Nollywood actress, Oge Okoye, has been acting since 2001. Born in London, the actress cut her teeth into the movie industry while in her first year studying Theater Arts at Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Anambra. Since then, she has starred in over 50 movies including BlackBerry Babes, Blood Sister, Marry Me, Lady Gaga, The Girl is Mineamongst others. Married, and mother of two children, Oge has played a wide range of roles. From reverend sister to prostitute, from classy executive to poor widow, her roles have been versatile and her appearance in movies has been consistent. She spoke with Adeola Adeyemo about her marriage, career and aspirations.
The first time I saw the photos of Oge Okoye’s shaved head on the set of a new movie, I wondered how much it would cost to get an actress to go bald. While “shaving it all off” is trendy in some countries such as South Africa, in Nigeria, it is synonymous with certain cultures which force widows to shave off their hair after the death of their husbands. I wondered how a glamorous actress could do without her “crowning glory”. I thought she would go down the track that many of her other colleagues have by donning a lace front wig. Nope! Not Oge, her confidence shone through as she walked into the restaurant we held the interview – bold, beautiful and all smiles. She laughed easily and was easy to talk with.
I had so many questions to ask…but I just had to start with the hair!
What is it about this trend of actresses shaving off their hair in Nigerian movies? Why did you do it?
It takes a very good script for someone like me to be able to shave my hair. I did that for the last movie I acted in December. It’s not out yet but the working title of the movie is “Royal Widows” but I’m not sure if that’s what it is going to come out with. I’ve never acted that kind of role and it was a good experience for me. I scaled through. I leave the fans to judge when the movie is out.
How much did you get paid to shave off your hair?
It’s not really about the money, but about the script. Let’s just say I got paid very well.
Do you feel self conscious walking on the streets with a shaved head?
I don’t feel shy. I was at first. I was like how am I going to face the world? Am I going to go bald like this or should I just put on a wig. But I asked my husband and he said I looked good. I sent him some pictures through BB and he was like “Ok, you look good, why shouldn’t you flaunt it” – He gave me the courage.
Talking about your husband, you are based in Nigeria while your husband is far away in Holland. How often do you see each other? How are you coping with a long-distance marriage? Any plans of you two coming together in one location soon?
Honestly, it’s not a problem for us. We understand ourselves, we love each other, we know when to draw the line, we are like brother and sister. It’s all about the relationship, it’s all about communication. He calls me almost 10 times in a day. For example, he just called me now and he would still call me again. Every night, I must talk to him before I sleep, it’s a must. It’s not much of a problem. I’m always there, and if I’m not there, he is here. Next week, he would be around so it’s not much of a problem.
As a star, there is significant gossip and media reports about your personal life – we know it comes with the territory, however, there have been constant rumours of marital issues between you and your husband. Are the rumours true?
It’s not true. That is what amazes me. I really don’t know why people would be breaking our marriage and bringing it back, breaking it up for us. I really don’t get it.
The Nigerian movie industry is very competitive with rumours of spats between actresses. There have been publicized rifts between you and follow actresses Ini Edo and Chioma Toplis.
Concerning Chioma Toplis and I, I wouldn’t want to say anything about that because it’s not necessary, so no comment. It’s a new year, we shouldn’t be revisiting stuff that happened in the past. Let’s just forge ahead and talk about new things.
Ini is still my friend, I still work with her. We still have that working relationship and we are not quarelling. What do they mean that we fought on set because it never happened.
Tell us about the movie you shot recently in the USA?
It’s not out yet. The movie “Turning Point” (Directed and produced by Niyi Towolawi and co-produced by Egor Efiok) was just God’s plan for me. It happened just like that. I got to know about it just two days to the time I was to go and shoot the movie. When my manager told me about it, I said it wasn’t possible but she encouraged me. We negotiated, I wanted to use the price to scare her away but she insisted. So I went for the movie and thank God, the production came out well, everything just went so perfect. It was my first time doing a Hollywood movie, a big one at that. There were other Nigerians, and Americans in the cast.
Many accomplished actresses are now diverting into directing and producing. You’ve been acting for a decade now? Why haven’t you followed this trend or are you just bidding your time?
