Nollywood

Nollywood: I’m More Comfortable With Men – Tonto Dike

tonto-2Tonto Dike has made a reputable name for herself in the Nollywood industry and is still aiming higher. The beautiful Ikwere, Rivers State-born actress who got into the industry after emerging as the first runner-up in a reality TV show, ‘THE NEXT MOVIE STAR’ and who starred as the lead actress in Rush Hour, speaks on why she is hot and different in this chat with SANDRA OKAFOR

Briefly, tell us about your family and educational background.

My family is a big one! I lost my mother when I was three years old. My mother had five children, I am the third child and I have a step mum. She has two sons but not for my father though; she was married before she met my father. But as I said, it is a big family; we are seven children and two parents. My family is a very happy and healthy one and we are very good Christians. My parents and siblings are in Port Harcourt presently but I’m in Lagos. I went to a wonderful nursery and primary school in Port Harcourt, attended a federal government college and later went to Rivers State University of Technology, where I studied Petrochemical Engineering.

As a graduate of Petrochemical Engineering, did you have any formal training in acting before you decided to take it up as a career?

No! The only training I had in acting is from a reality TV show where we had professionals from all around the world who came to teach us how to act. They taught us the doctrine of acting, then later took a course on acting in Switzerland –on the Internet actually.

So you have always had the flair for acting?
Oh yes! Since I was a kid, I used to do church plays and I have always been crazy about being an actress. Everybody who knows me knows acting is my life. I love it so much but I waited to see how the market is, how my colleagues rise and stay. I wanted to study the market very well before going into it and that is exactly what I did.

That means you got into Nollywood through the ‘Next Movie Star’ contest?

The contest was little or nothing to my career. It just gave me an insight of what I was going to face, though it exposed me to a lot of movie directors and I also worked on myself. I fought through to meet people and it was easy, because everybody thought I was good. So, it was easy for me to break into the market.

What is your assessment of Nollywood so far?
What I can say is that Nollywood could be better. Our pay, movies and dressing could be better. I really hope for a very good future for Nollywood because I intend to stay in this industry for a very long time. I pray everyday that we get to identify our faults and rectify them. I know Nollywood will go really far because from assessment, it is the third biggest film industry aside Hollywood and Bollywood.

What was your expectation before you got into Nollywood?

Funny enough, I told a lot of people this story and they sounded, “Oh! She is too spiritual and all that but I actually saw it all coming. It is not a gift, it is because I am close to God, that is why he shows me things; he showed me all these, so it was Briefly, tell us about your family and educational background. My family is a big one! I lost my mother when I was three years old. My mother had five children, I am the third child and I have a step mum. She has two sons but not for my father though; she was married before she met my father.

But as I said, it is a big family; we are seven children and two parents. My family is a very happy and healthy one and we are very good Christians. My parents and siblings are in Port Harcourt presently but I’m in Lagos. I went to a wonderful nursery and primary school in Port Harcourt, attended a federal government college and later went to Rivers State University of Technology, where I studied Petrochemical Engineering.

As a graduate of Petrochemical Engineering, did you have any formal training in acting before you decided to take it up as a career?

No! The only training I had in acting is from a reality TV show where we had professionals from all around the world who came to teach us how to act. They taught us the doctrine of acting, then later took a course on acting in Switzerland –on the Internet actually.

So you have always had the flair for acting?
Oh yes! Since I was a kid, I used to do church plays and I have always been crazy about being an actress. Everybody who knows me knows acting is my life. I love it so much but I waited to see how the market is, how my colleagues rise and stay. I wanted to study the market very well before going into it and that is exactly what I did.

That means you got into Nollywood through the ‘Next Movie Star’ contest?

The contest was little or nothing to my career. It just gave me an insight of what I was going to face, though it exposed me to a lot of movie directors and I also worked on myself. I fought through to meet people and it was easy, because everybody thought I was good. So, it was easy for me to break into the market.

What is your assessment of Nollywood so far?
What I can say is that Nollywood could be better. Our pay, movies and dressing could be better. I really hope for a very good future for Nollywood because I intend to stay in this industry for a very long time. I pray everyday that we get to identify our faults and rectify them. I know Nollywood will go really far because from assessment, it is the third biggest film industry aside Hollywood and Bollywood.

What was your expectation before you got into Nollywood?

