Talk star wattage and you have it. That was what the duo of Kate Henshaw and Rita Dominic brought to the table when they joined staging.sabinews.com for a sit down and chat over drinks at the Radisson Blu, Lagos.
Rita looked fetching in a loose fitting patterned number over mini black shots while Kate was supremely elegant and ageless in an all black ensemble accentuated with white stripes.
The Nollywood A-listers and stars of the new tv show, Screen Divas showing on Ebony Life on Dstv channels 165 went down memory lane as they spoke with Peju Akande and Toni Kan about their careers, their successes, their new show, the price of fame, Nollywood and what the future holds. They were funny, exciting and relaxed. Excerpts
SABINEWS.COM: First of all, Kate, why are you doing Screen Divas?
KATE. The topic we are treating is very dear to me. I am a woman, first and foremost. I am a mother, I am a sister so those three reasons are enough to help beam the search light on domestic violence and hopefully put an end to it and I am very positive about it.
SABINEWS.COM: The first episode you did was clear that this is a woman thing, is that was it is about?
KATE: Well, it is not a woman thing because I don’t want it to look as if we are against the men, I know that there are a lot of men who treasure their wives, their daughters, their sisters, who take care of them and play their own part and we also have the others who are not doing the right thing, who feel that you need to ride a woman, put her down, make her to be under you literally so to speak before you can say you love her, so we are reaching out to the good men to help partner with us to reach out to the others – I won’t necessarily call them bad names but if they continue they are bad to me – to speak to them and help them change their ways because I am sure those men they have mothers, they have daughters and sisters.
SABINEWS.COM: My question goes to Rita, award winning actress and producer, what have you done that you did not do well?
RITA: Let me think, The Meeting. We put our all into it and looking back now, there are some things I will have loved to change especially playing the character of Clara Ikemba. Watching it now I feel there are things I would have loved to change, characterization wise, but you see there was so much pressure on us because we had a certain budget. You know how it is trying to do a movie in Nigeria; it can be stressful. So looking back at that there are so many things I feel I should have done differently and in terms of some of the sets that we built we should have done it in a different way but I don’t like to regret anything that I have done, so I will say I am happy with what I have done.
SABINEWS.COM: Who did your costume for you, because the make-up and everything, it was crazy?
RITA. That make-up took three hours every day, my face was on fire. It was done by a very talented special effects lady. She studied in some university in South Africa and she has won two awards for her work at AMAA and the NMA that just passed. She is very good, we had a meeting with her, she got an idea on how the character will look and so we went back and forth and that is how we created the character.
The costume was done by different people, we had Yolanda Okereke, but we had Bolaji Animashaun. She actually started off first then Yolanda took off from there.
SABINEWS.COM: Kate you have been here for like forever, from the beginning of the Nollywood till now?
KATE: (General laughter) When you people say that it is as if I am supposed to be using cane somewhere or something.
RITA: And she is still so young. In this society once you are thirty and above you are supposed to become tired. It is only in Nigeria that they think that way. In other African countries they don’t even think that way.
KATE: Look at J.lo, look at Oprah they are still looking hot. Its only in Nigeria. It is just beef, they are just angry. Me, I don’t take beef anymore, I take fish. (general laughter)
SABINEWS.COM: You see my point is this, so many people who started acting with you, I don’t want to mention names, but so many of them are gone.
KATE: Tony I will tell you something everyone has their own path in life, maybe they didn’t want to step out of the lime light, maybe personal stuff, commitment elsewhere, moving on to other things, it doesn’t necessarily mean they must remain with us because we started together.
SABINEWS.COM: But you have become more of a brand, you don’t act like before but you are still there, talent shows, brand ambassador?
KATE: That is how it should have been since. (general laughter). Our counterparts abroad, they are making enough so if they say I want to do one film in a year, two films in a year, it’s okay you know.
They have restaurants, they have perfumes, they have clothing lines and they are still in the consciousness of the audience. So, there is still so much to tap into as Kate Henshaw or as Rita Dominic the brand, the Nollywood actress, as an entertainer. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface.
SABINEWS.COM: Rita, all these awards. You have won so much in ten to fifteen years, is it hard work or luck?
RITA: I will say it is a bit of luck to be honest, because at the end of the day we are still here but it doesn’t make us the best actors. We have been blessed by God so that is why I will say luck and of course hard work, because you can work so hard and you are still not there.
SABINEWS.COM: Why are you involved in Screen Divas?
RITA: I am in screen Divas because I believe in what we are trying to do. I wouldn’t have done a reality show if it was just a reality show but because of the topic, when she called us and put all of these together, I said you know what I am interested. We have lots of women out there who are scared to speak up and are afraid to live their lives, so maybe if they see us talking to them, shooting films giving them encouragement to speak up maybe we will do something positive.
After I shot that film, Shattered, in Kenya, it actually opened my eyes to abuse, to serious abusive and volatile relationships and the character I played was one of such and it was a dark period for me, so when this project came up, I said yes.
SABINEWS.COM: Kate in your acting you were always very emotional, is that how you are in real life?