One thing with me is that I’m one person that likes to take my time when I’m doing things. If I’m going to produce a movie, I shouldn’t do any half baked type of movie or just do it like fast fast because I want to produce a movie. I want to do something that in the next 10 -20 years, you’d still refer to it and say it was a good movie. I really want to take my time.
So what is the next level for you then? What should we be expecting from you this year?
Expect something big. I know that before the end of this year, something wonderful would happen. I already have 3 movies lined up for this year and I’m making plans on writing my own book soon.
When and how did you meet your husband? When did you get married?
It was really not love at first sight, I personally don’t believe in love at first sight. I believe in working it out, knowing ourselves, if we are compatible, so that is what exactly what happened between me and my husband. We were friends at first and it was going on like that then the marriage came. I got married in 2005. I met him early 2004.
What is one good thing that marriage has done to you?
Marriage has made me more matured in life. I am so matured that sometimes when I am having a discussion with my very close cousin who is like my sister, she would tell me that I’m talking like an old woman.
How do you cope with raising two kids and your career as an actress?
I have two lovely kids. My boy is 5 years old, and my second a girl, is 1 year and 4mnths. It’s really hard, but it takes a whole lot of hardwork and a lot of sincerity. There are some questions they will ask you, you wouldn’t even know what to say and you wouldn’t want to lie, you are just like caught in the middle. You go extra mile, you want to stay with them more even though you want to be at work and all that so you are like caught in the middle. But one thing I just don’t do is I don’t let anyone suffer; my job, my career, my family. I try to make a balance.
Are there any plans of you having more kids soon?
We are taking a break a little bit. My husband and I agreed to take a break on child bearing.
You seem to be a workaholic. Do you make out time to relax and how?
I do relax. In my quiet time, I like reading a lot, learning about different things, different cultures. I relax with my family. If I want to have a quiet time with myself alone, I go to the beach, I just stay there, have fun, read.
How long have you been acting and how did you get into it?
I got into acting in 2001. I had always wanted to act so I went for audition. My mother would always say that since I was young, I was always saying I want to be a super star someday, that I used to walk up and down the house doing fashion parade as a child. She thought I was going to be a model, not an actress. I love everything about drama, in church, I started the drama lessons.
I was in Enugu State University of Technology at first reading Accountancy. I did that for a whole year and I was like, God in heaven, you know I shouldn’t be doing this. My father wanted me to be a Doctor and I knew I wasn’t going to do it. So I persuaded him and I left for Nnamdi Azikiwe University where I studied Theater Arts. I started going for auditions here and there. I was so lucky when I got a minor role in “Caesar to Caesar”, a long time ago. After that, it got me “Spanner”, my first and only comedic movie that starred Nkem Owoh and Chinedu Ikedieze. I was so scared at first to act with Nkem Owoh, but I did that and after that, “Sister Mary” and on and on since then.
How many movies have you acted in since 2001?
I’ve lost count really. Should be between 50 to 60.
Which of them would be your most memorable?
I really love the first movie that shot me to limelight which was “Sister Mary” coming from the stables of Great Movies Production.
How about your recent movies?
I know you guys might have mixed feeling about it but I still cherish that film, “Lady Gaga“. So many people were mocking the title, they were really castigating it but I would want you guys to go watch that film. It’s something else, it’s something more than the ordinary. I just let it out in that film, that is one of my best.
You have played sassy roles in various movies including “BlackBerry Babes” and “Lady Gaga”, are there any similarities to the real Oge?
People say I’m quiet, that I look quiet. I’m kinda so mischievous when I’m with my friends. It depends on the mood really.
Will you ever sign on for a role that requires nudity?
Honestly I can’t because of our society, where we come from. The way we see it, I will just be seen as the worst person on earth. I wouldn’t do that because our culture it doesn’t allow it. But I could do other sensual roles but for nude, I wouldn’t.
How does your husband feel about your romantic scenes in movies?
He is not complaining. I really don’t know if he feels bad, but I know that being a human being like I am, he might be feeling bad inside but he is not showing it. He encourages me a lot, he is always there for me. It’s not much of a problem though he doesn’t watch my movies, unless maybe you see him hiding somewhere watching it.
What will you like to tell your fans?
I’ll tell my fans that they should be themselves, never imitate anyone. They should bring out their own talent because in every personality, there is something beautiful about everyone. Be yourself, bring out that you, the sky would be your starting point and not the limit.