Ijeoma Aguh is a lady who is very passionate about what she believes in. The actress spoke with DOYIN ADEOYE in this interview about her passion and how her career has grown over the years.
I attended Franej International High School, Benin City for my primary and secondary school education. Then I went to the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, where I studied Biochemistry.
Foray into acting
I remember when I was 14, I was watching a television programme and I saw a friend of mine among the group of actors on stage. I later asked her about it and told her I was interested in acting. She introduced me to the creative director and that was how I did my first stage plays; Morountodun and Twelfth Night. The Theatre troupe then was called Creative Steps. I started acting professionally in 2007; I had just finished my degree exams and felt that was the career I wanted to pursue professionally. So, I came back to Lagos and started going for auditions and four months later, I did my first screen acting in Eldorado, a TV series directed by Fidelis Duker.
The movie that brought me to limelight
I’d say I’m yet to hit the limelight, but HoodRush, a musical in which I played Kelechi; a victimised character, brought me some form of recognition and of course the psychological thriller, Misfit, where I played the starring role of an abducted prostitute kept in hiding for ritual purposes, also put my name out there.
First experience on set
It was surreal and exciting at the same time. I was confident but at the same time terrified. It was a mixture of emotions to say the least. But it all went well. I’m sure I’d say the opposite if I were to watch my performance now.
Challenges faced at the initial stage of my career
I still face them now, because playing roles that push boundaries is a big challenge for me. Interpreting human angle stories that deal on the human character and of course auditioning for roles is not easy. But resilience and the determination to go a long way in this craft has kept me going. If you are disciplined and keep at it, as the Bible says, your talent will eventually make a way for you.
Experience on the Hoodrush set
It was quite exciting. I enjoyed every minute of living and being ‘Kelechi’. It was also great working with talented actors, like OC Ukeje, Bimbo Akintola, Gabriel Afolayan and a director who believed in talents and knew what he was doing.
Why I regret studying Applied Bio-Chemistry
Yes, I regret it because it was a time that I could have gone into studying something I loved and would later pursue, which is acting. As to why I didn’t study acting? Let’s just say it was in the days of ‘you must be a doctor, engineer, lawyer and so on’ but there is no need crying over spilt milk. We are here now and striving to make the best of it.
What inspired my one-man show, A Chronicle of Heroines from Nigerian Plays.
I put it together last year and it was because I loved playing strong independent characters, women who have surmounted all odds. So, while I was looking for a project to submit for the 30Nigeria Award grant, my mentor, Joke Silva suggested; ‘why not do a one-woman show,’ so I decided to re-enact the lives of famous characters from Nigerian Plays.
It was great. Not only was it selected, it also won the three thousand pounds grant from the Theatre Royal Stratford East in the UK. It was well received when I staged it here in Nigeria and it was selected as part of the plays to celebrate the International Women History month in March 2013.
Stage and screen experiences, the one I prefer most
The truth is an actor should be versatile on all media, both the stage and the screen, because each medium gives you a certain training needed to be a rounded actor. I seek that so, I pursue all.
On the issue of dwindling flair for travelling theatre
One has to understand that time changes and with it comes adaptation. Travelling theatre as seen in the days of Hubert Ogunde, was when television wasn’t available to everyone. We had some form of communal living, such as town centers and so on, so people got their entertainment from watching shows of theatre troupes who came to their towns and villages.
But these days, people would rather get this same entertainment in the comfort of their homes. So, artistes had to devise a means of getting their works to people’s homes via television, which gave birth to home videos. Thankfully, the cinema culture has been revived and once again, people can go out and be entertained.
First thing I do when I get a role
I thank God because usually you’d have to audition with a whole lot of people and for you to clinch the role is just God’s mercy. Then I go through the script to see how much information the writer gives about who the character is; the background, personality, journey, wants, goals and so on. The much you uncover about the character helps you in playing the role. If you are lucky, you get all the information you need in the script, if not, that’s why you are an actor, a role interpreter.
Coping with competition in the industry
Truth is, for me, it’s not about the competition but about doing something you love, something that fulfills you. The sky is big enough, so do what you can and let your talent speak for you. No two great actors would play a character the same way.
Coping with sexual harassment on the job
I have been lucky to say the truth. I’ve not been in such a fix before.
How I feel being a part of the Nigerian movie industry
I couldn’t have asked for a better time. I believe the industry is going through a renaissance period and to be part of it all is surreal.
Memorable moments of my career
Being part of the ensemble cast that performed at Stratford during the London 2012 Olympics was a moment I’ll never forget. Also being invited to Paris by NollywoodWeek Film Festival for the international screening of the movie Misfit is also memorable for me.
Then winning the 30Nigeria Award grant, performing on an international stage and my various acting nominations; NMA, City People, BON Awards, it’s quite encouraging.
How I improve my craft
I read a lot of books on acting, I watch tapes, study and listen to the great artistes such as Merryl Streep, Katherine Hepburn, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joke Silva and many other veterans.
Opinion on actresses and provocative dressing
I believe if it is for a role, then I have nothing against it because you have to be the character and interprete the role very well. But if it is personal style, I think everyone has her own style.
Opinion on acting nude
If it helps and moves the story or character forward, then you have to do your job unless if it is not necessary. But moderation is the watchword as it is not porn you are shooting. SEE MORE ON PAGE2