KATE: I am very emotional. I am too soft but you know you have to put up a barrier so people don’t use you as mortar and pestle and you are the yam inside. You just have to be strong. Sometimes, if I laugh too much I start crying.
SABINEWS.COM: Now let me ask the two of you, you are very successful female actors and you know once success comes, scrutiny comes, and then scandals, what is the worst thing that has been written about you?
KATE: That was way back. There was an outfit I wore, it had net but was covered here and here. I wore it without an under wear and it was flashed in the front of papers. I was like oooooooh. But that has passed, now my skin is so tough before your knives can enter e go bend. So, apart from that I say just take it in your stride and like Tuface says, if nobody talks about you then you are nobody.
Chidi Mokeme once said, you spend like twenty years of your life trying to get in front of the camera and the rest of your life trying to hide away from it but it comes with the territory so you just have to take it in your stride.
SABINEWS.COM: How about you Rita?
RITA: There was some time back that they said Jim Iyke and I ran to a secret Island and we got married. I felt it was totally way out, absurd. Something that is so untrue. You know what, you just learn not to weep, learn not to bother yourself, because the truth is they will always talk about you, they will always say things that are not true.
SABINEWS.COM: One of the things that is being talked about now is the new Nollywood and when they talk about the new Nollywood they talk about the meeting, do you feel this new wave?
RITA: I will say yes, because in those days we used to shoot, well, it took like five days, six days. Now we even shoot for months.
In those days we used somebody’s house. Now, we build sets. We have tracks and everything. They are there but we are not using it because it costs a lot.
But, if you want your film to be of international standard, even if it is not up to, just try and make that effort so that when people are watching they can begin to see Nollwood as okay. You must have that balance.
SABINEWS.COM: What roles do you think awards like AMVCA play? You know when Channel O came our music videos changed.
RITA: Yes, I agree even though they will still put the old movies of ancient times on their TVs. Look at the AMVCAs they set the bar and you as a film producer, as an actress you want to aspire; I want to win this award.
KATE: Look at the first set of awards, very nicely done so a lot of people will be looking forward to the second one.
SABINEWS.COM: Kate, will you ever direct or produce a movie?
KATE: I will produce. I want to direct. I have that eye. I produced a documentary. I know how to organize things. For directing, I want to understudy someone like Mildred, Amaka Igwe.
RITA: Izu Ojukwu. He is fantastic he takes his time and he doesn’t do any kind of film. His films come out once in a while.
SABINEWS.COM: Rita, The Audrey Silva Company. What is about those two people that made you name a company after them?
RITA: I love them, they are my two all-time iconic actresses who have inspired and still inspire I and are my business partner.
I have some of her works. I have watched Audrey. She is a natural actor, and off course our darling Joke Silva. We love her and I said pick two women from here and from home who have inspired us and off course we already have Kate and Joke Silva, and somebody asked why did Audrey come before Aunty Joke, but of course she is Joke’s senior.
SABINEWS.COM: Is there any actor you will love to work with?
RITA: I really wanted to work with Sam Loco Efe but he is dead now, that was why it really pained me when he died because I never worked with him and I also want to work with Majid Mitchel and I heard he wants to work with us, he is very intense I want us to work together.
SABINEWS.COM: How about you Kate?
A. I don’t think there is anyone. I worked with Uncle Sam, I worked with Uncle Justus. Majid. Yes, I haven’t worked with Jackie. Jackie Appiah.
SABINEWS.COM: Nollywood at twenty, what are your thoughts?
RITA: We have come a long way and we still have a long way to go.
KATE: For me, I will just say I am celebrating my twenty years in the industry. That is why I came out with my picture book and some people are saying: aah look at me in the picture, look at the camera we were using, the costumes and everything.
Reading the papers recently there was a little quarrel among film makers; is Nollywood 20? When did Nollywood really start? People are saying; you have to look back at Ogunde’s movies but was that Nollywood? Well I don’t know, I am talking for myself, I am twenty years in Nollywood, the Nollywood that I know and we still have a long way to go. I thank God for movies like The Meeting, Kunle’s Afolayan’s movies, Blessing Egbe who is doing Lekki Wives, Uche Jumbo with her movies. We are setting the pace. We are just raising the bar. That is all I have got to say.
RITA: You know Nollywood as it is called, it’s not really 20. When that reporter from America came in 2000 that was when they really started calling it Nollywood. It was just called Nigerian Movie Industry but when it really got noticed was when they did Living in Bondage and that was in 1993 and that is twenty years.
SABINEWS.COM: I believe in Nigeria because…
KATE: I believe in Nigeria because this is my country. I have no where else to go, because I know we are so much more than the situation we are in right now in every area, in education, infrastructure, we are so much better.
RITA: I believe in Nigeria because with the situation in the country, the people are very strong and they are trying to survive, they are very strong people. I believe in Nigerians and I believe in Africanism.
SABINEWS.COM: In ten years from now I see myself…
RITA: In ten years from now I see myself still acting, producing, and doing films that will be noticed in international forums, maybe directing who knows.
KATE: In ten years’ time I see myself setting up something to help young people; show them the way to behave, for lack of a better word, when they are coming into the entertainment industry and hopefully produce something very close to my heart.