Petite in stature yet a powerhouse in her field, actress Rita Dominic tells NET about her experience as a first time producer, the many challenges she has had to face since becoming an actress, and how she feels about the growth of Nollywood.
You’ve been off the scene for a while now. Where have you been?
I was working, re-inventing myself, shooting my films and starring in different films for other people, and now is my comeback.
You have spent over 12 years in the industry, building a reputation as an actress, what made you decide to veer into production?
I just wanted to give something back to an industry that has done so much for me; that’s why in the movie, I didn’t play the major role. We have Linda Ejiofor and Femi Jacobs, two up and coming actors, who played the lead roles. These are people who are very talented and need to be encouraged. Again, after acting for so many years in the industry, one wants to try other aspects of film making. I knew I always wanted to try production and I felt last year was the best time to.
How do you respond to speculation that you went into production because acting roles weren’t coming as they used to?
No. If I was going into production to make sure people keep seeing me, I would have cast myself as the lead role in the movie. I have a passion for the arts, I have always wanted to try out all the aspects of production. It is my way of giving back to the industry by encouraging new talent. A lot of people have the notion that people in the industry don’t want to give the new people an opportunity, but that is not true.
What was it like, producing and acting in a film?
Difficult. Very difficult, and this was made worse because I also played a complex character in the movie. I didn’t want to do it. I argued with my business partners, because I didn’t understand how I was going to play a character that was that complex, and at the same time, concentrate on making sure the production was of standard, but I sat down and thought about it, and decided to do it.
With the success of your movie, are you likely to dump acting for production?
I will produce more films and I will act in more films as well, but I will still be picky with the kinds of scripts I do.
Is the next thing on your plate directing a movie, maybe?
I am not sure, but who knows? Never say never.
Or perhaps, singing?
Never. I am not a singer but all the parts of production, I might try.
Both your parents are medical practitioners, How easy was it convincing them about acting as your choice of profession?
Funny enough, I had all the encouragement I needed since I was a kid, because I started this since I was like five or six years old. I remember my mother getting me prepared for all the variety shows for the weekend.
The teaser and poster of your upcoming movie shows that you went through a lot. Would you say this is your most challenging role yet?
In the last year, I have done a lot of challenging roles, one of which was the Kenyan film that won me the award of Best actress in Africa. Before I shot that film, I had never been challenged like that in my 12 years in Nollywood. I played a woman who was a drug addict, and had mental degradation. I had to learn to speak a little bit of Swahili and speak like a Kenyan and not a Nigerian. Another one is the film, Streets of Calabar, which I won’t say much about. My role in the movie, The Meeting is also a very challenging one, a fifty year old woman. What I have been doing in the last two years is to concentrate on my career and do certain kinds of films. I just needed to show the ugly side, I think I have played the beautiful side of life for years, and I wanted to show people this side exists, and do something completely different. I hope I succeeded in doing that.
What is your dream role?
I just want to keep doing dirty characters. I want to keep dirtying myself as an actor. I want to keep pushing the box.
When you say dirty, what do you mean?
When I say dirty, I advise you watch the movie Shattered, and you will understand. I’m talking about the characters people in the society look at with a feeling of disgust.
Looking at you and the way you have been responding, you strike me as an introvert. Am I wrong?
That is me o. What you see in the movies is totally different. I am a very shy person, people don’t believe it because I am an actor. Even the biggest actors are shy people, and I feel it is because they can hide behind the characters they play, but when it is time for them to be themselves, they are very shy. When I am on the red carpet, I am a different person and I just wear that character.
You were quoted to have once said that you never thought you would be still relevant. Did you actually think so?
I don’t actually remember that interview but it’s actually true. I never really believed I could still be relevant in the industry, because if we look at what makes me and my colleagues special, it’s the grace of God. There are people who are talented around, and we are still relevant. It’s God’s grace. We have people like Linda Ejiofor, Tonto Dike and others who are talented, but still I’m here and still relevant, it is the grace of God.
Does that mean you planned a short stay in the industry?
I didn’t, I just felt I was going to do my job as an actor and leave the rest to God. To be honest, there are many actors and actresses who are more talented than I am, may be they are not relevant anymore, so what makes me different?
After spending over 10 years acting in Nollywood, your first Kenyan film won you ‘Best Actress’ at the AMAA; does this bother you?
I am not surprised, because of how thorough AMAA is with the criteria. I always felt when you do a good film, you will be recognised for it, be it in Nigeria or anywhere else. The only thing I would say is, I put a lot of work in that film because of the character and the story, so it could have actually been a Nigerian movie, I just felt that at that point in time, that was the first film I had done after my hibernation, and AMAA thought it was time to award me, and I am grateful for that.
But do you not feel cheated, spending over 10 years without an award?
I have always been nominated for AMAA, but I don’t even mind. I always said to myself I want to win AMAA for a film I worked hard for, and Shattered was one of such films, so I was elated when I was announced winner. I felt like I was given a pat on the back for a job well done.
Does being Africa’s best actress put you under pressure in anyway?
Yes it does, because I am constantly looking to do a better film than the film that won me the award.
After a long time, there is a female president for the AGN. How do you feel about this?
I feel really excited, she is a friend of mine. She is the first female president, maybe we just needed to have the change and see what the change can do.
How about the controversy going on about the election being unconstitutional?
I don’t know about that. All I know is IB won it and I am willing to support her.
You are on top of the list of celebrities expected to get married this year, but you still haven’t said anything till date. When do you plan to get married, Rita?
Don’t worry, very soon.
Has it been difficult finding the right person or you have found the right person
Leave it like that. You are not getting that answer.
What is your take on Nollywood actors who see Hollywood as the next thing and aim to be part of it?
I feel it is important that we build our industry to a point where the international colleagues are tempted to want to come to yours. We should also give it that respect, so it gains respect from other international film industries. Now Hollywood has built theirs to attract other people to their industry, I feel we should do the same.
Finally, what is your own evaluation of Nollywood?
We have what we call the new Nollywood, which tends to shoot very high quality films. It started with the movies of Kunle Afolayan, Ego Boyo, Emem Isong, Obi Emelonye. It can only get better from here on. The quality has improved. You will be surprised at the quality of films that will be released next year.