Q: How did the journey from obscurity to prominence begin for Jackie Appiah?
A: It all started when I took part in a teenage talent hunt competition some years ago. If you can sing, you come and sing, if you can act, you are encouraged to exhibit your acting skills and those who can play the piano are allowed to do so. I did acting and I turned out the first runner-up. Fortunately there was a director of a TV series at the show that day. He came backstage to see me afterwards and he told me about a TV series that would be coming up shortly. I wasn’t really interested at first, but changed my mind when I saw some of the clips on air. So I called them back and told them I would like to get on board. That was how I became part of the hit TV series which is the first youth programme in Ghana. Later other movie producers began calling. My first feature film was Divine Love. That was in 2004.Q: How does it feel when people refer to you as Ghana ’s answer to Genevieve Nnaji, Ini Edo and other big Nollywood stars?
A: I guess it is a privilege and it is by the grace of God. I believe that God has a time for everybody and I am just grateful for what he has done in my life. I guess it is a blessing.
Q: What is your appraisal of the Ghana movie industry?
A: We are there now and people are enjoying our movies around the world. We make use of beautiful locations, our scripts are deep, the cast are wonderful and I believe that the industry is improving and everybody is asking for Ghanaian movies around the world.
Q: You have done a number of flicks in Nigeria, what’s the experience?
A: It is not different, it is just like Ghana and I see Nigeria like my second home.
Q: Why do Nigerian movies sell more than Ghanaian films?
A: No, I believe that Ghanaian movies sell as much as Nigerian movies now. That is why they invite us to Nigeria, because people want to see Ghanaian stars in the flicks. The only advantage Nigeria has over Ghana is that Nigeria is a bigger country with a bigger population, which means that the movie marketers and producers have a bigger market to attend to, whereas Ghana is much smaller with a smaller market. But if you are talking of sales worldwide, Ghana movies attract the same volume of sales as Nigerian movies.
Q: How challenging was it for you to play the Maafia lead role in the popular Princess Tyra flick?
A: It was very challenging because I played two parts as twins and I had never done it before. And it is very difficult when you are playing twins especially when the twins meet. When the two characters meet you have to change and come back, wear the Maafia costume, go and change as Maafia and later come and wear the Ashley Johnson costume. And Maafia had a local way of acting whereas the other twin was sharp and trendy. So being made to play two different characters who had distinct ways of speaking–because Ashley Johnson was an American person and Maafia was a local person–was quite challenging for me. But at the end of the day, the film has been nominated for so many awards and I have also been nominated for awards for that film. Everywhere I go people keep referring to me as Maafia. Ironically Maafia, the most stressful character, became a star. Yet, whenever I was doing the Maafia character I was always crying to the costumier because of the funny clothes I had to put on.
Q: But how much of that was Maafia and how much was Jackie Appiah?
A: Guess Jacky is a humble person and Maafia was humble. But the way of acting was different. Maafia is totally different from Jacky. Maafia is an I don’t care person. Though I am an easy going person but not to that extent. But basically, Jackie Appiah is a down-to-earth person, always having a smile on her face. I don’t live for the day, I think of tomorrow. As a person I don’t like hearing bad news or any kind of news that would make someone frown or be upset. What I like most in life is the beauty of nature, waking up every morning and seeing beautiful people all around me.
Q: Do you still keep your old friends?
A: Most of the people I grew up with are all busy now. Some are working and others are in school. And to crown it all, I am also a very busy person; it’s either I am shooting a movie in Nigeria or doing something in one location here in Ghana . So whatever spare time I have I spend it with my family or call up a few friends and say hi to them or atimes we just have lunch.
Q: Talking about family, is Jackie married?
A: Yes I am married. I have a two-year-old son and I love him so much. Hearing him call me mummy makes me happy. Even though I am busy working all the time, anytime he sees me on TV he recognises me immediately and says ‘that is mummy’. That gives me the greatest joy.
Q: If you were not an actress what would have been your profession?
A: I would have been a lawyer. I come from a family of lawyers and always wanted to be a lawyer because I guess it is in my blood as well. I have no regret for not practising law at the moment because I believe that it is not too late, I can still hit the classroom if I want. It is not too late to achieve anything in life once you are determined to do it.
Q: At what point would you want to quit the stage and say you are truly fulfilled?
A: Probably when I become a legend in Ghana. I will know when the time is right; when I have been able to raise the stakes. Surely, I can’t do it alone because I need my colleagues in the business to help achieve this vision of moving the movie industry in Ghana to an enviable height. On a personal level, I get motivated seeing my fans appreciate my work, my fans calling me every morning and seeing text messages on my phone. And seeing people appreciate my work keeps me on the go. All these inspire me to higher level.
Q: Looking at the crystal ball, where do you think the Ghanaian movie industry will be 10 years from now?
A: With the way things are going now, I believe we can go far in future if the government comes to the aid of the industry. Also, rich corporate bodies can also come in and help the industry grow. We can then start using five to six cameras to shoot just like it is done in Hollywood and Bollywood.