Face of Onga, ex-Glo ambassador and now a judge for Nigeria’s Got Talent reality show, actress Kate Henshaw can be rightly referred to as multi-faceted and successful.
In this exclusive chat, Henshaw talks about her passion for acting and the many challenges she has dealt with, including her broken marriage.
It’s been a while, where have you been?
I’ve been around in Nigeria. You don’t have to come out all the time. I can’t do that because it will water down my brand and I want people to have an expectation when they see my face on posters. That ‘Oh I have not see Kate in a while, for her to be in the movie, I must see it’ feeling and that alone is enough for me.
You are an actress with an appeal that cuts across different generations. What do you think is responsible for your relevance after almost 20 years in the business?
I just try to be myself and I do a few other things; I don’t only act, I MC and I have business that I do on the side, because acting alone cannot sustain you. Again, I think my ability to smile and laugh at every situation. People tell me when I smile, it’s as though I don’t have any problems, some even ask if I ever get angry but I tell them I choose to be happy, and that is the most positive attitude to grow through life. Life is hard, especially in Nigeria, things are hard, [but there's] no need carrying it on our faces as though the world is on your shoulders. A lot is happening and I ought to be grateful.
Now that you are over 40 and have spent over 19 years in the industry, how many more years do you plan to continue acting?
If I can reach 100, it won’t be bad. Besides, 40 is a number and people say life begins at 40, which means I am only a baby, and life has just begun for me.
Still on your acting career, as someone who has been in several movies and played diverse roles, are there roles you still wish to play?
A mad woman. Someone who is impaired physically or mentally. I want a case where people will see the movie and ask themselves if I really am the one in the movie.
What’s the most memorable movie you’ve done?
My very first movie, When the Sunset. I also loved the role I played in Stronger Than Pain, with Nkem Owoh. That role was different for me. In the beginning, I was really doubtful if I could play it well, but I did it and it worked out.
As someone who had a medical background, how easy was it for you to blend into the movie industry at first?
It was hard. I was scared. The script was as thick as a bible. I was with Franca Brown, Bob Manuel, the late Funmi Martins, and Sandra Achums. I didn’t think I could do it, but they were all so nice. That was when we really treasured doing movies properly, we paid attention to detail, countless rehearsals. I remember spending a lot of time with Bob Manuel, people thought we were going out.
Having spent considerable time as an actor, what’s next? Are you considering going into music?
You people should leave me. I don’t want to disgrace myself. Acting is my stronghold, I will stay there. I don’t want to veer into something and get stuck in it. I might do a collaboration soon, you never can tell.
A lot of your colleagues are beginning to go into roles behind the scenes. Will you be doing the same anytime soon?
Everyone doesn’t have to produce or direct movies, some people just want to remain in front of the camera. I have tried my hands in production. I produced a documentary for the Lagos State tax advert, I shot that one as my own contribution for them to help conscientious Lagosians on the need to pay their taxes. I also did one for the Akwa Ibom State government. I am more of someone who can plan and all that, but movie is plenty money.
Was acting something you always wanted to do?
Funny enough, I have always wanted to be a musician. I wanted to sing but my father objected strongly.So when did acting set in?
It just happened. It’s just few years ago that I started doing it professionally; when I started it was just a case of trying to see what it will bring out for me. The late JT Tom West, I will always be grateful to him for taking me to my first audition. After my first movie, different people started coming with different jobs and I was like ‘Yeah, money is coming.’
Nollywood producers have a knack for stereotyping actors. How did you manage to avoid this?
You have to be picky. If the script comes and it’s the same thing, you ask if they can change it, because nobody will do it for you. However, if it is a case where the director has foresight and wants to see how the actor can manage the role, only then will they call you back, otherwise, the typical Nollywood producer will give you what they think people like you for.
What challenges did you face as a young actor in a budding industry?
For me, my first audition got me so many roles, so I won’t say I had lots of challenges. Once I surmounted working with the various stars on set, I started learning and heeded to advice I got from some people. I also made a promise to myself to be professional about everything and always be on time. I don’t do lateness at all. This is because Uche Obi Osotule and I were up for the same role from Opa Williams in the movie Onome. He said he was going to give it to the first person that arrived. I got there ten minutes past eight and lost the role because Uche got there before me.
