She is not a new face in the Nigerian movie ndustry. The Anambra-born ace actress seems to have gone underground in the movie business. In this interview, she spoke on her relationship with veteran actor, Pete Edochie, sex in Nollywood and other issues bothering on entertainment. Excerpts:
Tell us your name?
My name is Rita Tony Edochie, I am of the Nollywood. I grew up with my uncle, Mr. Okaka of the Railways Corporation because my mother took me to him immediately after the civil war. I was very small, I was just two years old. I lived with him throughout my primary school and after that, I came to Onitsha for my secondary school. Immediately after my secondary school, I got married. I entered the university and graduated in 1990, I have been a broadcaster with Anambra Broadcasting Service (ABS). Acting is a flair and I love it very well.
What is your relationship with Pete Edochie?
A very great one, Pete Edochie happens to be the elder brother of my husband, Tony Edochie of Anambra Broadcasting Service. They are from the same father and mother, that is the relationship.
He brought you into Nollywood?
Well, let me say I followed his steps as well, but it has been something that is inborn, something that I love so much. Even when I was in primary and secondary schools I have been doing stage acting, so it is not just because of Pete Edochie, it is something that is a flair, something that I love so much. Incidentally, thank God in heaven, I got married to the linage of broadcasters and film makers and I joined them.
Why did you dump broadcasting for acting?
Yea, I have been in ABS, I went into Nolloywood. Like I said, it is a flair, something I love doing so much and when you watch acting and broadcasting, they marry each other, so I love doing the two, anyway I try to do my best.
When did you join The movie industry?
What was the first movie you featured in and what role did you play?
Waterloo, I can’t remember vividly the role I played there but I know I played a role of a mother. I can’t remember to whom I played the role to but it was either to Saint Obi or whomever, but it was Waterloo. After Waterloo, Evil men, then Igodo, immediately after Igodo, everything sparked off.
Did you experience stage fright the first time you were on set?
Let me tell you the truth, as a broadcaster, all eyes were always on me, so I just can’t say I had stage fright but at the same time I can’t say I didn’t fidget. I fidgeted seeing others that started before me, I said ‘oh God am I going to get this?’ But at the end of the day, I got it and that is it.
How many movies have you acted?
Oh, will I be able to count? I will not be able to count but I know it will be up to 100.
Which of them threw you intto stardom?
I can’t really say, some people always say it is Igodo, some say August Meeting but to me as Rita Edochie, I know the ones I did and I believe they threw me to stardom, that is it.
You are not on set in the recent times, what happened, have you resigned?
There is no way I can resign because this is something I know I can do even in my old age, so there is no way I can resign. Actually, it is all about the fees they pay us, you know the least paid artiste, that is the known one earns N400, 000. So there is no way a person that earns N1 million and all of a sudden you want to pay him N200, 000, but it is not their fault, it is the fault of all these pirates. The marketers and producers are no longer making their money, it is not their fault, it is the fault of the pirates. So, I ventured into other things, I went to Abuja, from there, I traveled outside the country, from London back to Gambia, I have been in Gambia for a while doing business, trying to make sure my family is okay, I ventured into business.
When are your fans expecting you back?
Already I am back, there was this movie I shot in Enugu, I can’t remember the name because by the time we shot it, it had no name, it is owned by Remmy Jes. We shot it in Enugu, I don’t know whether it has been given any name, the movie is very great, it was a very massive one, we used four Cannon cameras, the new cameras and you know what it means to use four cameras and when the movie comes out, everybody will be thrilled because it is a very great one. In the movie, I was a witch, I went off my kind of role, I was a witch in that movie because at least people always believe that in every movie, I must cry because I am a very emotional person but this time around, I dealt with people, I didn’t cry. Patience Ozokwor was in the movie, Kenneth Okonkwo, Uche Jumbo, Chioma Chukwuka and others were in the movie and I dealt with Patience Ozokwor, you know she deals with people a lot but I am happy I dealt with her in that movie.
Was that kind of vendetta?
She dealt with me all these years, in fact, I was happy the only one I had opportunity to pay her back.
People prefer epic movies to other kind of movies, WHY?
That is what I am saying, the movie is epic and if you watch my movies each time I am producing, it is epic because I am an African, I love Africa a lot and I am a Nigerian and I love Nigeria a great deal. What we are doing is to showcase our culture like there is this programme I am trying to do in Africa Magic, it is all about culture, you know we don’t speak Igbo language again but when you watch Africa Magic, you will see Yoruba movies and Hausa movies, and we are not happy. So, I have been going to their office all this while for them to give us airtime, and they were like we don’t have content.
Is it true that we don’t have content?
