Screen diva, Shan George has come a long way in Nollywood. From a village girl who grew up in a farm settlement, this half Nigerian, half British actress found her way to stardom and she is not letting anything stop her.
Born of a British father who died when she was very young, Shan George was raised by her mother in their village in Cross River and she describes her childhood as a typical aje pomo (rough) life where she attended a village school , went to the farm after school, entered the bushes to get firewood and trekked to the stream to fetch water.
However, being a village girl did not hinder her progress. She is not a timid village girl. She is honest to her bones and calls a spade a spade. She has no pretence about life and laughs a lot about life’s issues. She is carefree and happy-go-lucky and above all, a journalist’s delight.
So far, Shan George says her life has been so good and from Nollywood, she is crossing into music and has gone beyond Nollywood into the Spanish movie industry.
Recently, she brought Spanish actors to Nigeria and blended them with Nollywood’s actors for her movie, Super Zebra Man. She also branched into the neighbouring Sierra_Leone and brought their reigning queen to act in her movie.
With many broken marriages and non marital relationships, Shan George never says die and she’s not looking back either when it comes to what she wants to achieve in life.
You are working on something. What is it?
I’m working on my new music that I’m supposed to perform at the Calabar Carnival.
What type of music is it
It’s cultural music. It’s like high life.
It seems so many Nollywood stars are going into music and none has had a breakthrough musically. I hope yours would be different.
I hope to succeed and actually, you can get one of my tracks Ogogo on YouTube. My music is a native high life because all my songs are done in my native dialect. I’m trying to promote our culture through my music.
It seems Nollywood is crumbling.
I don’t think Nollywood is crumbling . People are mistaking rebuilding for crumbling. For example, if you have to renovate a building, you definitely have to knock off some walls, some windows or even the whole roof if you want the building to look better after renovation.
It’s a reconstruction of Nollwood. If you are observant, you will notice that the kind of movies we are doing in Nollywood now is different from what used to obtain.
We now partner with the outside world in our movies to improve the quality, like we saw in Through the Glass produced by Stephanie Okereke. People like Afolayan produced a movie Figurine that is very unique. Then, of course, my movie Super Zebra Man is getting ready.
It’s a different kind of movie and I brought in Spanish movie actors and blended them with our Nollywood actors. I got my equipment from South Africa. So, we are reconstructing Nollywood. A good thing is happening and definitely, at the end of this reconstruction, it would be better and stronger.
This Super Zebra Man. What’s your projection? Is it in the mode of Stephanie’s
Through the Glass?
I’m really hoping it meets up to that standard. But it’s not the usual Nollywood film. It’s unique and I believe success in everything is by the grace of God. What I am trying to do now is my best and then I will leave the rest to God. I pray it will be successful.
Well, in Stephanie’s movie, she was the only black person. Is yours like that?
Mine is a total Nigerian movie with Spanish professional actors. My movie was shot in Nigeria, directed by a Nigerian and the actors are Nigerians. There are people like Segun Arinze, Shan George, Basorge Tariah Jnr, Sam Loko and others .
It’s a typical Nigerian movie, shot in Nigeria but I brought in actors from Spain and brought my equipment from South Africa. The current Miss Sierra Leone is also part of my movie. I pray that it becomes a commercial success.
When is the premiere?
We have just finished the shooting and we will start editing in January. We are not editing in Nigeria because the equipment we used was brought from outside. We don’t have the format here. So, we will edit in Barcelona.
So far, how would you describe your sojourn in the movie industry?
Well, so far so good. I have been trying to work hard and working towards being the best in and beyond Nollywood. In terms of achievement, I can say I have recorded some measure of success but I still want to get better.
Besides Nollywood, I’m into other things. I have told you about my partnership with the Spanish movie industry. I have been able break into the movie industry as well. I’m trying my best in the things I can do and leaving the rest to God.
When did you get into Nollywood?
It started in 1996. Then, I was an undergraduate at the University of Lagos. I did my first movie Thorns of Rose in 1996. It was produced by the late Jennifer Ossai, Emeka Ossai’s late wife.
For me, the journey so far is good. I have acted in a lot of movies and I have produced some movies too. In 1998, I produced a movie, All For Women. I have produced other movies and I have a production outfit called Shan George Productions. But I’m still trekking. I have not gone far yet.
I was reading about your beginnings and you seem to be a typical village girl. Was growing up hard ?
Not really. I grew up like a normal healthy village girl. My mother was a nurse and she wasn’t earning that much but she made sure I read my books, she made sure I went to school and she showed me so love. It wasn’t bad or difficult growing up in the village. I lived in a normal house, slept on the bed, went to school with other children. There was nothing outstanding about my village life.
Actually, I am trying to find out if you were an aje butter (high class)or aje pako (low class).
(Laughs) Okay, let us not say I am aje butter or aje pako. It should be something between the two. Maybe, aje pomo (hide) (Laughs). It wasn’t butter for me and not pako either. So, it must be something like pomo. I’m a complete aje pomo. (Laughs)
What about your siblings? How many are you?
