For many years, veteran actress, Grace Ama, thrilled movie lovers with her acting skills that made her one of the most-talked-about thespians in the movie scene. She took a break to attend to what she described as family issues and has since returned to pick up her career from where she stopped. Ama, in this interview with SEGUN ADEBAYO, speaks on how she has remained on top of her game.
You started acting at the age of 15, what could have been the fascinating factor for you at that age?
My acting profession came as a natural vocation. It was an inner feeling and urge that developed in my actions. While in primary school participating in extra-curricular activities, my teachers saw the qualities in me and even communicated to my parents. So, there was no particular person that actually drew me into acting, but while nursing the urge, I also watched actors who, further influenced my desire for the profession. People like Liz Benson Ameye still remain a living legend and a big example to me.
Some say you achieved so much in a few years and you seem to be contented with what you have done hence your decision to stay away for sometime, is that true?
The conclusive statement by anybody that I have made so much and decided to stay away could be a personal imagination. There is a dtifference between passion and wealth. Even if I am wealthy, that will not dim my passion for the profession. I have not gone out to anywhere; it depends on what people choose to watch. I am on television especially Rok Channel.
You must have had some great moments and not too proud ones on this journey. If you are to look back at one thing that has pushed you further to want to be at your best, what would it be?
Acting is a profession that undergoes changes each day with new discoveries and creativities. Every actor aspires to attain the most international platforms; Hollywood, Bollywood or appear in world-class movies; that is the vision and aspiration. We continue to work hard to reach the peak of the profession.
You were a darling to many people for years, but suddenly you went off radar and people wondered what took Grace Ama away. Different stories emerged but, no one knew the true one. What took you away and what brought you back?
I have said it in different forum that a time comes in one’s life, when there will be the need to take a break and rest. Schools have break periods. Public service has a period of leave and even in the private sector, there is time for leave. There must be a particular reason to go on leave. It’s a natural impulse. I took time off the camera and I used the opportunity to attend to family needs and I am back.
You were also said to have left the scene to attend to personal issues of life, perhaps settling down and having kids. In your view, would you agree that the decision to leave the stage at that time was thoughtful?
There is no particular time to attend to personal needs except when the person desires to do so. I did it at a time I felt was needful for me. It’s my private life. When I came back, I announced it to my fans.
How was it like not doing what you loved doing for a couple of years?
There is nothing wrong in having a rest. In fact, you even perform better when you rest after a while than staying on duty for too long. That is human nature. I lost nothing. Instead, I gained something.
You must have made a fortune that could sustain you for those years you were not taking scripts or appearing in movies, what were you living on those times?
It is only in Nigeria that people are assessed by the assumption of cash in their pockets. Who says that someone on leave would not have another business that brings in money? I didn’t need to have accumulated all the money in Nollywood before going on break. There is hardly anyone in the acting industry today, who doesn’t have a second business he or she is doing.
How hard has it been wriggling your way back to the top?
A golden fish has no hiding place. Those who know and value experience and knowledge would not waste time to engage such class of people when they are producing movies that they want the people to give attention in the public space. I have not had any problems getting roles.
With the new trends and faces here and there, how are you catching up? You could not possibly be taking jobs you would gladly take those days?
There is a difference between experience and being a greenhorn. New entrants will have their way but they will not block legends and veterans from playing their legendary roles in movies.
But you seem to be struggling as we have not seen the best of you in some of the movies you have appeared…
It depends on where you are coming from or what you are watching. Grace Ama is not scarce on the screen. I have played roles in significant movies in the past one year and I have been receiving comments from people who watch the movies.
You have been keeping a low profile these days, is that part of your new strategy?
Life is stage by stage. I am not sure anyone would expect me to behave the same way I did when I was 15 or 20 years. Maturity is shown by attitude and character and not lousiness. If people respect me as a veteran, I should accord myself the same decorum. That is what distinguishes us from others.
You have managed to keep your beauty intact despite what you have gone through; was it a deliberate act so as to keep getting the jobs?
I can only thank God any day and any time for the kind of body He gave me. I do not struggle to keep body shape and/or maintain skin. It’s a natural gift.
Are you satisfied with what some people now refer to as new Nollywood that seems to be sidelining the old faces?
It is not true that old faces do not belong in the new Nollywood. Nollywood has improved a lot in terms of equipment and contents. What it requires is just for the producers to invest more in quality personnel for their movies and also develop more cultures-oriented contents to reduce the level of Western influence in our culture, which is making the public to begin to shift to Zee world to watch Indian movies instead of Nigerian movies. The old faces are there but they cannot be as desperate as those coming new into Nollywood with different motivation.
What have you been up to and do you feel as popular as you were back then?
I am doing my business and promoting my NGO for the less-privileged. I remain as popular as I have been. If you check through my social media handles, you would notice how many followers I have and that should tell you how much premium people place on me.
How have you been able to convince producers that you are back for the jobs?
I told you that a golden fish has no hiding place. There is nothing like convincing a producer. I do not lobby for roles in movies. I never did.
At this point in your life, age is already setting in and you can’t be doing things as you used to, do you think you are slowing down?
I am not slowing down. I have some more family issues to attend to. I may not take every role in movies in order to give attention to my son.
What do you think about the state of the movie industry today?
There is significant improvement in Nollywood but, producers have to develop more local contents that tell our indigenous stories. People want to return to the days of cock crows at dawn, tales by the moonlight, living in bondage, Kongy harvest and others. Those were stories that had strong messages to impact in the life of people -old and young. Western culture is dominating our movies and negatively affecting our young people. It must not all be about money. There should be morals. There should be discipline. We are fast-losing our family values and the movie industry is contributing to it, sadly.
You must be thinking of new projects that you are working on, could you tell us one or two?
I told you I am working on a less privileged project under my NGO programmes. It’s about giving back to the society. If everyone is to contribute one thing or the other today in different areas of life to the needy, there will be less hunger and acrimony in our society. It’s not everything that political office holders will do. We must do our own.
Would you conclude that being an actress has been a total blessing for you?
It’s a vocation I have lived to cherish and I am fulfilled being an actor.
With the spate of wanton killings and disrespect for humanity that seem to be order of the day in Nigeria, how do you feel?
Insecurity in our land today is on the increase, despite the acclaimed efforts at different tiers or levels of government (federal, state and local government). It’s a constitutional duty of government to protect life and property of citizens. The rampaging herdsmen, kidnapping, robbery and many more are occasioned principally by increased unemployment and wrong ideology. While I do not subscribe to the division of Nigeria into different component parts, I think the present administration should redress the level of marginalisation in national appointments to douse the growing tension. The government should also declare herdsmen as terrorists, especially those deliberately killing innocent farmers in their homes across the country. It would seem that the issue of herdsmen is an extension of Boko Haram. Government must show commitment to stop the carnage perpetuated by these bloodthirsty people in the name of herdsmen. Without security, there cannot be a peaceful society; there cannot be meaningful development, and progress will be difficult.
What would you say to the government about the fresh kidnapped students in Yobe?
In my birthday message, I called on the federal government not to allow a repeat of Chibok girls conundrum. It’s sad that a “technically defeated” Boko Haram could enter a town of Dapchi to abduct those school girls and our Security officers were not aware. It is a sad commentary on the security intelligence of our land. If there is no conspiracy, then our Security agencies need to step up action to improve in their intelligence gathering. Meanwhile, it is my prayer and wish of Nigerians that the Yobe girls should be secured quickly and returned to their parents. I hope there will be positive result soon by God’s grace.