By CHUKS EZE
For fast rising Nollywood diva, Ruth Eze, her mother, Theresa is her all – her best friend, mentor and her pride. According to the Imo State-born talented actress cum scriptwriter, her mum did not initially sanction her entrance into Nollywood until she later assured her that she would not disappoint their family.
But now, Ruth says her businesswoman-turned nurse mother has become her number one fan and morale booster. Having written and also starred in over a dozen hit movies in just four years, including Girls Crip, Desperate Hawkers and Pregnant Hawkers, and Emotional Mistake among others, she says her best is yet to come.
In this chat with The Entertainer, Ruth, a graduate of Business Administration from the University of Benin (UNIBEN), talks about her experiences in Nollywood, the alleged snubbing of up-comers by the stars, her ideal man, as well as her entertainment outfit, Kaxmok among others. Excerpts:
Did you grow up in Ghana or Lagos?
No. I grew up in Kwara State.
Why Kwara State?
Okay. The thing is that my great-grand mother hailed from Owusi in Kwara State.
But where were you born?
I was born in Lagos, Surulere to be precise. But I was later taken to Accra town in Ghana from where I went to Kwara and finally back to Lagos.
How did you break into Nollywood?
It was through our neighbour, one Moses Armstrong. He used to tell me that I would do well in acting and was always encouraging me to attend audition sessions. But I was reluctant until he invited me for a certain audition session. So, I tried it out and it paid off, just like that.
First time you tried audition session, you did well and was taken?
Yes, but it was a small role. So, I would say that it was Moses Armstrong that brought me into Nollywood.
What was the title of the movie?
I can’t really remember now. But I think it was Emotional Mistake. Stephanie Okereke was also on that set.
When you met the likes of Stephanie Okereke and other stars on set, did you feel intimidated, camera shy or a kind of?
Yeah, it happened to everybody at some point. Nobody became a star overnight but through hard work and consistency. And because my mother imbibed utmost humility in me, I accorded everyone on set their respect not minding whether it was Stephanie or a lesser individual. So, I’m humble to the core but bold. Naturally, I hardly feel intimidated or inferior to another person’s profile bearing in mind that at some point, such person must have been somehow naive, a novice or a fresher. But I must confess that seeing her (Stephanie) was a kind of wao! – a big one for me at that time. And she was nice to everyone on set.
Some people have alleged that the mega stars usually snub and keep up-comers at alms length while on set. Have you ever experienced such from stars as a fresher; for instance, that time you were on set with Stephanie and others?
Not really, anyway. I would just say yes and know because, naturally, I exempt a lot. When I’m on set or even at any event, I just comport myself appropriately and mind my business. When it is time for me to perform any role, I just do it to the best of my ability and that’s it. So, I said yes and no because, with my experience now, I have come to realize the reason behind what people used to brand as snubbing or shedding off. And it is that sometimes, when you decide to get too close and friendly with the up-comers you start receiving all sorts of insults from them. So, they choose to limit their level of association and closeness to fresh colleagues. I think that was what I experienced then.
Which of your movies do you consider your biggest hit; I mean one that you would always like to sit back and watch when you feel like viewing your work?
Hmm, it would be Desperate Hawkers and Pregnant Hawkers. To me, that movie is the bomb and it will always remain fresh in my mind. I also wrote the story and so far, it is my favourite.
But among all the movies you have done, which do you consider as the most challenging?
When it comes to the most challenging, Girls’ Crip quickly comes to mind because it was a lesbian movie. It was really, really challenging. And if not that my mum and family members understand the make-belief business, such could pitch me against my family. Coming from a very deep Christian background, you know what that means. So, I informed my mother before going on set and after explaining to her, she gave me a positive nod. She understood that it was just a make-belief that was intended to teach some morals. You know she initially did not like my idea of going into Nollywood due to fear of my becoming wild or uncontrollable. But I gave her my assurances that I would never do anything that would make her unhappy, or give our family a bad name. She is my pride and we are very close. Without blowing my trumpet, I can boldly say that about four years on, I’m still that Ruth that would come home, clean everywhere and prepare our meal. And I’ll always be, as much as I have the chance.
Many people who watched Girls’ Crip felt that the way you people masterly handled your roles seemed as if some of you had been trying out such act off camera before. Do you think that is possible?
(Shudders) No, no! That was just make-belief like I said earlier. Ruth Eze is out of such act. God forbid. I do not believe in living wild life because I was not brought up that way. My mother is my icon and everything and she did not teach me to lust over a fellow woman. And moreover, the Holy Scriptures frowns at it. What would I be seeking in a fellow woman’s body? Though, I do not have anything against those that indulge in such act because, probably it was the kind of upbringing they had or certain past experiences that led them into it. But as for me taking up such act, that is not possible.
