Uchenna Nnanna : I want to promote culture through my movies
Uchenna Nnanna Maduka is an actress, producer, model and a television personality. She is a graduate of Theatre Arts from the University of Uyo in Akwa Ibom State. The indigene of Arochukwu in Abia State started her acting career from her undergraduate days due to her passion for the arts and has since featured in movies, including A Mother’s Fight, Burning Desire, Insecure Ihuoma Keepa, Mirror of Life, My World, Night Wedding, Rain Drop, Ropes of Fate, Taking Chances, The Plain Truth and The Wolves. Among her productions are Wedlock, Bond of Bondage, Maria, Wedding Gown and most recently Nne-ka (The Pretty Serpent), which is an indigenous movie that won at the 8th edition of the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCAs). In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, the actress, who has featured in diverse roles, shares her passion for preserving the Igbo culture through movies.
What was it like producing Nneka The Pretty Serpent?
This is my first Igbo movie production. It didn’t feel so different from the other movies I have produced. I only made sure I went for people who will give me the real thing I wanted; people who can speak Igbo without putting an accent, because in this generation, fakeness is too much. So we have to make sure that they are the people who speak the core accent. Hence I have taken it up to promote the language. Recently, we did an exclusive screening of the movie and discovered that people love it and keep saying they want more of it. Definitely, I will do more.
Are we expecting another Igbo movie?
Sure. Now that we have done the first Igbo movie, we did our first submission, first nomination and we won. Definitely we will do more.
What was your first movie as a producer?
Bond of Bondage, the story line was about something that happened to my sibling and I while we were growing up. I wanted to tell a real story to which people can connect, which also relates to family.
Between acting and producing, which will you say is your strength?
I am good in both.
Take us in a trip down memory lane. How it all started?
I started out as a teenage actor. In those days, you will attend about 10 auditions before you will be picked for a particular movie and when you are finally picked, you know your worth. Also in those days, if there are about 10 to 15 of you and you are picked for a particular role, it tells you are good.
From the Nollywood of the 90s till now, how have you and your work evolved?
Yes, there have been so many changes from the past to now, the cameras we have today are not same. This is the 21st century, so we keep migrating, evolving and things are getting better by the day.
How is it impacting your work and what you do in the industry?
It has made the work much easier and better, because things that will take you ages before now to get, within a twinkle of an eye, you get it done due to technological advancement. Although I would still say I love the old Nollywood more, in those days we go to auditions, fight and prove ourselves to get roles, these days, people sit in their homes and get roles and they come on set. They don’t know their onions, they didn’t pass through stress getting the role, just because someone brought them in, they don’t do what they are supposed to do. Something happened while on set, a newbie was on set making a call while we were filming and the DOP told him to stop and he insisted, before we could know what was going on, there was a fight. In the old Nollywood, you will be banned from acting for six months. These newbies today don’t have respect.
What are those things that interest you in the movies that you produce?
The story must be topnotch. It has to be interesting. Something people will sit down and watch without guessing what will happen at the end like the movie that got us the AMVCAs. We had about 10 major casts who had their roles defined and at the end of the day, they came together as a family. So, if the story is not interesting, amazing, count me out.
So how do you manage your colleagues as a producer?
As a producer, I won’t lie to you, we know our colleagues who are troublesome, and so I try as much as possible to avoid those ones that will give me headache.
How do you combine the home front with the kind of work that you do?
The jobs are quite demanding, but I still try to balance them. That is why you don’t see me in too many movies these days. I do them when it is convenient for my family. At the end of the day, you can’t really eat your cake and have it; you can’t be out there in every movie and your home front will not suffer.
What keeps you still looking good after having children?
Exercise. I don’t joke with exercise and I advise young girls not to wait till they get married and start having children before exercising. I started 20 years ago, that’s what has kept me going, it a lifestyle for me. People know me that after 6pm I don’t eat heavy meals too. Look at Kate Henshaw, she is someone I look up to, at over 50 she looks good. So, for me, I do my exercise, I drink a lot of water and I don’t let things that are beyond me to bother me. I don’t put my eyes on things I can’t afford. I live my life at my means.
What is your take on government supporting the industry?
We don’t have a government as far as I’m concerned. I fund all my projects from start to finish. I go to the Censors board and pay the government. What does the government do for me? Nothing. We don’t have a film village, we go to people’s houses to shoot and we still pay for locations unlike developed countries where the government has invested so much. So, at the end of the day, we still suffer a lot to get our productions right.
What is your advice to younger people looking forward to making a career path in Nollywood?
You should know your onions. Nollywood is beyond the glamour and speaking English or being a beautiful girl. Can you interpret a character appropriately? Do your homework before coming into Nollywood.