Funny enough, I told a lot of people this story and they sounded, “Oh! She is too spiritual and all that but I actually saw it all coming. It is not a gift, it is because I am close to God, that is why he shows me things; he showed me all these, so it was not a surprise when I got to this stage right from my first movie.

If you were to change anything in Nollywood, what would it be?

Well, I have a lot of things that I would have loved to change but for my career’s sake, I will just keep shut.

But there must be something you would want to change in the industry?

There are a lot of flaws that concern the industry, I would really say, that need to change but I am just going to reserve my comments on that.

How do you manage your male fans/admirers?
First of all, I will say that I am not an out-going person, so I don’t really meet too many people. Thank God I only meet most people through phone and you can actually say what you want to say on phone although I don’t come out plain, saying “get the fuck off or something;” I just tell you off politely. It is either I tell you I have someone else or I say I am busy and when I keep saying that, you will obviously get tired. But most of the guys are my friends now.

Do you have friends in the industry?
I can’t say I have friends in the industry, I just have colleagues. I have some male friends and just two female friends –Mercy Johnson and Uche Elendu.

You didn’t mention the names of your male friends.

Oh yeah! I have Mike Ezuruonye, Nonso Diobi, Mike Moris, Desmond Elliot, Kenneth Okonkwo, Uncle Pete is like a father, Uncle Larry is more than a friend and I have a lot more.

Are you saying you are more comfortable with the men in the industry?

I realised that I am more comfortable with the men, but it is not a conscious thing.

You are relatively new in the industry; do you sometimes get a cold reception from those you met in the industry?

I have never noticed that, it could happen and it might be happening but I have not noticed that.

Does that mean Nollywood is welcoming?
I won’t say that, I’ll just say that I have never noticed any cold reception yet. Probably because I am very busy and focused.

What have got to say about the issue of sexual harassment before you get roles in the industry?

I think sexual harassment is by choice. Everybody gets harassed, even female bankers get harassed and nurses get harassed by doctors; it is everywhere and sleeping your way to the top is your choice. Basically, if you sleep your way up, that means in everything you want to do and achieve in life, you will sleep your way through and I don’t think it is necessary. So, harassment comes everyday even if you are the ugliest girl on earth. Men are men and men are dogs, but I have had less or no sexual harassment because I am a strict person.

You are strict in what sense?
Generally, because I grew up being strict and I am very principled.

How do you relax in a very social city like Lagos?
I relax in my house. I live in a three bed-room apartment, so I don’t get bored. I watch TV and read a lot of novels and science fiction books.

Aside the four corners of your house, how do you relax?

I have my clique; we all came from Port Harcourt to Lagos to make a living and everybody is almost successful right now. Sometimes, we try to meet somewhere, either at a restaurant or in someone’s house and we go clubbing occasionally.

Have you ever had any emotional feeling for anyone on set while acting love scenes?

No, I haven’t!
Is it deliberate?
First of all, it is deliberate and secondly, I am principled.

Does that mean the men are not attractive?
Well, before I got into the industry, I actually mapped out what I wanted for myself. It is just like being in the same classroom with a person and you see him everyday; it is boring to date such a person. Most of them are now like brothers to me aside the fact that we kiss in the movies, but that is what we are paid to do.

When are you at your best?
When I am challenged; when it seems like everybody thinks she can’t do it or why is it her, someone can do it better, then that is when I am really at my best because I want to prove a point.

Do you have dull moments?
Yes, I do. I actually have mood swings and it is hard for me to come out of it but I’m trying.

Concerning your mood swings, have you ever had two extremes in one day?

I haven’t had two extremes in one day but when I am in my mood swing, my face is automatically out of look. You can’t even stare or walk up to me.

So you have never had a situation where you were very happy one minute and the next minute, you were really sad?

Yeah, I have. Sometime ago, I was really very happy because my elder sister in America just gave birth to a baby boy but five minutes later, I was like the saddest person on earth because I was robbed.

What do you think is responsible for such situation in the country?

A lot of people blame it on unemployment but that is ‘bullshit.’ There are so many things you could have done with your life other than stealing. I have a friend who started out selling pure water in Nigeria; today he has a bottling company in South Africa as we speak. So, I don’t think it is unemployment but some people are just lazy and they think stealing is a way of making quick cash.

Do you have a word of appreciation for your fans out there?

I just want t o say thank you very much. I really appreciate you all, God bless you as you celebrate me more. I pray for you always and I pray God will find a way to celebrate you too.

 

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