Calista Okoronkwo: I will never be caught stripping in a movie
Calista Chika Okoronkwo is an actor and model. The Imo State-born fast-rising actress attended Corona Primary School, Gbagada, Lagos and proceeded to Eunice Girls College and then Bola Olat Private College, in Lagos. She later got a degree in Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. She is the chief executive officer of Ushers Afrique, providing ushers for events in Abuja as well as Lagos and Imo states. Calista started acting in 2010 and was popular for her role in Clinic Matters where she played Nurse Titi. She has since featured in a number of movies. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, she shares her passion for the craft despite being reserved in the industry.
Do you think you have been stereotyped with the roles you play?
I have been very versatile in my role and character interpretation in movies. I have had to play the good girl, terrible wife, crying girl, wicked daughter and everything.
How did you decide to be an actress?
That decision was taken a very long time ago. After my Junior WAEC, then there were shops that rent out CDs and my mum used to patronise them. Every time I come back from school and my homework is done, I sit in front of the TV, that’s the next thing for me. I just watch and the only time she would say go into your room is if a man and a woman are coming close in the movie, and even when you close your eyes, she still tells you to go inside your room. Honestly, for me, I felt the craft of acting, it intrigued me and I knew I wanted to do this. Also, in my JSS 3, I was the drama prefect, which wasn’t the norm because you needed to be in the senior class to hold such position. Acting was something I really wanted to do and it was so easy doing it after school.
What has the growth process being like for you?
My growth has been on step at a time. I never really came out, people just knew me. There was so much dedication and hard work put into it and it is paying off.
Share with us some of the challenges you face on set?
What really challenges me about filmmaking is the fact that every time I am on set I never get used to the fact that I have to change for every scene especially for continuity. I am not the type that likes to pull off all the time and that for me is a huge challenge, and then you have to eat late in the night. Sometimes you are on the road at 3am, 4am, it is really tasking. For me, I do not like the night routine at all. I don’t go to club because I don’t like darkness. But then I get to stay late every time and into the night and that’s my highest fear. Ironically, I still take on scripts and go to locations knowing I will be confronted with my fears all the time. That is the love for the craft.
What fascinates you about a script?
First of all, when I get a script, I read it all to understand my character. The script has to be original, and if the script has to be recycled, let there be a bit of originality in it, suspense, drama and a lot of twist.
How did your family react to your career path in acting?
My dad didn’t find it funny; he was very strict and wanted me to be a medical doctor. I still want to be a medical doctor, I will work to realise the dream. So, when I told my dad I wanted to be an actress, he didn’t find it funny. For every audition I went, my mum would sneak transport fare into my pocket. But you know what, my father later started showing concern quite early in my audition struggle. One day I was getting ready to go for an audition in Surulere and he said, ‘Chika, you say you want to act, take this money for your transportation’. I was excited and from that time till he passed on, he was my backbone.
What has fame taken away from you?
It has not taken anything from me; I am still the regular girl because my life is very real. I don’t hang my coat where my hand hasn’t gotten to and I don’t chase what I cannot afford.
Unfortunately, it is the order of the day especially among young people. What is your advise to them?
Honestly, I don’t think there’s a need to rush for anything. Remember when ‘Blackberry’ phones were the in-thing, today if anyone gives you that phone, you will toss it away, that tells you nothing really lasts forever. So, if you rush and take some drastic measures to get something today, how long will you continue, so if you cannot keep up with it, don’t even start at all.
What roles will Calista never be caught playing?
I won’t be caught stripping or having sex in a movie.
Have producers tried to get you play them?
Yes, they have tried and they had given up. One time, someone brought a script, I had read it and it was about a girl who is a stripper, and I told the producer if he was aware the script was not meant for me, he told me not to worry that he had spoken with the director to cut those scenes off, and that was what happened.
Do you think you have lost anything not playing such roles like your counterparts would?
Of course, I have lost a lot, but then that is just me. I cannot bend for roles like that. I am sure if I ever played such roles, no one will like the outcome. So no need trying.
How would you define your style?
My style is original. I think it’s because of the way I was brought up. I still live with my parents not because I cannot afford a place of my own, but I choose to. I am also not the kind of person who listens to what people say, I close my ears to them in this industry.
Where do you see the Calista brand in a few years time and what other projects are you working on?
I have a lot going on and I don’t really want to spill it out so it feels quite special. I own an events company and I am looking to expand it.
What is your favourite local dish?
Ofe Owerri. I am an Owerri girl.
What are your hobbies?
I love to dance. I’m a good dancer though I hate to go to the club. I dance when I am alone, I dance when I sync in my lines too. I do a lot of quiet time because I like to talk to myself a lot, that is like a whole lot of soul healing so much. Lastly, I like to worship; I’m a great believer in Jesus Christ.
If given opportunity to change something in Nigeria, what would it be?
Our roads are in very bad condition. They are in very terrible state. The situation is made worse by the rainfall.