Acting Nude is a Matter of Choice
Maureen Okpoko is a fast-rising Nollywood actress. The mother of three, who is known for her signature close-cropped haircut, has been able to steady her feet in the motion picture world, given her numerous movies. The graduate of English and Literature from the University of Port-Harcourt, Rivers State speaks to DUPE AYINLA-OLASUNKANMI on a number of interesting issues, including how she usually wards off advances from the opposite sex.
IN just a year, you seem to have taken over the movie screen. How have you been able to achieve that, given that you have always acted in TV soaps?
I would say it is God and hard work. I don’t really know about that. Thank you very much. It hasn’t been an easy road, but we are getting there.
You once mentioned your preference for soaps…
(Cuts in) Do I really have a preference for TV soaps? I don’t really have a preference for soaps. But I would say they are what come my way most of the time, so I just grab it. I still get movie jobs as well; but sometimes, they come more. The soaps could come like five to six at a time, while the movies could just be two or three. So, I just go for the ones that I think are the best. But right now, I am cutting down on the number of soaps and TV series I do.
Is there a reason for this new decision of yours?
No. It is a personal decision and I have my personal reasons too.
Having been busy recently, how do you create time for the family?
I have been terribly busy these days. But I still find time for my children. In this job of ours, you have to create time for yourself because nobody is going to give you a break. You can’t be working and forget that you have a family to cater for. One thing about the movie industry is that you have to give yourself the break, take good care of yourself and family and then you come back to your job. Otherwise, you find out that you cannot even function because you have not taken a good rest. This job is very tasking and tedious. Sometimes, if you take a break in-between, you get back on your feet. I am into events as well. I’m planning an audition for an online calendar; so, I have been busy sending bulk messages and organising the girls for the calendar.
With your line of study, have you ever given it a thought to go into teaching?
I can’t be a teacher because I don’t have that patient to teach. I could be patient, but not as patient as a teacher could be. Yes, I can only teach my children. However, I can’t rule out that totally. This is because somebody might just come up and say, ‘You see, I want these children to learn how to speak English and pronounce words correctly. I think you are the best person that can do that…” So, you find yourself teaching a couple of students (laughs).
But many, particularly in this part of the world, believe that women are not supposed to have so much freedom. So, how do you get your husband’s approval every time you leave home?
Do you know what? You have to leave my husband out of this business because this business is entirely my own business. I don’t know about him supporting it. As a matter of fact, what you don’t know is that my husband is very far from me for now. So, I can do anything I want. Don’t ask me where he is, but he is very far from me now. I can take hold of anything I want at the moment.
How do you handle men who may want your attention, given that you are a beautiful woman and that your husband is not physically available around you?
Oh! Yes, I get passes everyday once I step out of my home. But we have to draw the lines. When a handshake extends to the elbow, then, the person has to watch it. I have to be nice to people because of the nature of what I do. But there is a limit; so, don’t over step your bounds. I’m nice to everybody, irrespective of whom you are. In fact, I could be diplomatic. And sometimes, it depends on your approach to me. But naturally, I am not a harsh person.
I see the way you were greeting everybody on the way. Why are you not like your other colleagues who believe that a star must not be too friendly with fans?
Well, it is an individual thing and choice. I am a very simple person and I watch before I do anything. I’m a simple and down-to-earth person. But when you want to overstep your boundary, I tell you not to go there. But naturally, this is just me; there are several things I won’t tolerate.
Nowadays, we have nude pictures of actors on the covers of some movies. This, in the thinking of some people, makes the movies sell well. Was it like this when you started?
(Laughs) In our own time, you did not have to be naked on a movie cover to make a name. But that is what is happening now. What do you want me to say about it? That is what the marketers want and it is what the girls want. If you want to do it, you can go ahead. Nobody will stop you from doing it. But I won’t want to do it at all for a reason best known to me. That is what the market wants and the girls are ready to flaunt it. If they say they want to make it by flaunting it, they should go ahead; it is a thing of choice. I really don’t have anything to say because I’m neither for it nor against it. When I started as an actress, it wasn’t this much and when people heard of such, they were always surprised and shocked. But for now, I think it has come to stay and as you can see, it is even getting worse.
