By Bolatito Adebayo
Linda Ejiofor plays the role of Bimpe an awkward character with a sharp tongue on MNET Africa’s weekly soap, Tinsel. The University of Port Harcourt graduate of sociology was formerly a model and played the role of Ejura in Rita Dominic’s first production. The Meeting. She is gradually spreading her tentacles to new audiences across the world. The new Nollywood sweetheart spoke to The Entertainer recently on her career, challenges, her relationships and many more. Excerpts:
How did you become an actor?
I never wanted or thought that I would be an actor, but an opportunity surfaced while I was waiting for youths service some years back. The thing about me is that I have always wanted to be independent, so, I got involved in modeling on a part time basis. One day, my friend encouraged me to go for the Tinsel auditions. I was reluctant at first, but then I gave it a shot and that’s how I got the role Bimpe on Tinsel.
Did your parents disapprove your choice of career?
I always say approval or disapproval is normal for every Nigerian parent. They object because they care about their kids. Yes, initially, my parents did object, but now, my parents are supportive and as soon as they realized this was something I enjoyed they came on board fully. My father is constantly telling everyone, my daughter is on TV.
Why did you dump sociology for acting?
I won’t say I dumped Sociology, it’s just the direction God wanted me to go .
How long have you been acting?
Five years. I started with Tinsel, then went on to do a short film titled National Cake some years back and then recently The Meeting
Do you still do modeling?
No, I don’t. I’m now focussed on acting
What are your challenges?
I haven’t faced challenges as such, except dealing with the normal stereotypes, like people thinking acting is not a noble profession, but I am on set almost every day of the week just like you go to work every day.
Also, because I come from a TV background, transitioning to film was a bit challenging, but it worked out.
Was there a time things got tough you wanted to quit?
No, I have not gotten to that point, and I hope never to.
Tell us more about your television background
Tinsel is a family soap that airs on TV, five times a week and an omnibus on Sundays. I’ve been doing that consistently for five years, until recently when I ventured onto the silver screen with The Meeting courtesy of Mildred Okwo who had confidence in me and gave me a chance to audition for the role of Ejura.
What are you like when you are not on set?
I’m on set on the average five times a week, so my free time is weekends and of course there is church on Sundays. So whatever leisure time I can squeeze out I’ll either spend it sleeping, watching a movie or reading up on acting literature.
What inspires you?
God and the drive to be better
Who is your role model in the industry?
Rita Dominic. I think she is very talented. I also love Zoe Saldana. I look up to Nse Ikpe-Etim too. She is amazing. I also admire Mildred Okwo, I call her Mama. I consider her my mother in the industry
What’s your childhood like?
Growing up was so much fun. I grew up with my parents and siblings and at some point I attended boarding school. My siblings and I were mischievous , so pranks were a constant thing in the Ejiofor household. It was so much fun and I spent more than half of the time fighting with my elder brother. You know the way things are with siblings, but these days, looking back I wonder why we had to fight. We are now close and I speak to him about almost everything. Growing up was fun, I remember bonding with my siblings, family friends and neighbors. My Parents are loving and they made sure I got my priorities right.
Were you a very popular student or a nerd?
(Laughs) I wasn’t a nerd neither was I unserious. When I was in junior secondary school I didn’t like staying in boarding school, but things changed after I had a talk with my mum during senior school and decided to make the best out of it. Then school became a lot more interesting. The key is to balance the fun with academics and that’s what I did.
Are you daddy’s girl?
Yes, I am
What’s your relationship like with your mum?
Very good. Whenever I needed to convince my dad about a decision I am about to make, I go to my mum first. She is also my role model. I always say to people that my mum is a typical example of how mums should be .
What do you love about your mum?
She’s truthful and that’s what mothers are known for, always leading you in the right direction, always telling you when you are wrong and when you are right, always settling quarrels between you and your siblings. She is a good listener. My mum and I weren’t that close, I was closer to my dad but when I became a teenager, I switched to my mum, so I could sit down and talk to my mum like my girlfriend, but I won’t tell her ‘everything’, if you know what I am saying…(laughs).
Do you have friends you confide in?
