Actress Amanda Ebeye, a graduate of International Studies and Diplomacy from Benson Idahosa University, started her acting career in 2007. She, however, got her break when she appeared in television soap, Clinic Matters. Having moved from soap operas to the big screen, the actress, in this interview with DUPE AYINLA OLASUKANMI, talked about survival in the industry, why actresses go out of their ways to remain relevant and her dream to take Nollywood to Canada among other issues. Excerpts:
WHAT are you working on at the moment?
It is basically a Pidgin English movie where I get to act as a cultist. There is a bit of English in it, but the director wants to make it real, so we are doing it the way cultists use their language. Gone are the times when we use to do movies where everybody has to speak good English. It does not work like that for all. It is very challenging and I am having fun.
Is this the first time you will be doing such?
No, in College Boys, a movie by Sam Gold, I spoke Pidgin. I acted alongside Moyo Lawal, John Paul Nwadike and others.
Looking back, what can you say about when you started and where you are today?
Overtime, I have become grown, and I am more into my character. I have learnt characterisation, I have learnt in-depth, and now I give my all. Compared to what it was before now, I can say I am more confident and more engrossed in my character. Yes, I knew it was acting, but I didn’t really know that in everything we do, there is a bit of rawness. It was like I needed to know the depth of what I wanted to do. If I wanted to be a cultist, what will I be like?
As a model, how do you balance it with acting?
I really do not model anymore because I do not have the time. It is always from one location to another. I live in Lagos, but I can not remember the last time I saw my house. For modelling, there really is no time for that, though I started acting from modelling.
How did the journey start?
It was not a rosy one. I started with Soap Operas, like Clinic Matters, Bella Place, Images. Eldorado, Super Story and a couple of others. I came into the movies fully 2011, though I had been a part of some productions. I was more into the soaps.
Why did you decide to concentrate on movies?
Basically, you move from the small screen to the big screen, and you do not shuttle. It is either you are in the big screen or the small screen. I enjoy being on the big screen because there is more depth, more energy, and more fun.
I felt that what I set out to achieve as an actress is working for me better in the movies. I am able to communicate with a lot of people through movies, compared to soaps. People watch soaps, but they are limited because those in the East or some other places do not have that privilege. Movies reach out better.
Your family members are not based in Nigeria. How do you make out time to be with them?
It is not easy. All my siblings are based in Canada. My dad and mum live in Benin City, but at the moment, my mum is with my younger sister in China. They will be back before Christmas. When I am not working, I am a family person. I am not an extrovert, I am an introvert and I am always in my space. For me, family is always number one. It comes first.
Have you tried to do anything in Canada?
It is crazy. It is just that an industry has not been established in Canada because they still pirate CDs. It is not like America where it is a crime to pirate foreign movies. It is not a crime to pirate Nigerian movies everywhere. We do not have a right like America, where we get to buy rights and distribute. I hope that someday I would be able to restructure, bring something home or take something to Canada where Nollywood would have a base, where people will get to buy our movies properly.
What was the experience like when you started acting?
It was not easy. There were times I told myself that I am in the wrong industry. It took God, my mum, and some of my friends to encourage me to continue. Yes, I am good and I can act, but why was it so hard? They kept on telling me that everything in life is not easy and when it is too easy, there is something wrong. I just hung in there. There were so many times when I didn’t have any money on me, but my mom was always there for me.
What kept you going?
I just kept on seeing the big picture. I didn’t see what I was going through. I just knew that tomorrow was not going to be like today. Anytime I am in front of the camera, it gives me life; it gives me hope and joy. I said to myself, this is for me if it gives me so much joy. I felt the best thing to do was to hang in there. It was God and my mum, though there were times when she asked me to quit the job.
Any plans to start your own production outfit?
It is every actor’s dream to become a producer or director someday. I want to be a producer someday. You do not always want to be at the mercy of the producer calling you. Sometimes you want to do your own thing. It is a dream for me.
How do you make time out for yourself?
It is so bad that I do not have time for social life; neither do I have a private life. The other day I woke up and asked myself who am I? These past month has just been choked up, I have had no time to breathe. When it dies down, I want to be with family and friends.
Between the money and the passion, which has kept you on the job?
I would say passion and finance. I said that, because we have not gotten to the stage where one movie can give you all the money you need. You have to get that through different productions. That is why you find me shooting and accumulating scripts. The scripts that come are really nice and I do most of them.
Are you particular about the scripts you pick?
Yes, I look at how strong the character is and what impact it will have on people. There are some characters that I have taken and I wished I didn’t, because I feel they didn’t have any impact on the people at home. As from next year, anything I do, I want to make sure that it has a moral lesson to somebody. I will be particular about scripts that I pick. I hope to do more of character analysis. The character is very important to me.
As one who is always on the move, how do you intend to strike a balance when you eventually settle down?
That is why I am not married and why I do not have a child. I want to be able to create time for my husband and children. I want to get married at the appropriate time when God says it is time.