Would you say it is a minus or a plus to Nollywood because it is believed that we are competing with some actors in some other countries?
They say they are competing with the Ghanaian actors. If Nigerians decide to copy it and it is working for them, all well and good. I don’t really want to say much about it, whether it is a plus or minus. So, if those girls feel comfortable exposing their flesh, I have no problem about that. But for me, I think it is going to be difficult for anybody to ask me to bear my skin.
What happened to the movie project, the Golden Egg?
Oh! I spoke to the executive producer, who told me he was travelling to America to screen it to them. I have been trying to get hold of him since then, but it has been impossible. But I think he must have sold it to them over there because it is not in Nigeria. Other movies that we have done are not in Nigeria. There was this movie we did on lesbianism; the guy sold it in his church and that is where it all ended.
What is your take on homosexuality and lesbianism? Besides, have you had any encounter with a lesbian?
(Laughs) From what I have heard, the two are in Nollywood. No one has approached me. But even if you have it in mind, once you come near me, you won’t be able to open your mouth to say what you have come for. They see me with this haircut and think I’m one of them because of the way I dress. Normally, I don’t wear skirt; I’m always on three-quarter pants, shirts and sneakers.
Most of them must have been watching me from afar to know if I belong to that group or maybe I could be bi-sexual. But most of them have come to know or conclude that this one does not like women at all, but prefers the opposite sex. Honestly, I don’t particularly like women. I don’t really have them as friends. Most of my friends are guys because they are usually helpful. It could be because I’m the only female among the guys in my home. I have a guy who is my closest friend. But people see us as if there is something between us. When something happens, he is the first I call on because he is like a family to me. I’m sorry to say this, but I don’t let women get too close to me because there is too much jealousy,’beef’ and envy. Because I am coming from a different environment, we don’t operate on the same level.
It is believed that having friends in the industry could also help in getting you jobs.
I don’t have friends; I work very hard to get jobs. I go out there to get jobs. For instance, there is a place opposite my home, where they print movie jackets and a lot of these producers come there to do their works.
This morning, when I was leaving home, I saw a certain producer whom I had met somewhere before. He came to me and said: ‘I have seen your movies, but I didn’t know you were this good”. You see, most of them are not ready to give you that chance to showcase yourself. But I’m thankful to those ones who have given me the opportunity to be able to showcase myself in their movies. They didn’t know my worth, they didn’t know I could do anything, but they put me in their movies. But now, they are coming because they have seen my works. Now, I get jobs on recommendation. I’m now a known face, even if you don’t remember my name.
In all, how do you find time to unwind?
I relax. But right now, I am trying to get girls for the audition. So, I’m busy with that job, which I have to make the girls ready for the screening. But doing these things keeps me busy. But sometimes, I take a day off; I just stay indoors. But even at that, you still get to do some house chores.
Now that you have added events planning to your schedule, have you thought of quitting acting?
What? Never! That is what made me who I am today. It is my first love, my passion. Don’t say that again, please. Even if the event planning business becomes major, I can never quit acting because I have a passion for it.
Do you have any of your kids taking after you?
Yes! My little girl would say, ‘Mummy, I want to be an actress like you. And I would say, ‘Shut up; you want to be like who?’ Don’t worry; when you grow up, you will understand and then maybe you can start.
Now that actors are going into movie production, do you have plans to do that too?
Yes, but I am giving myself the time and pace. I want to be in the larger market and then I can now look back and think of producing a movie. Producing a movie is more intense; I don’t want to produce any wishy-washy movie. The story must be tight and if you want to do that, you must have enough money. And doing that, you will want to use two known faces, which will cost like N1.8million to N2million, depending on the face you want to use. I will go into movie production, which could be anytime from now.
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