Nigerians will hardly forget Franca Brown, who played the role of Mama Nosa in that popular TV drama, Behind the Clouds, which ran on NTA in the early 80s.
The ageless actress who began her acting career as an undergraduate at University of Jos, shares the story of her journey into the world of make-believe. She also explains why she is still single among other issues.
YOU disappeared from the screen when the ovation was loud. What happened?
I have not disappeared. I’m still very much around. May be, you have not been watching movies, or I have not been regular on screen. But I have not disappeared.
But what are you doing presently?
I present a programme for Promasidor called “Nwanyi Onwuga.” It’s a cooking competition programme that I present in Igbo language. Each week, somebody wins a hundred thousand naira.
When did you start presenting the programme?
I started presenting the programme since last year. But before then, I have been doing other things on television.
Are you doing this because the scripts are no longer coming your way?
In Nollywood today, there’s a clique, and unfortunately, I don’t belong to the clique. Besides, I want to be doing my own thing that would generate more funds for me. That’s why I delved into television and movie production. So, I am still working. I have not abandoned acting.
Looking back, what would you say has changed about your acting career?
We are in a world where we must continue to learn everyday. When I do a film, I’m tempted to go back and watch it. All I do is to improve on my last job. That’s what I do, and that’s what I expect any actor or actress to do.You are as good as your last job, and when you look at your last job, you would notice some minor flaws here and there, that probably others might not take note of.
You are the best critic of yourself, because you should be able to tell yourself the truth. All I do is to sit back and take a critical look at the role I played in that film probably to ascertain where I need to improve on it.
That’s how I get improved on my work, and it’s because acting is my first love. That was what I studied in the university. I have come to understand the rudiments of acting and what it entails to go into production.
Most of the times, people look out for the humorous side of the next story, but I’m looking out for the flaws. I am my first critic. I look out for the flaws and also, ask people whether there is anyway I can improve on this or that. I would say, over the years, I have improved tremendously.
What’s the difference between your time, and what’s happening today?
When I started, we had a lot of people who did not know the direction they were going. But they found themselves in the industry. They learnt the ropes through apprenticeship. A lot of us started out by assessing our works by ourselves. Then, it was an all-comers affair. But now, the industry has been structured. We now have guilds, associations and places we can call our own. There is a lot of improvement and the industry welcomes a lot of new-comers, some of them are famous stars now. It wasn’t so during our time.
Would you say the industry has been fair to you in all respect?
Yes, I would say that the industry has been wonderfully fair to me. This is because I came out from nowhere and suddenly became a star, starting from television. I also came into the film industry and the stardom pushed on. I featured in Behind the Cloud which was a darling television series most families would not dare miss. That was because a lot of us were loved, and moreover, we had good audience that appreciated us.
You said, you came out from nowhere, how?
Yes, I came out from nowhere, because I was just a Theatre Arts student at the university of Jos. I went for an audition for a small girl role in Behind the Clouds, which gave me the platform. But surprisingly, I was given the role of a mother of two children. I wasn’t expecting the role, but the producers felt I have a motherly disposition. Suddenly, my name disappeared and everyone on the street was calling me Mama Nosa and Efe, not even the Adesuwa that was the character’s name. I enjoyed playing the role.
Most of your contemporaries, especially the cast of Behind the Cloud are nowhere to be found in today’s movie industry. What has been your staying power?
There is nothing you will call the staying power, it’s just ‘aluta-continua.’ I just continued, and if other members of the cast have continued, they would have excelled as well. But that’s the tide of life for you, it throws you onto a path and if you tread that path, it becomes your path, your chosen profession. I did not allow any tide of life to push me to anywhere. I used to do interior decoration for some blue chip industries alongside acting. I returned fully into the industry when I realised it has started becoming lucrative.
Did you go underground after starring in Behind the Cloud?
After starring in Behind the Cloud, I did Jezebel, which was one of the pioneer films in Nollywood. When I finished youth service in Jos, I relocated to Lagos, and secured a job in the bank. When the film industry started, I came into the industry.
The third film that was produced in the industry was Jezebel by Francis Agu and Emem Isong. I featured in Jezebel and I continued starring in other films. If you are talking about television, remember Behind the Clouds ran for several years. I earned about N150 as an undergraduate while starring in the TV series.
I used the money to buy myself a car and lived large on campus. I was living off-campus, so that I could have time to star in Behind the Clouds. My acting career started the moment I gained admission to study Theatre Arts at the University of Jos. I featured in films such as Valentino, Clash of Destiny, Discord, Cross of Agony, Human Cargo, My Goodwill, My Sweat, Never Let Go, Only Angel, Pains Of Love, Problem Child, Sawam, Sunrise, Tears and Sorrows, Leap of Faith and Endless Passion among others.
Don’t you believe in marriage?
I believe in marriage. I was born into a home, I have a father and a mother. But marriage has not come my way, and I don’t think it’s yet a challenge to me. When it comes my way, it comes.
But are you ready for the asking?
Why not! As a woman I am ready.
Does it mean there is no man in your life?
That’s not for public discussion.