Not really, friends backstab you most of the time. I have friends but there are things I still have to keep to myself. Friends are still humans and human beings would still betray you in one way or the other.
Tell me what thing you told your mum and she was shocked?
I think that would be when I told my mum I would be kissing someone on the set of the movie, The Meeting, and she was like “Haaaa!, how will you tell your father that one?’’ and I said No now, you know how you will tell daddy now, it’s acting now!’’ Funny enough, my dad was understanding, he knew it was a movie and I had to play the role. He was like it’s acting, “…you are doing your job, as long as you don’t do something worse than that, I am cool with that’’.
Was it that you’ve never kissed before?
No, I have but they just hadn’t seen it before especially on Tinsel even though I had to kiss Soji in Season 2 and practically had to rape Philip, but they didn’t watch all those ones. So they didn’t really know until in The Meeting. I told them Rita Dominic was in this new movie and I had to kiss this guy. My mum was like ok o, sha be there when I am telling your father sha o . The only day my dad watched something on Tinsel was when Soji and I were almost doing things behind the couch, I was so sure they didn’t watch it. My dad called before I got home that he was home alone and wasn’t feeling too well and I said I would be home soon. When I got home, he was asking how work went that day and I was giving him updates. The next morning when we were all having breakfast, my mum said “ They saw you and Soji oo, doing that thing behind the couch’’ I started explaining to my father that I wasn’t wearing a short skirt while carrying out the role and all that and he surprised me by saying “ I know and I understand” and my sister was now like “Why are you explaining profusely?’’ and I replied he’s still my father’’. My father is an easy going person who never raised his hand on us but my mum did all that maybe that was why I wasn’t close to her in the earlier stages of my life.
What does your dad do?
My dad used to be a businessman, used to sell cars but along the way things changed . Him and my mum now run a restaurant on Ijesha road. My dad would not allow his girls to sell at the restaurant but the boys can do that. We have five boys and two girls and I am the first.
What are the biggest lessons you learnt from your parents?
Hard work and humility. We were taught not look down on people and forever be thankful to God for our situation because good things come to those who wait.
Was there a period when your dad’s business wasn’t really paying the bills and your mum had to ‘step in’?
Yes, that was when she started the restaurant business. She had a provision store then and a sales girl. We were little then and it wouldn’t be enough to pay the bills but the restaurant business did. My mum did well in the business because she was hard working. They have been doing great together. My parents never ‘fought’ in front of us, those are lessons learnt from them too.
What happened to one of your brothers?
I had a younger brother who was born with a hole in the heart and it was not anything I would want my enemy to go through let alone my family. It was hell for him, my parents and his siblings. My brother couldn’t walk from one place to another and he had to drop out of primary school for two years for treatment and tests. Someone told my dad about a place in Enugu and they took my brother there and we always held night vigils there and prayed for him. He was the cutest boy ever but now he is not that cute anymore because of that ugly illness. There were days I would see my mum sitting down and crying, praying that God should just take this cross away from her. My dad would be praying that instead of taking his son’s life, God should take his. Later , the boy went for the operation and it was very successful. He’s healthy now but still had to undergo another operation.
How did his travails affect your life?
People tell me that both of us look like my father and I was close to him. I could tell him anything even though I might not be able to tell my other siblings because they might not take it well, I tell him because we are that close. When we were younger, I took him to many places and my other siblings too cared for him and if anyone looked for his trouble, that person would be a ‘dead rat’ because we would so descend on him or her just to protect his feelings but now he has grown up to be a very ‘naughty’ boy now. I don’t know what I could have done if he didn’t survive that period but I am thankful to God and would forever be thankful to God that he kept him till now and would continue to keep him.
What did your mum tell you about boys?
She told me “Stay away from boys” , before I went to school. That was when I was going to the university, and she called and said “you know all these things that we used to hear from the university” adding “…you’re a very pretty girl and a guy can just come and toast you and he might be a cult guy and then they will start to fight over you” She said please don’t go after anybody, don’t have boyfriends (laughs) I took my mother’s advice.
What did your mum tell you about sex?
