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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: My New Song, "ASA" Extols The Virtues Of Womanhood Just As "ONULUBE" Became The Biggest Song For Reconciliation Around The World In 2023 - Nollywood Actor, Jennifer Eliogu.

Jennifer Eliogu.

Nollywood Veteran Actor, Jennifer Eliogu, popularly called Ugoeze by those close to her is one actor whose acting prowess has never been in doubt since she started acting a little over 25yrs and even as she added performing music to her career profile, on-watchers would not believe she has been performing for just 11yrs.

In this exclusive chat with the Publisher of “Precious Eze’s Blog”, the phenomenal entertainer, took time out to lead us into her would filled with great exploits of 25yrs.

Jennifer Eliogu is seriously an entertainer to watch in 2024, not just as an actor, but also as a performing Artiste.



How did your journey into Nollywood start?

It all began towards the end of 1997. I followed a friend to an audition, she got a role to feature in a movie so I went with her to watch her rehearse. I was fascinated by everything I saw that day and volunteered to be auditioned. I was asked to come the next day which I did. I was given a script to act, I did well and I was applauded and asked to come back the next day for another round of rehearsal. And the director chose to cast me for that role and de-cast the previous person who was earlier screened. My major in acting started in 1998. My acting wasn't planned. It wasn't like I woke up and decided to become an actor. I always say, I stumbled into acting and I'm glad I did.

Before that time, what were you doing?

I was a Diploma student at UNIJOS studying Theatre Arts. After I discovered acting, I left school. I didn't go back to finish, until years later. I went back to LASU to get a degree in English education.

How would you describe your journey so far in Nollywood?

I bless God. It's been 25 years and counting and it keeps getting better.

What was the first movie you featured in?

House On Fire. It was shot in Jos. It featured the likes of myself, uncle Ejike Asiegbu, Francis Duru, and Auntie Gloria Anozie-Young. I was worke with veterans at that time, which made me very excited.

Is it correct to say that you were groomed by the best?

Yes, I was groomed by the best because, in most of my roles, I either played the daughter to a veteran, whether male or female actor, I worked closely with lead actors, and amongst my peers, I played rival roles and it was always beautiful. I still have special memories of those times.

Your acting has been attributed as one of the best. How did you achieve such quality when it comes to delivering your roles?

It comes naturally. You can't give what you don't have. It has always been about being myself and letting it out from the inside the way it flows. I get complimented a lot for my acting skills, which means a lot and I'm appreciative of the fact that my skills are noticed. I am being described as one actor who doesn’t need to do too much, meaning that I don't need to do so much deliver on a script given and I’m humbled. 

How do you deliver your scripts to the extent that you get lauded by directors themselves?

It has never been premeditated. It has been a natural flow of delivery.

With the development in the movie today, migrating from the old Nollywood to the new, which would you prefer?

I don't think it's a case of preference because we have grown. I know a lot of people say the old was better. A lot of older people will choose the old Nollywood, but we can't stay in the past as the world is evolving so has the industry. So Nollywood has evolved and it keeps getting better. We now tell better stories. Technology has helped us deliver better. There are quality actors amongst those who are average which makes me like the fact that we've come this far and we are growing to become better.

I wouldn't say you have migrated, but you have added music to one of your talents. How did that come about?

Yes, I have. It has always been a part of me and it found expression over time. I've always loved music. Everybody who knows me can attest to that fact. Back in secondary school, I was in debating society, I was in the drama unit, I was in the church choir. So music has always been a part of me. Although acting found me first, after so many years of acting, I still went back to my first love, which was music. And 11 years down the line, I have a band and I have albums on different platforms. I have about four to five singles. Currently working on another album and I'm loving it. I can't wait for people to hear it. Don't ask me which one I love the most <laughing> because I don't know why people asked that question. I don't prefer any. Acting gave me the springboard to shine and when music came, it took me to a new dimension. I write my songs and I can sing what someone else has written but so far all the songs I have I wrote myself and they come naturally from the inside, you can't pretend about it, unlike acting which is make-believe. You wear out the real you and assume someone else's character, it is role-playing but in music, you can't role-play. People go to the studio and auto-tune but if you don't have it inside you, it's only a matter of time.

