Yvonne Okoro wormed herself into the hearts of movie lovers in 2002. The actress who recently premiered her first production Contract featuring Hlomla Dandala at the Silverbird Cinema, Ikeja got a lot of approval from friends and colleagues for a beautiful outing. In this interview, the petite actress talks about her new ground with AMAA, why she is still single amongst other issues.
CONGRATULATIONS on the success of your movie premiere
Thank you very much.
What was the idea behind Contract?
We had different scripts, but ended up choosing this one. The idea is to shed more light on surrogate parenthood. This is an issue that has not been tapped into right now in Africa. A lot of people are using surrogate these days, but have nothing to do with the woman. They pay the woman to have a baby for them and that is all. It is one of those issues that are not talked about, and we felt it will be a good thing to talk about but in a funny way.
How did you get Hlomla Dandala to feature the movie?
We had a long list of people, and he has not been used in any major West African movie apart from South African, Jacob’s Cross. Also I didn’t want the usual faces which are either Ghollywood or Nollywood. We wanted someone outside. And we were also thinking on how to breach the gap between Nollywood and Ghollywood. We felt it has to be an Africa thing and when we were checking, his name came up first. I must tell he is a great actor.
Tell us how you were able to showcase the three stages of pregnancy without any flops?
With this movie, we didn’t want the usual style of pregnancy. So I went to London to order for the first stage, second stage, and third stage baby bumps. That’s why you didn’t see any knots at the back. The baby bumps is just like a swim thing that you just wear.
What about the scene of the Quadruplets?
(Laughs) We got somebody who had gave birth at the hospital. And they were very happy to be part of it. Ken is very good at technicality and was able to bring one baby to become four. I don’t know how they did it, but one baby will come and then they will take it from a different angle. We were lucky because they were twins and we kind of took them at different activities and time.
Being your first, how long did it take you to do the whole production and how much did it cost?
It took us about a month to shoot and another four to six months to do the post production. A lot was put in it. I don’t want to disclose the amount. Because I wanted to bring different people, I wanted every detail to be perfect. I didn’t say I want to do a low budget movie and have it quickly done. I mean that is the reason I wanted to do my own movie and be able to control want I wanted.
Your first movie and you have six nominations for AMAA 2013. How do you feel?
I don’t think there are words to describe the feeling seriously. I knew the movie was a great one because everyone that has watched the movie from different time has said a lot with attention to details. An actress was actually the one who called me and said you know you got six nominations in AMAA and the only Ghanaian actress nominated too. I got up and started screaming and my sister asked me if I am surprised. Well I think I am more attached to it because it is my first. It is different when I get nominations for other people’s works. It is a great feeling. Being the only Ghanaian actress nominated, they had better give it to me (laughs). I was surprised; Lydia Forson was the one who tweeted me. The first thing I thought about was pressure, because there is that pressure then to succeed.
How do you intend to keep up this tempo that you have attained?
Maybe I have to pray more. Really it is been challenging because everybody expects your next movie to be better. That is where the pressure comes in, the pressure for you to snap. You tend not to live your life or be you. You tend to live the life and expectations of others. That is not what I want. I want to be able to be me. I don’t want they say this movie is good, which means my next movie I need to put in more money. I want to be able to do what my heart and soul tells me. There is that challenge, but also the pressure to remain humble. That is the thing about my family, when sometimes my mum would send me to get something and I will be like ‘Moma’, do you know who you are talking to? And she will like will you go and get that thing before I get angry. And I am like you guys don’t respect me o. At times we will be walking on the road and people would like do you know her, she is on TV. It is like she has totally forgotten who I am. They have a way of humbling you, to make you feel like nothing.
Why are you taking the movies around the countries?
Well with the kind of money I put into it, I need to get it back. Also, it is a very good movie and I wanted everybody to see it. I just want people to see and feel how a good movie can be too. I have premiered it in Ghana, London and Nigeria; it will be going to Gambia soon and America.
Tell us your experience as a first timer?
I think I was lucky to have Sparrow Production on board because they were able to organise most of the logistics. All I did was to pay the money and get involved. From the location to props, they were more involved. Mostly what they do is like get three locations and call me to come and check them out. So I go with the Director, Shirley and they ask which I prefer. We all bring our heads together and choose the one that is the best. It was a lot of work and I respect producers a lot now. It made me realize that I am a terrible producer. I am just hoping that with my next one, I will be more involved
How did you come about the name Chinyere and Okoro?