Having spent almost two decades in the industry, what would you say are the challenges faced by players in the industry?
Money. Lack of cohesion between guilds and associations. Inability to use certain structures to be able to shoot our films; for instance, getting the airport is not easy, and other places, they charge. We pay taxes as citizens of this country, and as film makers, we should have a deduction or access to places. While Dora was the Information minister, she complained we were portraying the police in the bad light, wearing slippers and all, but when they did not give us the needed thing, what were we to do? They need to give us the right support to achieve this.
The trend in the industry is cinematic movies and home videos. This has negatively affected soap operas, for which you are popular. What is your take on this?
There will always be a place for the different aspects of the entertainment industry. Whether you go to the cinemas or you buy a DVD. I have not done soaps in a while, it remains something I love doing, but because of the frequency, you have to be available to do a lot of recording. There is always room for soaps, but it has to be something that will attract people like Check Mate, or Candle Light. I can’t pick just one. I have done TV, soap, and stage, and I love all of it. I wanna do everything.
You strike people as a happy-go-lucky individual. Share with us some low moments in your life.
Generally, when life gets you down. The issue of the break-up of my marriage will get any one down, having being through 12 years and you had plans for the marriage and all of a sudden, everything stops, but then, that’s life. It hits you with a lot of things but you shouldn’t let it get you down.
Tell us more about your former marriage. How were you able to deal with it?
It’s God. He makes things beautiful in His own time. The slightest bit of strength is all is needed to rise up. People have died in marriages, some have lost body parts while in it, and others have spent years in it. It all depends on individual, it’s just to make the most of every situation and move on. I have so much that I want to do. I have no time to be wallowing in self pity. Marriage does not define who I am, neither does it define anybody. I came into this world as an individual, two people meet and decide to make it work but if it doesn’t, let it go. I wish you well, you do same, especially when there are children involved, because they are the worst hit. My plan now is to ensure that my daughter has the best in life, no matter what.
Why did you break up?
It wasn’t working anymore. It’s good to leave, rather than continue to manage it and live in strife and rancour.
A lot of Nigerian women have recently shared their stories of physical violence in the hands of their husbands. Did you experience this?
No, not at all.
What then was the cause of the break-up?
No regrets at all. My daughter came out of it and she is the most beautiful thing ever.
Any possibility of reconciliation?
No. My daughter is the most important person and she has to be taken care of. As far as she is concerned, we are for better, for worse.
Are you making plans to give love a chance again?
I don’t have anything against love. I want to love again, after all, God gave us his son to love us.
Away from your marriage, let’s talk about the new leadership of the Actors Guild of Nigeria. What is your take on this?
Hopefully, Ibinabo Fiberisima will turn things around for AGN. Basically, without the actors, there will be no films. We are like the biggest body ever, so I am praying she can turn things around and make us more unified, because the division is what has caused us to not to be where we ought to be. We have a lot more to do to better ourselves as a body. We need to get our acts together and pull this through together.
What’s your opinion on Emeka Ike, who seems displeased about the election?
Emeka should join forces with IB and stop all this rancour because it doesn’t make us serious at all, which is unnecessary. He should drop whatever suit or case he has, marry his plans and support IB. Enough is enough!
What is your beauty regime?
I work out regularly, everyday. I have my facials, massages. I love to rest, travel and I eat right. I do exercises too. I do aerobics, weight lifting, dancing; everything that will make me look good, I do it, and am very diligent with my exercises.
How do you unwind?
I relax, I go out with friends, I travel on holidays and take a rest.Where was your last vacation spot?
Miami, and it was great, because the weather was just like what it is in Nigeria..
Let’s end this conversation with this. Tell us what you think of Aluu 4 murder…
It should be condemned. It’s like every day, we sink lower into the ground as human beings as Nigerians. Our humanity is totally lost. There are no longer the days when we see someone in trouble and we play the good Samaritan and try to help. These days, everybody will just stand and look, nobody wants to help. The security level is so low and a lot of similar killings have happened in Mubi, Boko Haram attacks and all. It is terrible.