One may ask, what genre of music do you play?

I love music so much that I do a little bit of everything. I do afro jazz, soul, R&B, I do ballads, high life, and jazz. I love to fuse it all in. I am not confused when it comes to music but I will classify my genre as afro-jazz. There is a little bit of ‘Africanness’ with a jazzy feel to it. I like life equipment set-ups and life backlights. All my songs are not generated, we start building the beat from scratch, I want to hear the gong, I want to hear the traditional ogene, I want to hear the guitar, the horns, and drums.

I have listened to some of your songs and discovered they are family inclined, are you that family-oriented?

<laughs> You can say that again. If I have 27-30 songs, you will hear a lot of preaching. One time, I was invited to a church to minister, and someone stood up against it saying I was not a gospel minister, I asked what gospel is greater than preaching the love of God, love for self, and love for humanity. That's God's greatest commandment to love your brother and love your neighbors as yourself. If you're not preaching love then you are not preaching the gospel. I did a song called ‘‘ONULUBE’, it came 10 years into music and that is one song at this point that is taking me to the ends of the world. Those who don't understand, ask for its interpretation and are told, they just love the song. I've gone to perform in places where they don't understand the Igbo language but music is a universal language. Everybody understands only if you open up your heart to music. You would understand any genre of music only if you have an open heart.

Can you tell us more about your new song ‘ASA’?

ASA is a song that extols women …. ASA is a slang that describes a beautiful woman but in this case, one with beauty and brains. It's about a well-mannered, cultured, and intelligent Slay Queen who has something to do for herself because as the saying goes an idle mind is the devil's workshop. When she makes her own money there's a confidence she exude because she can afford basic things for yourself. I was speaking with someone and she said what she's looking for is a man who can take care of her, I asked are you able to take care of yourself? In her defense, she said she was looking for a job. Then I told her, that the problem with women these days is that they want a man who will take care of them forgetting to put themselves in a position where they can care for themselves first and be able to call man's bluff if the relationship seems not to be working. If it's not working you keep walking. It's that simple. I'm not encouraging divorce or separation, but it has come to the point where people have to choose themselves first because you need to be alive to be in a relationship. When we talk about life it's not just final death, it can be mental, it can be physical, it can be psychological, it is one just being dead to everything around them because they are emotionally broken. I always advise people to find something to do that gives you sustainability and then when God blesses you with that good man, he would add value to you and then it's more beautiful. Nobody can complete you. God created everybody complete but in our minds, we think there is a hollow that only a man can fill. Bible says ‘And two shall become one’ but if you feel you cannot stay alone and you find the person your heart beats for and you believe you want to spend the rest of your life with then it is a beautiful thing but first, you must be complete or else you'll be looking for what is not lost. I like to say, that experience will teach you a whole lot over the years. If you are not in your self-contented state, there is nothing anybody can give to you that can make you contented. So, it is important to find contentment within yourself so that the little things you get you can appreciate better.

Seeing your love for acting and music, If you have a blockbuster script and a musical performance simultaneously, which would you go for and why?

<laughs> I'm laughing because I will want both. In real-life scenarios, most times if I get called in for a musical performance I will check in with the producer to be excused for my musical performances, if we can agree then it's fine but if not, I will not take the job. Truly, money can be rewarding but cannot be compared because it is a one-off. With music you spend days rehearsing and performing unlike acting, where you put in a whole lot, sometimes you put in months. I cannot abandon the music I love so much. It takes a lot of sacrifices and commitment but in this case, I love both so I'm not letting go of any. I want to eat my cake and have it <laughing> somehow, there is always a way and somehow it always works unless the performance is probably not in Nigeria and the film is in Nigeria then that's a different thing. I might need to make a choice but if they are both in Nigeria, that's a small thing.

In Five years, where do you see your music career?