When I have achieved what I want to an extent, then I can settle down. I don’t want to settle down before that time, because I want to be a very good wife and mother. I don’t want a house girl or nanny for my child; I want my child to have me for like two to three years. When I start giving birth, I want to do more of production, where my child can be there. I do not want to neglect my family for anything.
Talking about God’s time, how strong is your relationship with Him?
Honestly, I am a religious person. But I cannot remember the last time I went to church, all because of my job. I do not joke with God because He is what I am today. I tell people in this industry that it is either you have God or the devil. And what works for me is God. That is the only person I tell my problems to.
I say I want to quit and He says don’t quit. He is the one who put the talent in me in the first place, so if I don’t speak to Him, who do I speak to? I wasn’t raised up in a family where we believe in juju. I didn’t go to church last weekend because of work. But if I wasn’t working, I would be in church. I feel bad because I have not been in church for like three months.
It is said that artistes live false lifestyle. How true is that?
First of all, I do not allow the pressure of the industry get to me. The industry has demands that pressurises you to do what you do not want to do. That is why people go as far as doing dirty things to get money to survive in this industry. I have to bring in my mother again. You see, I have a mother who always tells me that I should put God first and other things will follow. A lot of people struggle to be what they are not; they claim the heights that they have not gotten to.
There was a time I didn’t have money, but I did not go to sleep with an Alhaji. They feel it is a natural trend and they go about it like it is a gold medal, which means every actress should do it. There are so many actresses that do not live that life because they don’t let the pressure get to them. If I look at you and like the things you are wearing, I will go and do things that will make me afford it. Nobody knows how you do yours. You might be lucky, but I feel you did it the same way I intend to do it.
So how are you living your own life?
When I was not getting paid properly in the industry, my mother was there for me. I know some people do not have that opportunity, but I believe that even if I didn’t have a mother, I will still have survived with the peanuts I was getting. Now that I am being paid well, I still live within the range of what I earn. I know people that can still not survive in the range I am surviving on. I still buy dresses; I still buy things and fix my car when it is bad. Maybe at this stage you are earning a particular amount and you go get a Range Rover Sport, how do you intend to manage it.
You could get a smaller car and you maintain it. It is all about not letting the industry take you over. That is why you hardly see me attending functions or parties. When you start going for things like that, you start getting tempted. My mum will say, ‘if you can not take charge of your life, you have no emotional control, you are bound to make mistake, and there is only one way you will go; down’.
How do you feel when people compare you to Chioma Apotha?
I say I don’t know what is wrong with them. This is because Chioma Chukwuka is a different person, and I am a different person. I don’t know why we need to be compared in anyway. Some people would say another Chioma Chukwuka. Chioma is totally different from Amanda.
It will amaze people that we had not met until a month ago when we worked together. She is naughty like me; I mean we have bad mouth. Apart from that, I don’t think there is any other thing we do alike.
What happened to your former size?
I was a size 12, and my mum has not really gotten used to this new size. She was telling my younger sister that I am skinnier than a skeleton. And I said I am not that bad. She came sometime ago to the house and kept buying things. She even said there is a strong Chinese herb that she got to make me eat.
A lot of my friends are not used to the new look. I didn’t just lose weight for the industry; I did it for health reasons too. Actually, when I travelled last year November, I was bored, so I started doing dieting. I ate strictly protein and when I got back, people said I used drugs. I have never taken sliming pills. All I do is watch my portion. I used to eat cake and pastries, but I stopped and I have been stuck with this size for almost a year. That shows that I am not a big person.
How do you manage your male fans?
That is one stubborn part of my life I handle. They always come, they say all sorts of things, like God sent them to me and they want to marry me. I appreciate them and I have loads of male fans. There are people who buy movies and watch every second of it because I am in it.
Out of the loads of male fans, any luck with one of them?
Why would I want to marry or settle down with one of my fans? I want to marry someone who loves me. It could be a producer, director, an actor, or any other person.
Why would you want to marry a colleague, do you think it is best for you?
If it is God’s will, it will. Marriage is of God, not man. So any marriage can last, you could get married to a regular man, and it does not last. There are people in both Hollywood and Nollywood that have been married for long and are still together. Olu Jacobs and Joke Silva have been married for long. There have been so many rumours about them, but they are still together. I can get married to anybody and don’t ask me who, because I don’t know.
What is your beauty routine?
I am not particular about skin routine. I am not the spa treatment kind of person. I really do not have the strength for all that. I just wash my face, use my facial wipes and I don’t sleep with make up on. Maybe I am just blessed with a good skin and I don’t have pimples.
A word for your fans
I will say they should hang in there, I love them so much. They make my world. Without them, there is no Amanda. You guys have put me here, you have said you love me and that is why I am here today. Thank you for loving me, and praying for me. And just watch out, because you have not seen anything yet. You will see some parts of Amanda that you have never ever seen before. That is a promise.
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