From MURPHY GANAGANA, Jos After passing through a traumatic experience of being raped all night by a man literarily described by the police as a beast from hell, the curtain seem to have closed for a 15-year-old girl (names withheld), as medical examination has confirmed her assailant HIV positive. The teenager was said…
She’s a closed chapter!
By Anthony Obi
Joseph Benjamin is without doubt a household name in the Nigerian movie industry. He started acting at the age of 12 in the popular children’s programme, Tales By Moonlight on NTA. And ever since, he has been consistent, playing one role after the other.
Having done enough of acting and presenting, the charming actor set his foot on the threshold of music he claims is the bedrock of his career. Benjamin opened up to The Entertainer on his career and other issues. Excerpts:
Who is Joseph Benjamin?
Joseph Benjamin is an actor, TV presenter and also a voice-over artiste. I am from Kogi State but I grew up in Lagos State. I also grew up around Nigeria. We moved around a lot because I grew up under my stepfather who is an expatriate. So, his job entailed us moving about. That is why I said I grew up around Nigeria.
Can you let us into your family background?
I came from a family of four siblings and my position is second. I had my primary education in Benue State where I had part of my childhood. My secondary education was in Lagos State, Isheri Grammar School to be precise and I proceeded to get a Diploma in Computer Literacy at University of Nigeria (UNN) Distance Learning Programme. Currently, I am studying Philosophy at University of Ibadan.
What are you doing at the moment in the industry?
I am filming. I’m actually doing what I know how to do best.
Aside acting what else do you do?
I co-host a musical reality show called Project Fame West Africa. I am a presenter and I also do MC job.
How did you get the role of co-hosting MTN Project Fame?
I was auditioned like every other person and I eventually got the job after rigorous series of auditions.
Did your influence as famous actor help in clinching the deal?
I would say yes and no. Yes, in the sense that the experience helped me to be able to pull through the audition. And no, in the sense that it was strictly based on talent and what you can do.
You have been co-hosting the show for…?
(Cuts in) Yes, I have been co-hosting the show for five seasons running.
With all these activities you are saddled with, how do you manage your time?
Every job is demanding. Every job has its own requirements. So, as it comes calling whatever is required of you, you do. You understand that when it is time to work, you work. I am so deep into it and I love it and enjoy it. Everything around me has to come to terms to the fact that this is my life and this is what I do.
You are separated from your wife on a mutual agreement, which is unusual with the divorce scenarios playing out here. When a marriage is not heading in the right direction the man or the woman either heads for divorce but yours is different. Could we say growing up under a foreigner, who is your stepfather, influenced your reasoning?
I would like to go mute on that question because to a very large extent that is a very sensitive topic and I have promised myself not to bring that issue anymore to light or the public. I choose not to answer questions concerning that issue. All I can say is that my stepfather’s influence in my life has been very positive but as regards me and my marriage I choose not to talk about it and I don’t want it in the public anymore.
As an actor of repute, what will make you reject a movie role?
For me, I look at the content of the script. I go for possibilities and key components in a script. Those that immediately affect us or address issues that deal with our everyday life and so on. I tell people that movies are beyond entertainment; it is also a platform to educate people. So, if these key components are in there then that attracts me as a person and I go ahead to take the role.
What if the key components are not there but the script comes with a lot of monetary values, would you still reject it?
Money is not all there is to it because if you want to attach a monetary value to your gift and your talent, it limits your level of creativity. That way, you know that everything you are expressing is spelled by money and is motivated by money as well. For me, it goes beyond money even if we know we have to pay bills and earn our living from it. We have to be sure that the story on its own sells in good light and is something that you want to attach to your resume because these things we do go a long way to speak for us.
How would you describe yourself?
I am an easygoing guy who takes life just very easy and allows things take its natural cause. To some people, they see and describe me as a whole lot but I am just natural, plain and myself.
To a large extent divorce is rampant among celebrities, in your opinion what do you think is responsible for this?
Again, we are going back to that same sensitive issue which I said…
I asked your opinion?
For me, marriage is a journey and for everyone who goes into it understands why he or she goes into it. It takes a lot of grace and patience to stay in there. For those who have falling out of it they have their reasons and they know what went wrong and what they went through. But for those who are still there I can only pray for more grace and strength from God for them to pull through and be able to hold in there, because I have a lot of friends who are still in marriage. I will not speak or judge anybody’s decision on marriage. Like the saying goes that you do not feel the hurt any man is going through in a pair of shoes except you put your own feet into the pair of shoes. The most important thing is: are you at peace with your life decision and God? That is all that matters most.
How do you cope with your female fans?
I get that question a lot of time but I tell people there is nothing there. It is just you being very professional, very cordial and of course accord everyone the level of respect and audience they need. Basically, people misconstrue it and say once you are good-looking guy and you are in entertainment that you will have a lot of female attention, it is normal. But you have to handle it professionally. As much as possible you will understand, judging by human demography, that female fans constitute the larger population of our fan base. And these are the people who enjoy what we do; they also encourage and inspire what we do.
What is the nastiest thing a fan has ever done to you?
I can’t remember. I don’t think I have been in that kind of situation before. What happens is meeting fans that want to take pictures with you especially the females walking out of their boyfriends to take a picture with you, and you will see the expression on the guy’s face. At that point, you have to be very wise by walking up to the guy and exchange pleasantries with him so that you don’t send the wrong impression.
How has the journey been from when you started till now?
It has been amazing and wonderful. I always tell people that there is a journey and you have to work through the journey. The pact to greatness is not by the tap of a finger. I thank God it has been from grace to grace. I have been excelling and growing. At least, I am not where I was years ago. I have experienced a lot of positive changes.
Your career started with music, are you going back into music?
Of course, this year that musical part of me will come out. I basically started with music, and it will find expression this year.
When are you coming out?
Just stay tuned to this channel (laughs).
What is your resolution for the year?
To be the best I can be in whatever it is that I set out to do. I want to put smiles on the faces of people. Less resolution, more revelation is my watchword for the year. We may make resolutions and at the end of the day not have the grace to be able to live up to it.
Of all the movies you have acted which ones do you consider as your most challenging and less challenging?
The most challenging movie I have done so far is set to come out this year. It is titled, The Stripped. Then as regards emotions, Tango With Me was a breaker for me as well. And for the less challenging, I don’t think of any because every job I get comes with its unique push, and demands for me to exhibit what I am suppose to exhibit.
What is your philosophy of life?
Be the best at everything you set out to do. If God should be your focal point, watchword, backbone and foundation then every other thing will fall into place. Don’t try to be like any man, be yourself. You are uniquely made so key into that unique factor and you will be able to annex God-given ability and talent in you. And always be prepared because once preparedness meets opportunity success is inevitable.