I've tried not to keep a high projection. I only hope for the best and allow providence to take its course. As a child, I’ve always kept to the New Year resolution cycle but if out of 10, I may end up achieving just 3, so I outgrew that and just write goals per time. The Bible says ‘Write the vision, make it clear, and run with it’. That’s what I’ve been doing. I set a vision and within a short frame, I check to see how far I’ve come, although, I always try to project in a way that I exceed my projections. If I can get to that mark, that’s a plus but if I don't, it means I need to intensify work. I try not to overstretch so I don’t mount undue pressure on myself. It’s not wrong to have five-year goals or plans but I leave it between God and I. I try not to overburden myself.

That being said for music, what have you been up to regarding movies these days?

A whole lot is going on. I have been going between sets. I have some new movies coming out that I'm so proud to have been a part of. I can tell you for a fact that they are all beautiful. In recent times, I was a part of “I Do Not Come To You By Chance”. It’s not because it was executively produced by Genevieve Nnaji, the story was originally written by Ijeoma Nwaubani, reading the book will give you a better understanding. The minute I was given the script and I read it, I immediately envisioned myself fitting perfectly into the character. I played the role of a slightly older mother. The story and casting were beautiful. The director was so accommodating and amazing, he allowed everyone to fully express themselves and he was open to individual suggestions. If you suggest to him, he welcomes it, he did all he could to make everyone comfortable and every contribution counted. At the end of the day, everybody was happy because we ended up achieving more. I had to work with Ishaya Bako, It was fun as it was my first time sharing a set with him and it was also fun working with a whole lot of crew members. It was shot in Abuja-Nigeria. The shoot took about 2-3 months. It was fantastic going out to festivals and watching the movie and seeing how people reacted to it, it was beautiful. Many others are coming soon. I have a movie with ROK, executively produced by Mary Remi-Njoku and co-produced by Chiemala Nwagboso. I like challenging stories that bring out another part of me. My fifth movie titled ‘Loyalty’ will be out soon. I directed it. Lately, someone asked me why all Actors are now producers, and I explained that there is nothing wrong with it. Nobody can tell your story better than you. Anyone can be a producer. If you have the funds, the floor is yours and if you find someone interested in bankrolling your projects then it’s all good. Being a producer would not stop me from working with other producers. I produced my first movie in 2012, the next was in 2016, 2019, 2021 and the last was in 2022.

How would you describe a good actor?

Ability to wear out yourself and assume different else’s personality and deliver. Wearing the personality is one thing, delivering is another and is key. Good delivery involves eye contact, facial expressions, and body gesticulation. Simply put, if you can conquer yourself when filming and wear a different personality on set, you are a good actor. I have had to play an insane woman once, I had to sit for a while to see myself in the character else self-consciousness gets in the way. On set, I see people who are asked to play the character of someone from a poor background but they will outrightly refuse to remove something as little as their nails. Their outward appearance defeats the character they are playing which should not be. Sometimes the producers will be forced to leave them to appear that way. I believe if you are telling a story, it should be believable to a large extent. Sometimes, a character from a poor home lives in the village but the wardrobe does not match. It's in the little things. People see it all the time. A good actor should be willing and able to take yourself completely to another level. In the case that the character suits your personality then that's a different thing. It will come naturally to you. Where you have to play someone else you must as a matter of necessity drown that self-consciousness and focus on your character's current reality.

If you were not acting or doing music, what would you be doing?

A few things. I delved into fashion. My elder brother has a clothing line and I help to manage the business. I had my own thing going on for a while but at some point, it was became overwhelming so I left and decided to focus on consolidating. I also enjoy counseling young and old people. I don't enforce opinions but I encourage people. People pay attention to my sayings. I even speak to couples. An achievement that I couldn't attain, I tell people about it and encourage them to achieve better.

I hope to explore the mentorship part of me. I intend to take proper mentorship training. You can't give what you don't have. I've found myself in positions where people trust me enough to listen and open up and in most cases they take my advice. I might not be exactly justified to pray over people but I see results. And I know greater grace abounds to keep helping lives.

