking care of your family?

I think one of the things you have to handle is the guilt factor of leaving the child or the children. At the moment, there is only one child at home. The others are in the university. The guilt can sometimes get to you, especially when they have events in school and because you are on location, you cannot attend such events. But I try as much as possible. I guess that is one of the good things that the job does because we don’t work all the time. There are times when you are free and you try to spend that time with the family.

Were you ever sexually harassed as an actress?

When you talk of sexual harassment, as I understand it, it’s a question of, ‘it’s either we do it my way or you hit the highway.’ My answer to that is absolutely, No! It has never happened to me.

Would you play a nude role in any movie?

At this age, with most parts of my body going South-North. It will be most unfair to the audience. (laughs)

Aside your age, would you consider it?

I really don’t know. There are times when a part demands it. There has to be an extremely good reason to play a nude role. It must be an integral part of the scene before I would say any actor should go nude, whether male or female.

What was the turning point in your life?

I have had several. One would be the role of Omajuwa in The King Must Dance Naked. It was a stage play and that was when I came to my own as a stage performer. I acted the lead role of the king.

The king was female?

Yes. That was my turning point. It was my first time of working with one of the greatest icons of the theatre, Uncle Bayo Oduneye. I grew up as an actress or theatre performer in that play. What really did it for me for film would be, Violated.

What are the secrets of the success of your marriage for over 20 years now?

There could be several reasons. One would be my parents’ marriage; it had its ups and downs, but they stayed together. And I would also say that the person I married is also a reason. Apart from the fact that we do have extremely good qualities and we are both aware that we both have clay feet, we have learnt to forgive each other. We have learnt to be forgiving of our faults and there are times when the children are a factor and you wonder what would happen to them if you spilt. And finally, I would say, the grace of God.joke-silva-cnp1

Before you married Olu Jacobs, did you date older men?

Not really. I think there was only one older man; the rest have always been within my age range.

What’s it like being married to a man more than two decades older than you?

The only place where it has really impacted on me is in the area of profession because he has had a longer career than I have. He has wider experience than I’ve had. Outside of that, there is really nothing.

How do you manage your fans, especially your male fans?

I have a good laugh. I got an interesting text on my phone this afternoon from a so-called admirer and I showed it to the people with me on set. We had a good laugh and I deleted the text, that’s it.

Where will you be in the next ten years?

Hopefully, I will be a part-owner of a studio, a company that not only trains people in performance skills, but also produces plays for the theatre and own a studio in which films and all kinds of movies are produced.

What’s your advice to younger actors and actresses?

Be focused, if that’s the job you want to do. It is tough, just like any other job. A friend of mine, Uche Macaulay, said she read it somewhere that an overnight success took fifteen years. Be focused; hang in there. The future belongs to the young people; so the focussed ones will make an incredible mark in this industry for this country.

Can you remember the most challenging experience in your marriage, was there any time you thought about quitting?

Yes, I can remember very clearly. But I am not going to share it with you. (laughs)

There is a rumour that your marriage to Olu Jacobs has broken up. How true is that?

It might be some people’s wish. But unfortunately, the Lord God did not grant them their wish. (laughs again)

What’s your take on the current state of inertia in Nollywood?

It is bound to happen. Nollywood has experienced an amazing landmark. What has happened is that the dispensation we are coming from is a dispensation in which the entire world is aware of the Nigerian movie industry. Secondly, that the Nigerian is an incredible story-teller; one tells the story that fascinates people. However, we need to get the business side of our industry right. We need to get a good distribution network. Without proper distribution network, this industry will collapse. Nature abhors vacuum and Nigeria will lose its leading position as the foremost film-making country in Africa, and another country will take over. There are other countries that have been making films longer than we have. Egypt, for one, but they do not have a huge market like Nigeria. South Africa makes better films in terms of quality. However, we do have a large market. But if the local industry doesn’t take care of business in terms of quality, then we will lose that leading position.

Do you still smoke?

No, not anymore. I have quit smoking.

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