Eight years ago, Delta State indigene from Isoko to be precise, Ejiro Okurame came into the industry. Among the television productions she has featured in are Hills and Valleys, Everyday People, Clinic Matters and Ashes of Love. She talks to OVWE MEDEME on life behind the camera, the benefit of having a female president for the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) and a host of other issues.
HOW did you end up as an actress?
I always wanted to be a model. Before I even had the notion of becoming an actress, I was into sports. I was an athlete. I was doing track events so when I graduated from the University, I was bored at home so I called a friend up and we went to a modeling agency. When we got there, we were given a job but we did not take it. Out of boredom, I decided to go to the AGN to register with them. One of the executives there registered me and I got my first job. It was stressful and challenging. I was so tensed up that I missed my lines. I was nervous and shaky but to God be the glory, I was able to pull it through. I give kudos to Rita Dominic because she helped me. When I was losing my lines, she helped me get back in character. If someone like Rita can help me get my act together, I don’t see any reason why I shouldn’t encourage other young ones coming up because I had a good beginning.
People will chicken out after that experience. What kept you going?
That is why I give kudos to Rita Dominic because if it had been some other A-list artiste, they might get frustrated. I was really missing my lines. I was missing the lines not because I could not read but because I was nervous. There were so many artistes in the production. I didn’t have a friend. the only friend I thought I had was the director and the director was making life miserable for me on that set so I felt so bad but I still thank God for all the lessons I learnt on that set.
You are seen more in sitcoms. Is it right to say that you have a preference for TV series?
Not really. I do movies as well but maybe because I am based in Lagos, I tend to get seen more on sitcoms. It pays me better than feature films. They pay per episode and once you are a major character, you will tend to be well paid.
A lot of actresses are coming up these days and the competition is much. What is different about you?
I don’t know. I am just me. One thing I like about my life is that I don’t pretend. If I am not down with someone, I don’t go out of my way to be friends with them. You will not see me in the person’s roundtable. I believe I am natural. I don’t keep too many friends.
What is the most challenging role you have played?
I have three of them. The first one is a film titled My Love My Sorrow. I played the role of a Warri girl, Eseoghene. I was always beating my husband and fighting him. He had this girlfriend I got to know about and I as a married woman wanted to go get my own boyfriend. I lost my voice in that flick because I was always fighting and quarrelling. There is Last Order where I played the role of a Police officer’s wife. My husband was Dauda. I was always beating him. Victor Osuagwu was also in the flick. It was challenging because I was always fighting also. The Director was so surprised at the way I acted the role that he asked me if I beat my boyfriend up in reality. The third challenging movie I have done is titled Rush Hour. It is a film that has to do with cultism on campus. I had Tonto Dikeh as my friend in the flick and I tried to initiate her into a cult. It was very challenging because we had to do a lot of night scenes at the national theatre. That same period we had fuel scarcity in Lagos. We were buying fuel at a very expensive rate but we still had to go on location. We had to report at location. The three movies were very challenging and basically those are the ones I can say I really went the extra mile.
What did you study in school?
I have a Diploma in Public Relations from Ogun State University, now known as Onabisi Onabanjo University. I also have a Degree in Sociology from Lagos State University. Even though I am from Delta State, I was born in Lagos and I grew up here.
Are you in touch with your delta roots?
Of course I am. I was in Benin City a few weeks ago. I have a couple of fans there so i went around. I also visited the family of Sam Loco Efe for the anniversary of his death. He was my father in Everyday People and we were very close. I go to Delta State all the time.
Professionally, how long have you been acting?
I have been acting since 2004. That is eight years. In those eight years, I would say I have done well but I still have a lot of home work to do. I still have a lot of places to go, I still need to work on myself. I still need people to teach me how to get my dictions right, how to pronounce, get my reactions right, how to gesticulate and all that. I believe I am still in the learning process inasmuch as I or people might feel i have gotten there. I believe I still have a lot to learn.
Could you recall your growing up years?
I had so much fun while growing up. The only disadvantage i had was that my parents were separated and it affected me. It affected me because i never grew up seeing my mum in the house. I never had that privilege. My father played the role of mother and father and he did it so well that I didn’t lack anything but I still needed my mother. I am still in touch with her. We were all together recently for a wedding. My father wouldn’t take nonsense. I don’t know if I should call him a black man in a white man’s skin. If you boil rice and there is sand in it, you are in trouble. So far, I have received a lot of encouragement from my family. I don’t have any reason to disappoint them.
Are you in a relationship?
Yes, there is a relationship.
Has your career in any way interfered with your relationship?
It hasn’t but I know he is a very jealous person.
How do you handle jealousy?
I have a secret weapon which I use for every negative thing that comes my way and that is silence. When people offend me, I keep quiet or I take a walk. When it comes to jealousy in terms of relationship, I give him the benefit of doubt that nothing is happening. Most times I get calls at odd hours and those things make spouses suspicious. It is left for me to explain to my husband-to-be and let him know that it is normal in our line of work. He has ladies around him also and whenever I want to get jealous, I always put myself in my own shoes. I ask myself how I expect him to react if it was him. If I feel that he should just understand, I should be able to understand as well. It is a matter of understanding and trust. If we have the understanding, I don’t think there would be any problem. A lot of marriages are crashing today all because couples don’t dialogue, they are not close, they don’t relate properly. I want to have my husband-to-be as my best friend, I want to have him as a confidante and I want to have him as a shoulder to cry on when I am in a depressed mood.
How did you meet?
I am not telling. We met and that is it.
Would you date somebody you meet on a social network?
Of course I can. You don’t just jump into dating somebody. You first have to be the person’s friend. I have friends I have met on Facebook and when I am going for events in their hood, I call them. They come around, we snap pictures and get talking. Some of them could be mischievous and funny though. Once they start acting funny like they, I just lock them out and stop taking their calls.
What is the most mischievous thing a person has done?
Some of them send me messages that they want to date me. Some say that they want me to have their babies. Some of them even want me to sponsor their businesses. I have even received proposals from people who claim they want to set up their businesses and that I should give them money. I don’t pretend. Even if they write such things on my wall, I delete them immediately. Even in families people have rivalry not to talk of someone I have never met. I wouldn’t condemn friendship on Facebook but based on what happened the last time with Cynthia, one has to be very careful.
Ibinabo Fiberisima is the first female President of AGN. What do you expect of her tenure?
For once I am very happy that a female is about to lead us. It is a good thing. It is a thing of joy. I am so excited about having her as the first female AGN President. I personally will give her all the necessary support she can get. I know it took her a long while, I know she went through a lot of stress to get to this position she is and I know she will not let the people down, she will not disappoint her fans, she will not disappoint the people who voted her in.
We will give her all the necessary support. I also know that she will take the industry to the next level. It is not by her own power but I know she will help create job opportunities for a lot of actors and actresses, especially the up and coming ones. We have a lot of registered actors who don’t even have jobs. The ones who have don’t even get their fees paid. They go through a lot of stress. The challenges of shooting a movie are numerous. It is not a normal white collar job. It is so stressful and very challenging. I know she will stand up for people who have been molested or cheated in the industry. She will help them get their rights back. As a female and as a mother, she will run the industry like her home in the sense that she will give listening ears to those who have problems.