But do you think it exists in Nollywood as some people have alleged?
Well, I do not know. That’s what I would say. But mind you that it is the same kind of human beings that you see everywhere in your neighbourhood that also exist in Nollywood. So, if anything is possible out there, then it could be possible everywhere. Nobody owns a house in Nollywood. We all have our families and residences where we return to after each day’s work just like other Nigerians.
Have you ever observed any attitude towards you, by a female colleague, that somehow made you suspect she could be initiating lesbian overtures?
No. I really don’t know what you want to hear from me. Let me tell you, people can actually be very close without indulging in any kind of unwholesome acts…
You wrote Hawkers, right?
Yes I did.
What message did you set out to impart on people through the movie?
The movie is a true-life story. There was a mechanic yard near our area where top shots used to go and service their vehicles then. And they would always take advantage of most hawkers that go there to sell. It was the experience of one of the hawkers at that mechanic shop that I captured in the movie entitled, Hawkers. I used the story to inform the world that hawkers are not really prostitutes; but that it is challenges of life, such as poverty, that usually push people into that kind of business. Who would choose to be walking about under the excruciating heat of the sun or in the rains everyday if not for poverty? It is a pity that rather than help such people, the lives of many of them end up being destroyed by the same people that should assist and rehabilitate them. Many of them hawk as the only option to ensure they put food on their tables. So, that was the message I wanted to put through.
Are you working on any movie at the moment; either writing or shooting?
Yes, I have my hands full at the moment. I’m working on a couple of new movies now both shooting and writing. We just finished shooting one of the latest works I wrote a while ago and it will be out soon. But I‘ll not disclose its title now. Then, the last one I wrote would soon be shot by the marketer that produced Hawkers. And I’ll be on set for another movie from tomorrow.
Did you feature in the new movie that you wrote which you said would be out soon?
Yes, I did.
Is it also a true-life story?
Yes, it is a true-life story of a girl that lost her mother only for her to discover later that… in fact, that’s all I can tell you now. But the movie will also feature the likes of Eve Essien, Yul Edochie, Uche Ebere and others. I played the role of the girl whose mother died which was also a challenging role.
Okay, have you ever kissed on set and it somehow went beyond ordinary make-belief, maybe as a fresher or even recently? I mean, you know, being a human being, things can sometimes slip off your target and you find yourself in another realm?
Eem, yes. (Laughs) Okay, (Laughs again) I think it was in the movie that we just discussed which would be out sometimes this month or thereabout.
Who was the guy you kissed?
What did he tell you after the scene?
He just said, ‘Ha! Ruth, you are a good kiss o’. And everybody laughed it off.
But what happened after the set; did the groove continue afterwards?
(Laughs again) Oh my God! No now. It didn’t. If he was a dark guy, and I was free and both of us had feelings, probably, it would have gotten to another level. But we were merely taking our roles.
You don’t like fair guys?
No, I don’t.
Is it because you are fair that you now want a dark person to balance you complexion?
I don’t know. I don’t just like fair guys. And I don’t know why a guy should be fair.
Talking about the mega kiss, what actually happened?
(Laughs) I think what happened was because, as the writer of the movie, and knowing what I wanted to portray, I tried to make it as real as possible. The girl in the story, being nice but naive and harmless, gave the guy her heart and he destroyed it. And the heartbreak later made her to become wild. That was just it.
Do you support the idea of extending make-belief roles beyond the set to transform it into reality?
I don’t see anything wrong about it if the persons concerned are single and free of any serious relationship. Why not? It could be the way they are destined to marry. But seriously, the feelings must be real and not just lust. Otherwise, if you start developing feelings for every man that kisses you on set, imagine the number of men you will meet in the life of your career.
When you say you do not like fair guys, do you also mean you cannot even marry them?
No, I can’t.
But you can at least date them?
When I say I can’t marry a certain guy, it also implies that I cannot date him.
Who is your ideal man?
Nice one. I’m an honest God-fearing person. So, expectedly, my ideal man has to be God-fearing. He has to be very reasonable and hardworking. It is not all about money because I believe that when a man has honest fear of God, he is a complete man – he will have self control and be humane, reasonable and selfless. Those are the basic things needed in every man that sees himself as a complete man. So, it is not all about money-money.
So, you do not align with women that are seeking readymade guys; those who prefer their would-be suitors to possess heavy purse rather than bright future?
Do I like money, posh cars and other good things of life? I do, 100 per cent. But, I don’t believe in readymade guys. If God gives me one, I’ll thank Him, though. But I care more about my man’s heart and his relationship with God than his money. Come to think of it, what kind of readymade guy would I even be seeking when God has already made me?