You know those things they used to say that “don’t let a boy touch you , if you do you will get pregnant.” My mum called me but before then I already knew what she wanted to say because my school mother had already told me all of that. My mum said “you are now becoming a woman but you’re a young girl. Don’t allow boys to touch you if they do , you will get pregnant.” She told me everything about sex. She taught me all then when it was my younger sister’s turn she left it to me. So when it was my last sister’s turn she screamed my name and said “are you not old enough to teach your sister what is right?” So I sat her down and told her that if you allow boys to touch you, you will get pregnant. As for my younger brothers, I’m sure my father would have told them, you know boys learn fast.
What’s the greatest lesson your mum taught you that you hold dear to your heart?
My mum is the strongest person I know. She is kind and loyal. Everything she does and how she does them is a constant inspiration. She keeps me grounded and focused.
Mention few of the movies you have acted in National Cake, Heroes and Zeroes and The Meeting
What was the most embarrassment time on set?
I really don’t like to get into awkward situations, but the character I play on Tinsel is constantly getting me into one awkward situation or the other. So most times I hardly feel embarrassed because Bimpe has done it all.
I read somewhere that you initially wanted to go for advertising, so have you now dumped the idea for acting?
Yes, acting is what I am focusing on now.
As a beautiful actress, how do you handle your male fans?
The male fans come, and I try as much as possible to accommodate them. I oblige them when they want to take photos and sometimes, we talk, but I know where to draw the line.
Are you in a relationship?
I am single, but I am not searching
Are you heading for the altar?
It’s every woman’s dream to someday get married, so yes I hope to get married soon .
You always look great on set; what’s your secret?
Thank you. There are a lot of talented hair and makeup people out there so kudos to them. On my part I drink lots of water and I go to the gym a lot. My workout routine is 30/45 minutes on the treadmill, squats, sit ups and rope skipping. I also ensure that no matter how tired I am, I never fall asleep with makeup on. That’s basically it.
You gave life to the character you played in Tinsel, how did you do it?
First of all, when season one of Tinsel started, we were all new faces and we were getting to know the characters. I later complained to the writer that the character is boring, dumb and all. You know what they told me? They said, I should enjoy the character and make it feel better. I took the advice of the writer, and I started bringing life to the character by bringing out the mischievous part and all.
Who are the people that toast you now?
Like I said, I’m always indoor so I hardly see toasters now. I haven’t had any toaster in a while. People don’t really toast me. I only receive positive comments from people about my acting skills and all.
So before Tinsel, who were those that get to toast you?
Young guys who drive flashy cars, you know I wasn’t driving before Tinsel, so when they see me at the bus-stop waiting for okada, they park and say let me give you a lift but I reject such offers.
In terms of relationships, has anything changed?
Nothing has changed.
What kind of pressure do you face in a relationship?
The person I’m in a relationship with should trust me. He must understand my job, and know that I’m not doing anything at his back and God willing, I will not do anything that will jeopardize that relationship.
How do you relate with your fans?
You know your fans can break or make your relationship; they can also make or mar your career, so you know how to relate with them. I know how to address them. Fans need to know that they are my fans and there is a line between my life as an actress and my real self. So they must respect that.
Has anybody attempted to cross that line?
I just thank God anyone hasn’t. I know how to handle my fans and I don’t think I have given them the chance to cross the line, because I will be nice to the person in telling him that he is crossing the line and I’m sure he would understand.
Can your boyfriend come to your house and be ‘naughty’?
Hmmm, you are beginning to intrude oo. I have friends that are guys but they can’t come to my house and be naughty. Have you seen my father before? You can’t be naughty where my father is, you would have to behave yourself , so my friends are well respected guys that come to our house to come see me. They can’t be naughty.
You said earlier that your boyfriend or husband has to be like your father, why did you say that?
My dad is very God-fearing
What has life taught you?
Life is a lesson that we continue to learn until we’re no more. So I don’t think I’m done learning life’s lesson. But so far putting in my all is one of the things I’ve learnt.
What’s your advice for people who look up to you?
Hard work is key. Then there is also persistence, and keeping your options open.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
As far as God takes me. But for now I am focusing on improving on my art, and being the best that I can be. I want to act more movies and I’d continue to give my best on set when the opportunity arises. I’d also read acting literature and above all, put God first in everything I do.