Wednesday, May 14, 2014 3:28 pm
Belinda Effah, winner of the Most Promising Act at the Africa Movie Academy Awards, AMAA, held last year in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State, speaks with FUNSHO AROGUNDADE on her trajectory to the top of the Nigerian movie industry
Not many are aware that you are a product of a talent hunt show.
Yes. That was in 2006. I was in my final year at the university when a friend told me about The Next Movie Star reality show. She gave me all the information about the show and I picked up the form, went for the audition in Port-Harcourt and luckily, scaled through. And that little girl from Calabar made it into the house and also into the finals.
So, The Next Movie Star actually paved the way for you?
I was one of the last housemates standing. I thought being one of the finalists at such show would easily create openings for me. But I was wrong. I tried all I could for almost four years and wasn’t able to make anything tangible out of the industry, so I decided to take a break.
When did you return to the industry?
I came back in 2011.
Why did you return?
I will say the industry actually called me back.
I got a message from a producer on Facebook inviting me for a production. When I read the message, I was a bit skeptical because of things that happen on the social media. However, I reached out to the producer, who later offered me a great role in Tales of Eve, the highly successful television series. The series gave me a huge platform because I got noticed as a lot of people got to see the series and subsequently, different producers tried to get my contact for other productions.
What did you study while in school?
I studied and have a B.Sc in genetics and biotechnology from the University of Calabar.
Yes. I love the course and fell in love with it. Initially, I had wanted to study medicine but that wasn’t forthcoming. Then I was offered Genetics, fell in love with the course, started studying hard and graduated with a good grade. But at the back of my mind, it had always been acting.
You studied science but have your heart in the arts. What would you say prepared you for what you are doing today?
I would say that I had always wanted to act right from childhood. While growing up in Calabar, I always tried to mimic people, which made me to later join the drama group in my church. But the greater opportunity presented itself when I came to Lagos on holiday and met a modelling agent who invited me to model for a brand. It was after the modelling job that I saw an advert on television inviting fresh talents for auditioning for a television series. I bought the form and went for the audition. Later, I was offered a minor role in the production, Shallow Waters. With my small role [in the series], my passion for acting increased. But I was still in school in Calabar. So each time we had break in school, I would rush down to Lagos to hustle for roles and when I graduated from the university, I relocated to Lagos to pursue my passion.
Since your return, how would you describe the experience?
It has not been easy as I did not just fold my arms for the opportunity to fall on my laps. But the journey has been so wonderful. At a time, Belinda was a struggling actress but the story has changed today. All thanks to Emem Isong and Uduak Isong of Royal Arts Academy, who featured me in their hit movies Udeme Mmi and Kokomma.
Would it be right to say that these local language movies, especially Kokomma, launched you into limelight?
You are right, because featuring in those movies opened bigger doors for me. The movie, Kokomma, fetched me a lot of awards.
There are some people who believe Belinda is an actress whose strength lies in local language movies.
But I have done a couple of great English movies. I started with English movies before I was invited to feature in those two language movies that further pushed me into the limelight. I think the reason for this could be because the producers of those two movies were strong and marketed those movies far and wide. A lot of people got to see Kokomma and Udeme Mmi, and they were impressed with my performances. But the truth is that I am not limited to language films. I can deliver my role in any kind of movies, English or otherwise. Once I can speak a particular language, give me the script and I will stun you with my delivery.
How did you feel when you were announced the AMAA Best Young Actress last year?
That I was nominated alone for such prestigious AMAA in the first place was a big win for me. But prior to the award night in Bayelsa, I had kept an open mind that winning the award would be an added advantage. To be honest, I was very tense because I checked out the profiles of other nominated actors in that Best Promising Act category, and they were outstanding. Meanwhile, prior to that nomination I had won Golden Icons Academy Movie Awards, GIAMA’s Best New Actress for my lead role in Kokomma, as well as Best of Nollywood’s Most Promising Actress. I have also gotten a lot of recognition awards. So at that point, I just spoke to the Lord to let the trend keep flowing and complete what He has started. And then I heard my name. I was overwhelmed when I was later announced as the winner.
What would you say has helped you rise to where you are now?
As an actor, the best thing you can do for yourself is to keep improving on your skill. As much as I don’t copy other people’s act, if there’s any need for me to study a particular character, I will do so. However, there are some people I look up to in our industry as mentors. They include Genevieve Nnaji, Majid Mitchel and Uche Jombo. I pick one or two things from them in terms of acting, packaging and business sense.
Have you had cause to reject scripts because you were paired with someone you did not like?
I hope to get to that level where I would make such choice. But as an actor you should be able to play your role without being sentimental. For me, I have not been paired up with someone I considered a bad actor and had to reject such role.
Have you played any romantic role in a movie?
Yes, I have played love scenes before now. I played love scenes with Alex Ekubo and Majid Mitchel. I have also played love scene with Kanayo O Kanayo.
How do you deal with temptation to have affair while on set?
I always keep it professional whenever I’m on set. I don’t want a situation where I would be uncomfortable on set simply because I have dated one person or the other. I respect myself and respect everybody.
But have you had such request?
Of course, I am a goodlooking lady. Guys will come.
How do you deal with such request?
First and foremost, I am human, but I always tell myself that I am a role model to many ladies out there. I am not acting because I want to act. I have a desire to affect people’s lives positively through my act. Leadership is in service. I wouldn’t want to mess up my reputation now because of my involvement in an advocacy against rape. I have a reputation to protect. I can’t afford to mess around in the industry. If I am tempted, I can easily go outside the industry to get myself a boyfriend.
Does that mean you can’t date a fellow actor?
I didn’t say that. If I find somebody in the industry that I fall head over heels in love with, why not?