Tell us about some of your past and present role models in the industry.

Honestly, it's a long list. I have a lot of people that I admire. These admirations range from originality, strength, and tenacity but I can't tell you this particular individual is who I have modeled myself after.

Tell us about some actors that you've worked with and love working with.

It's been 25 years and I am happy to have worked with a lot of people and still do. There are people I get paired with and one thing I enjoy is the natural flow of our characters. So I'll say, I love working with actors who bring their natural game on set.

There was a case of a female actor who told a director that she couldn't work with another female colleague and the actor was laid off. What can you say about rivalry and unfriendliness in the industry especially amongst female colleagues?

The reason for such an attitude is often unknown. However, I don't think it is an actor's place to dictate to a director who she can work with or not but people have different reasons to put up unfriendliness within the industry. There must also be some level of listening ears between the actor and the director for him to concede to lay the other off at her request. If I will ever ask a director not to feature another colleague then my reason must be so valid. However, the director may have weighed the situation for him to decide to let go.

Between Asabahood and Lagoshood, which do you think has made more impact in the industry?

Both hoods are making their impacts. I can tell you for a fact that the actors being labeled as Asabahood have more popularity than those from Lagos. The average African in the diaspora watches YouTube and that is where most Asabahood actors get seen and noticed. One major difference is exposure. Our environment is what has shaped the kind of stories being told in movies but I can say for a fact that both hoods have grown over time and are still growing.

For a younger person who would like to get into the industry, what’s your advice to them?

If the industry is where you want to be, take your spot there. Be certain of what you want from the get-go and trust the process. A lot of people don't see the work that goes into acting, they only see the glamour. Some people were fortunate to hit the jackpot and became celebrities, getting endorsements while others had to put in extra work. Some have grown slowly but surely like myself. I have been here, still here, and hope to be for a very long time. I consider myself an evergreen. To the younger ones, get adequate training, and know the ethics obtainable in your field of endeavor.

I interviewed an actor recently who does not agree that skit makers are actors. What is your take on this?

Skit-making is another side of acting. Whether or not the skit is poorly scripted and acted is a different ballgame. Skit-making is relative. What can make you laugh; may not make me laugh. Going by the state of the country now everyone can use a good laugh and skit-making is one way to go about it. Some have upped their game and are now in mainstream acting. Some have grown from skit-making to making movies on YouTube. If you know what you are doing, you aspire to get better.

In your opinion, at the Federal and State levels, what are some expectations from the government to continue to enhance what is already on the ground in the movie industry?

Over the years promises have been made to pitch a film city but these promises are yet to be fulfilled. The Nigerian film industry adds greatly to the GDP of the economy. It is only expected of the government to invest back into a sector that is contributing to its revenue generation. I remember during Former President Goodluck Jonathan's era, producers had access to Bank of Industry (BOI) loans but over time that palliative wasn't forthcoming as I heard loans that were taken were never paid back. When loans are not paid back it will affect the chances of others accessing the facility. There has to be an awakening because the government is not the only problem, we also contribute. Our industry is growing and doing well yet we don't value our own. It's amazing to see those in the diaspora admire what we have and try to emulate us yet we will rather ignore our own. When funds are awarded, there must be structured monitoring for accountability to ensure that funds were put to good use and returned appropriately. We also need to form partnerships with the private sector and foreign investors for the sake of the industry.

Recently, the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu launched a Film City project in Epe. How far do you see this impacting the industry?

I heard about the launch. It is a welcome development for the industry. Although it is one thing to build a film village, it is another thing to make it affordable for producers and I hope they make this affordable so the facility can be put to good use.

The year 2023 is almost a wrap, how would you like to appreciate your fans all over the world?

I appreciate the fans that I have. They have become famz <laughs>. I appreciate the love and support over the years. Their engagement on my platforms has been mature and respectful. Their support makes me happy. Some dreams may have not come true in the year but keep hopes alive. The new year will bring more amazing opportunities and successes.


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