My dad is a Nigerian, an Igbo man from Abia, married to a Ghanaian woman. My full names are Yvonne Chinyere Okoro Okereke. I am supposed to speak Igbo, I speak some like come and go and get me something. (Laughs)
Tell us about the movie you did in France?
I was in school and it was a very low budget movie that the school wanted to do. I auditioned for the movie because I was bored. It was in French. I auditioned and the woman was amazed and she said I am a good actor. So she sat me down and told me to go into acting once I better my French. And my friend said to her that I was a Ghanaian actress. She asked if I would love to be in the movie so I said I would love to but my French would be funny. So we got to work and practiced and it went very well. I saw the trailer recently when I went there, but I don’t think it is out yet.
What are your doing aside promoting Contract at the moment?
I have a playground I am building for the less privilege, I mean the mentally handicapped. That is what I have been putting my time into. And I will also be on set of Adam’s Apple season II.
Is building this playground a means to get money from the Government?
I am sure there are times that people here and there do that but I am sure that there are others who have a good mindset too for what they are doing. For me, I didn’t get any sponsor. It is my own personal money, I took it out, and I said I wanted to do something without having to go from one door to the other. I didn’t want people to come and say that I am using the money I collected from them inappropriately so I said I would use my money to build the playground. Recently, what I did was to organise a party and it was my money too. I never wanted to have an NGO, because I wanted to be able to do what I want to do. I didn’t want it to be on a particular thing, I want to be able to help in different situation. I want to do it in such a way that, every year on my birthday I choose a particular thing I want to do for the society. Maybe there will be time, when I will need help, but now for me it is more like a thank you thing to my fans. I do have an NGO which I started two weeks ago. It is a home for the old. I opened it in my late grandma’s name Elizabethan Senior Home. This one too I didn’t get funds from anywhere. I wake up and if I say I want to do something, I do it. Because I always put a portion of whatever I make aside for projects that I want to do.
What is the reason for the humanitarian work you are doing for the society?
I think I am just blessed and my mom always tells me not to forget where I came from. Sincerely I don’t come from a poor family. I and my family have been blessed throughout. I have always thought of other people, where they came from and the ups and down they face. And I have had it very rich from family to the kind of schools I went to how I lived. I can’t forget, because He has done so much for my family to live the kind of life we have lived. So I had to do something on my own to my fans. And I think that is the reason I haven’t gone to anybody for help.
Why are you still living with your parents?
They refuse to let me move out. I think they still want to keep me grounded. They say it is not the African tradition. They said I have to get married before I move out. So I am still there. I remember recently I said to them I have seen a house, and they were like where, when you get a husband and your husband takes your hand, you can move out. My father is very traditional. I think all these are just t keep you grounded. But I don’t mind, I don’t pay bills. So I just said to myself why am I even fighting? So I am taking full advantage, I am using them very well and they are allowing me. So I am very happy.
Are there plans to bring the man home soon?
(Laughs) I am very single right now. They will have to wait for a while when God gives me the right man. I think I want to continue living with them. I am single and I think I haven’t had the time too. I am always on my guard because you want to know the kind of people who come to you. I don’t want to talk about my private life. When it happens, it happens.
Why do Ghanaian actresses love exposing their body?
I think sometimes when you are acting, you feel like doing something that you want to be remembered for. Maybe in the course you overdo it. It depends on the script. I think in Ghana we wanted to start something, like a Trans-setter. I remember in those days, when people are kissing and they do it tackily, and we are thinking if you can’t kiss, then don’t do it. So I think we ended up doing it well or we are overdoing it. The truth of the matter is it exists in our culture. Our culture does not allow topics like sex and nudity but in a way sometimes I think we are also being hypocritical. A Hollywood movie will come, we will watch it and be happy and compliment them. I think if you are going to do nudity, you should not do it in a tacky way. It should be done with what will conform to our culture. I think it is about choice, if you think you want to remove yourself and think it will help your character and you don’t have a problem with it, it is fine.
So far, have you done any sex scene?
Someone like Shirley does sex scenes, but they have a way of doing it and it does not look tacky. I don’t do it because when I go back home I will be spanked. I remember for Adam Apple, there was a sex scene and I said to her, I can’t do it. You have to let me know how you are going to do it. So she said we are not going to do it in a tacky way. You sit down you kiss the guy and we take it from different angle. So there were times that we were not even kissing at all. We were just moving our heads and then they will say cut. And then we lay down and they will drop the hand of your bra and top and take the upper part from different angle and that is it. In the end, it looks like you are naked. That day we were doing it, she had to sack everybody. So it was remaining Shirley, I, the Director and the Cameraman.