I’m an only child.
How was it growing up as an only child?
Very lonely. But I was in the village and there were cousins and other relations. We all went to the farm together, went to pick snails together, went to the stream together.
We were always going everywhere in groups. You know, in the villages, they always have these age grades and so, me and members of my age grade always moved together.
I was an only child and it was a communal life. There were always cousins and I didn’t grow up alone. It’s lonely psychologically because sometimes when the nitty gets to the gritty, you need somebody but there was nobody around. When others went home to attend to their brothers and sisters, I had no sister or brother to attend to me.
So, it could be lonely and psychologically, being the only child isn’t the best.
Village life could be tough.
When you say tough life, one can have a tough life living in the city. It depends on what you are doing and how life is treating you. There are people in the villages who are living well and there are people in the cities who are suffering.
Even in Lagos, there are people who are finding things really tough. Some don’t have homes. They live under the bridge. They beg on the streets for food. You cannot say that because one is in the village, it is tough. No, there are people in the village who are really enjoying life more than some people in the big cities. And in my case, I didn’t suffer.
Yes, I went to the farm. I went to the stream, climbed trees and did all those typical things they do in the village. But we had all our food fresh. We went to the farm and plucked fresh vegetables, fruits, corn. Even the yam was fresh. The palm oil was original and very fresh.
Your father is English?
Yes, and dead.
Have you gone to search for your roots?
You should know that in the Western world, particularly the white people, they are not very keen about the extended family issues. And I grew up with my mother who showed me love and took very good care of me.
She taught me a lot. My father is late, and I missed him. I always wished I grew up with my daddy but really, I didn’t try to search for my father’s family until about seven years ago after I had grown up. I tried to look for them but I had a problem there.
When they heard you are from Africa, particularly Nigeria and with our bad image abroad, they would probably think this Nigerian girl had come to ’chop’ their money.
So, I gave up along the line. I would have loved to know them.
Your first marriage. Your kids?
I’m sorry. I don’t want to talk about that.
You have married three times officially and your marriages collapsed .What happened?
I would rather not say what happened because I don’t think anybody would learn from my marriages.
You have official marriages and unofficial ones.
I don’t understand this journalist-o. Which one is official and unofficial? (Laughs)
What you had with comedian Okey Bakassi could pass for marriage but was never formalised.
Well, I don’t know about official and unofficial relationships. A relationship is a relationship, whether it is marriage or not. It’s not every relationship that gets to marriage.
An adult relationship has to be serious. If you don’t call a relationship serious, then it is not worth being called a relationship because there is nothing like a serious relationship or unserious relationship.
If you cannot boldly say you are in a relationship with someone, then you are not in it. It could get to marriage, and eventually you people may decide to go their your separate ways but it has to be a relationship. That was what happened between Okey Bakassi and me. We went our separate ways. But whether it gets to marriage or not, it has to be serious.
You know, some people don’t define their relationships. So, one person can say I’m in a relationship, whereas to the other person, its just a fling or one of those things.
Well, I belong to the school of thought that believes in relationships. If you want to do something with Shan George, you have to be serious. I don’t believe in half measures.
Why didn’t you and Okey Bakassi tie the knots?
Marriage is not by force. People can get into relationship without getting into marriage.
Are you still friends?
That is not important to me.
With your experience in marriages, what advice would you give someone getting into it for the first time?
There is no advice that matters apart from what God can do for you. So, before getting married, ask God for directive.
All that you need is pray for that divine intervention. The prayer has to be before the marriage, not after.
Are you in another relationship?
I don’t think its anybody’s business if I’m in a relationship or not. Right now I’m watching TV. I’m watching Super Story.
That means you are free and ready to mingle?
No! I’m not free at all. I’m not.
See now, I got you. You didn’t want to answer that question initially.
I’m a journalist too and I know all your tricks. That you are not in a relationship does not mean you are free and ready to mingle.
Can somebody apply? One can just say there is no man in Shan George’s life for now. I may have somebody who is interested.
(Laughs) Okay, truly I have a boy friend. His name is Akin. And I love him a lot. He is a wonderful person, very nice, at least for now. I don’t know about tomorrow. So, I’m in a relationship.
So, are we hearing the wedding bells soon?
Haba! It’s not a woman that determines whether there would be wedding bells. It’s the man that would propose and if he doesn’t, I can’t force him. For now, he has not but we are in a relationship and there is no proposal yet.
But marriage is a two way thing. It’s not like the man is doing you a favour.
We don’t do like that in Africa or Nigeria. Marriage proposal is for men, not for women. Or can you Chioma propose to a man?
If you know me, I can.
Really? Ah, you are different. I am not aje butter. I cannot propose marriage to a man. I don’t have the liver to do that. I see everything wrong with a woman proposing marriage to a man. What kind of man will that be? I want a man to be a man. A man has to be the one to ask me to marry him.
That means you cannot ‘toast’ a man.
Me ke! I am real aje pomo. I can’t do that. I didn’t toast Akin.