Okay, are you single at the moment?
What do you want that for? I knew it would come to this.
I’m just being curious. At least, I’m not fair complexioned, am I?
(Laughs) Well, yes and know
Alright, what’s the no part of it?
I don’t want to talk about it.
But are you searching?
Yes and no
When should your fans expect the bells?
I don’t know
Is it true that you are working towards it?
Well, if it pleases God; everything is by His grace.
I have not told you anything; what are you congratulating me for?
Okay, pardon me. What is your relationship with Kaxmok Entertainment?
I just turned its Chief Executive Officer (CEO). And it will be concerned with organizing big time non-derogatory shows – call it Christian shows – such as comedies and all round descent entertainment free of offensive words, dances or dresses. I noticed that Nigerians are hardly treated to what we may call pure descent comedy or entertainment that can still be enjoyed by everybody including Christians and Muslims. That is the concept of Kaxmok which will also have a full color entertainment magazine among other features. Our target is to organize three big shows yearly and we are starting with Lagos. So, my former organization, Great Life has dissolved into Kaxmok. I’m actually running it in partnership with my Pastor, Apostle Chuks Nwokeke and I can tell you that it will be a huge success.
How old are you in Nollywood?
I’m about four years old now.
Could it be said that Nollywood has made you?
I’m still climbing but I’m grateful to God. I can only say that it is worth the while. But I’m still climbing the ladder.
Could you share your first date experience with your fans?
(Laughs) No now. Ah ah!
It’s just for the records. Everyone has his or her own experience, you know?
Okay, then, share yours with us first.
I will, if you care. But, what was it like?
I’ve always been very lucky with men, I must confess. So, I’ll say that it was actually my first boyfriend that encouraged me to get serious with acting. He even scouted, on my behalf, for a certain Benin movie that I shot while at Uniben.
Since that relationship was quite rewarding and the guy was supportive too, why didn’t it lead to the altar?
It’s not every relationship that leads to the altar now. But truth is that he travelled out, at some point. And he is still there.
And you couldn’t wait for him?
I’m not married, now! Probably I’m still waiting for him.
You said the person we are talking about was your first boyfriend. So, how did you feel first time you kissed him?
I would not say I felt bad now; or did you expect me to say so? (Laughs) Did you feel bad when you had yours? It was an adventure. That’s all I would say.
Who is your role model in Nollywood?
It’s Kate Henshaw. I love her so much. Kate is a very humble person. She would laugh heartily and naturally you would get infected with the laughter. The next thing you would see her do is laugh, no matter the situation. It takes a humble person to laugh that much. She is one lady that has faced a lot of challenges in life but she is still happy and kicking after all. I also love Stephanie Okereke and Mercy Johnson. There are so many other nice colleagues in Nollywood. But you get to know people well when you interact or work with them. Do you know what Kate told me sometimes back which is still fresh in my mind? She told me that life is like a rock and that you continue kicking it until you crush it. That statement sank deep down inside me.
It was once rumoured that a certain Ruth was in hot romance with a certain popular movie producer. Was it your own Ruth or what really happened?
Yes, it was all over the dailies, then, that I was dating a certain marketer and that his wife was even aware and all that. God! That rumour really hit me because this is a man that I took as a father and there was absolutely nothing going on between us. But the rumour just sprang up from God-knows-where and was all over the place. I think my detractors sponsored the rumour. But I thank God for taking care of that situation. I’ve never dated any marketer single or married.
Since Nollywood is all about make-belief, do you think there is anything wrong in baring it all?
A whole lot of things are wrong about it. You know that many of our tomorrow’s leaders see movie stars as role models, especially those under-aged ones. And if they get to watch offensive movies, they may just copy whatever they see there without knowing the implications. That’s the danger.
Ruth doesn’t like fair guys, but assuming you are paired with say, Majid Michel, as either couple or lovers where you are expected to kiss him like you did in your soon-to-be-released movie, would you back out?
I didn’t say I hate them. I only said I can’t settle down with them by way of marriage. Majid is a successful married man. He is a fantastic actor and I can freely work with him or any other fair guy any day, in the make-belief business. I’ll even be on set with him soon. So, that I said I can’t marry or date fair guys doesn’t mean I hate them. To surprise you a little, I’m even expected to kiss Majid in the movie because I already have the script. And since I’m a good kiss, trust me I’ll so kiss him like never before.
If I were your boyfriend or fiancé and you were to expect a Valentine’s gift from me, what would it be?
It would be a Range Rover Sport because I’m not greedy (laughs).
What do you consider as your Unique Selling Point?
It should be my boobs. Some say it’s my eyes but I don’t see anything spectacular in my eyes. All I know is that my boobs are well endowed.