Dolly Unachukwu may well rank as a superstar, being one of the pioneer actresses of the Nigerian movie industry, better known as Nollywood. Her roles in the highly controversial and famous Glamour Girls, to Full Moon, Final Decision and Deadly Affair readily come to mind. But all of a sudden, she dumped acting, packed her bags and relocated abroad, eight years ago. In a telephone chat with ADIA UKOYEN, she spoke about her recent graduation from the University of East London, why she relocated and her plans for the future.
What have you been up to lately?
I just bagged a B.A. (Hons) degree in Film Studies from the East London University, on the 8th of this month. Before then, I was living and trying to make the best of life like every other law abiding citizen in England.
With this degree in your kitty, what next?
I plan to return home and contribute my quota to the industry by practising what I read.
Being one of the pioneers of the movie industry, how would you assess it?
We were pioneers of the industry. We have paid our dues. We were not paid much but what we got was enough for us to live on and be called fortunate then. The difference between now and then is that there are loads of films being released on a daily basis now which was not applicable in our time. And many of these films are substandard. Many of the new producers cut and join films just for the money, that is why you see films with no depth, in terms of story line, running into three parts and even more. They do not care what damage they are doing to the industry.
There has been an improvement in the industry so far. It’s good to see that they are moving forward but, unfortunately backwards sometimes. I am happy to see all the young actors and actresses coming through. I am really proud of them. I must also commend the Nigerian society who is now able to separate the characters portrayed in the movies from the real personalities portraying the characters, it wasn’t like that in the beginning, as the stigma of a villain played in a movie did get transported into the real life of the actor or actress.
What would you rather have it be?
My dream for Nollywood is to see it grow from strength to strength. I wish for the industry to grow to the point where it will collaborate with Hollywood and Bollywood. I want to see our artistes being contracted to shoot films all over the world and to definitely see Nollywood reach the box office. In a system where most films are screened all over the world, producers have the passion for the industry and endevour to make sure the next films they produce is better than the last they did.
Where would you be shooting your films?
There is no place like home. Home is still my best location. Most of my films will be shot in collaboration with home-based artistes.
Having been away for such a long time, what do you miss most about home?
I miss the sun mostly. It is freezing cold right now and I wish to be at home. I miss the rest of my family at home, friends and colleagues. And most of all, I miss my fans.
Which of all the films you featured in shot you to fame?
Deadly Affair shot me into the limelight. The last film I did was War of the Roses, in 2000, back home.
What was growing up like?
I grew up in a strict Christian home in Lagos. I went to primary school and part of secondary school in Surulere. I finished my secondary education in Anambra State. I never intended be become an actress. I just dabbled into it. I had gone to the Nigerian Television Authority NTA, to find a holiday job. While there, I was asked to cover up for someone who was not there and from there my boss asked if I wanted to act and then, sent me off to the set of Mirror in the Sun. From there, I went to get formal training in Jos; the Television College, where I got a diploma in TV Production. I came back to the NTA and assisted with Morning Ride for a year before I landed a role in Fortunes, the soap opera that made me a household name.
What had you hoped to become?
I wanted to be a lawyer, which was why I went to get a diploma in Law from the Lagos State University, LASU. My parents, my mother in particular, was the one who sent me to the NTA to get a holiday job while I waited for my school certificate results. My uncle was the programmes manager, then at the NTA.
A couple of years back, you relocated abroad, why?
I relocated to join my then husband in 2000. The marriage broke down as soon as I got there and I moved on with my life.
Did you remarry?
No, I didn’t, but I have two children, my boy from my first marriage and the girl is a love story.
Are you in a relationship?
Yes, I have a partner.
White or black?
Do you hope to get married again?
I leave that to God. I have tried twice and failed.
Who are your role models?
I adore Joke Sylva and her husband, Olu Jacobs.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a God-fearing woman. I believe in keeping people happy. I am simple and very easy to be with. I am humble, with a positive approach to life.
So do you still keep in touch with Nollywood actors and actresses as well as the other players in the industry?
Yes, but only with a few of them, whenever they come into town (London). We catch up on the phone or we meet, depending on our schedules.
As a pioneer and veteran of the Nigerian movie industry, what advice do you have for the young, aspiring actors?
They should work on their God- given talent first and then try and train to understand the business, they should also remain focused. It is much easier to make it in Nigeria as an actor or actress; of course they should go to the right places and hang out with the right crowd. Hardwork is also part of the game, they shouldn’t get tired of auditions, even if they are not landing the parts, they should try harder, and eventually the producers and financiers will take note.
en if they are not landing the parts, they should try harder, and eventually the producers and financiers will take notice.