Yes, we don’t have content but I came out to beg our people to come out so we can have our own content, let us start shooting Igbo movies, start doing something about our culture, let us do a lot of things that will showcase our common heritage because we are a great people like the Ofala and new yam festivals, it is all about culture in Africa Magic.
Ghanaians seem to have dominated the industry in the recent times what happened?
Actually what happened was that when we started, we used some Ghanaians, they came down and shot movies with us but at a time, it was like if you don’t use their people we will not sell there and it was a big problem. At a time, they even stopped our people from acting there but I think they are now resolving it. We came to a point that they refused our entry into their country to shoot movies saying that it must be their people alone. We taught them and after that, they were like we have learnt it. So if you don’t use their people, they will not allow you to shoot there.
The old faces are fast faDIng out, why?
They brought in new ones because they have got to pay them peanuts and we are not ready to take that peanuts, the only thing we are doing is to see how we can reorganize our industry, when we do that, then we will be able to come out and say this is the way it should be done. What they do is once they call one senior actor, they will pay others anything and that is what we are going to look into.
People are tired of seeing the old faces every tIME, can’t you groom younger ones?
We have young ones but they can never be like the old ones because they are not doing it well. Ok, Sam Loco is dead, there is nobody that can act Sam Loco, nobody can act Pete Edochie, somebody can act Osuofia, already many people are acting Osuofia, somebody can act KOK but nobody can act Sam Loco or Pet Edochie, that is what I am telling you and what we are trying to say is can we get them? Most of them are just ready to do anything but at the end of the day; they will end up not doing it well. For me, I am a very emotional person, I will not want to go into acting wicked roles not because I can’t do it but when I am acting wicked role, you will know I am just trying to show but for somebody that it is inborn, when the person is doing it, you will see the person over-reacting in the very movie because the person will get it right.
Why do you always cry in movies?
When we shot Igodo, people around were carried away, Pete Edochie couldn’t stand my cry and the producer could not stand it too, they walked away, all the village women around could not stand it, they were crying as if something really happened because I did it real but these people will like to rub rob in their eyes for tears to come out, it has to be natural. Even when I am watching movies that I also participated in, I cry also, so it is just real me, am very emotional.
Do you cry in real life?
That is me, that is what people say about me, I can’t really separate myself from the role I play in movies because like I said I am a very emotional person but it can be separated for others. Take for example, somebody like Pete Edochie, what he acts is not his real life because I know him very well, he is a very typical example. What he acts is opposite of whom he is Pete Edochie is a man that can not leave his house without saying 15 decades of Holy Rosary, he can’t even open his door for you, he is a serious Christian, he is only trying to interpret the script given to him.
What about the controversial allegation of sex before role in the industry?
I love that question, sex before role in the industry. As a person, I have never been harassed by anyone, be it executive producer or producer in order to give me role. But let me tell you the truth, they don’t harass them, the girls are the people that harass, quote me anywhere. Do you know one funny thing that is happening now? Ladies in Asaba pay producers for them to appear in movies, it is happening right now in Asaba. They furnish the producer’s house, buy cars for them just for them to appear and show face in a movie. But I don’t know whether they want to be carrying drugs or not but it is something that is happening in Asaba. They want to pay for them to be seen in the movies. For me, you are paying me for my services. In those days, when we started, I used to drive from Onitsha to Enugu for audition, as a broadcaster. Then, I will just walk straight to the table and register my name and elegantly walk out, the people doing the audition will call me back and give me roles. But these days, instead of the girls going to audition, they will be going from one hotel to the other looking for executive producer’s and producer’s rooms and after that, nobody would want to waste his tape and time because even if you give them the role, they will not do well and at the end, they will end up not giving them the role. After the producers used those stupid girls, they will still not use them in their movies and they will start going around saying, ‘the producer said if I don’t sleep with him he will not give me role’, they are all liars, they are the ones harassing them because when you refuse to go for auditioning and instead go from one producer’s room to the other, what are you looking for? But hey will be the ones crying that they were being harassed.
As an old hand in the movie industry, have you groomed any actor or actress?
Yes, my role model as you heard me shout is Mercy Johnson, that is my African Queen. Of all the girls in Nollywood, she is the person I love most because she is natural to a fault, she can fit in anything, she is over natural, and I like her because she does it well anytime any day, I give it to her. After Mercy Johnson, Chioma Chukwuka, Ini Edo, Genevieve, you see all these girls, they are all good but of all the girls, Mercy Johnson is still the best.
Have you officially retired from ABS?
I have not really retired, I am in the court with Anambra State government because they retired me compulsorily in 2008. So, I had to sue them for N500 million. Since then we have been in court.