Joke Sylva Jacobs is an artiste that is worth her onions, she is a household name and has been adjudged the undisputed queen of the Nigerian movie industry. ‘Aunty Joke’ as she is fondly call, was groomed in UK. Though, she has been acting earlier, she shot into limelight in 1990 with her role in the TV soap, ‘Mind Bending’, and the Yoruba film, ‘Owurolojo’ in 1993. Ever since, the renowned actress has upped the ante in the industry, thereby setting a standard, so difficult for others to reach. She spoke with FUNMI SALOME JOHNSON.

How is life?
Life is good, we thank God.

These days you feature a lot together with your husband. How do you feel when you are playing the role of husband and wife?
It depends on what part we are playing. When we are on set together we try to give each other professional space. We don’t take advantage of the fact that we are husband and wife. We do make the conscious effort to give each other professional space. The only time that you are likely to see us as husband and wife is when we are probably after work that is when we come back together.

Why is it like that?
We just feel more comfortable that way and I think it is good because you just get on with your work.

What is that secret that has kept you together, away from scandal and rumor associated with your profession?
It is the grace of God. There is nothing like the wonderful grace of God and his manifold mercies. That much I can say with total confidence.

How do you feel when people refer to you as their role models?
I have read quite a number of such myself and it makes me feel proud that one has made such an impact on the younger generation. It also give one a sense of responsibility since you make such an impact in the professional lives of this people, what else can you give them to make sure that the mistakes that you make, they dont make them and also that things are better for them than they were for you when you started. It gives one that added sense of responsibility.

Undoubtedly, sexual harassment is every where but why is it more in the movie industry than in any other industry?
The issue of sexual harassment is what you will find in all industries. There was a film in which De minor and Michael Douglas starring in them where there was a change in sexual harassment. It was not actually the man harassing the woman but the other way round and the woman made it impossible for the guy to function in the work place, unless she has an affair with her. Also if you look into the bible as well, you will find the story of Joseph very similar to that. Joseph was sexually harassed by Portifars wife.

So sexual harassment is something that is as old as time. But one of the things that I have always believed is that for your career to blossom, you dont have to give in to sexual harassment. If you strongly believe that what you are doing is what God wants you to do, he will take care of you and so you dont have to belittle yourself. The only reason why sexual harassment in Nollywood gets such a huge publicity is because it is a profession that is in a public domain but it is not more than you will find in any other industry.

How do you feel when you watch yourself ?
Sometimes I watch it and I say okay that was well done but most other times, it will be like, oh you could have done that better or there was another take I did and that take was better than the one they used. I am always critiquing myself. In the early years, I used to watch what I did to improve on what you are doing, oops you can be smiling like that, it looks like you have forty two instead of thirty two teeth or ah, you have to stand straight, oh God you look like someone who has hunch back with the way you are standing it was just constantly critiquing myself but after a while, it was more now I had the technique, I had that down part but there are other things that I am now looking at. A lot of the times now, I don’t watch my movies because I don’t want to spend the whole time criticizing myself. Right now, the flaw I find most is that I need to do something about my make-up on set, sometimes they look too whitish.

Have you ever been faced with any embarrassing moment for playing a particular role in a movie?
There is one that I am expecting a backlash for but it is not out yet and I hope it never comes out.

It is Amaka Igwe you should ask. It is not an Amaka Igwe film but there is this thing that we have. When I do movies that I do just for expediency, economic reasons, when I am broke (laughs), on such movies, I will have a good discussion with Amaka Igwe that I have done this movie and I pray it never see the light of the day and really most of such movies will come out but it will have such low level of distribution. I hope this one will be one of such too.

How did you meet your husband?
We met at the National Theater during the production of Jero’s Metamorphosis. That was our first time of meeting

So when did the chemistry click?
It was not as if there was any heavy chemistry. People have been expecting him that Olu Jacobs is coming. I was in rehearsals with everybody, I just know that this big time actor was coming in from London and everybody was expecting him. I went in to call the artistic director of the National Theater that we were ready for her to come and watch the rehearsals and she was in a meeting and Olu Jacobs happened to be in that meeting as well. I didnt know, I just walked in, knocked and walked in and I told Miss Enem, the director that we were ready for her and I remember, this man just looked at me and said this is the woman I am going to marry right there and then.

There were quite a lot of people. I just looked at him and I said what a common lie and I walked out. Like he later told me, he said he knew he said it and he did not know why he said it and we met afterwards and became extremely good friends, we used to have a blast in rehearsals. We were not going out at that time, we were just very good friends. We used to tease each other a lot and then a couple of years after we started dating, and we dated for about five years before we got married.

What has been that secret of that happy marriage all these years?
There is this line by Arnold Wesker that says the minute of living shared, you know when you are with each other, there is just so much that you will learn about each other. Like I said, we started out as friends and so you will just love to care more and more and more for each other. And because you have gone through so much for each other, the bond is very, very strong and it gets stronger so much to the point where you know that nobody feels more about you than your partner, nobody, not even your children can feel more about you than your partner. The children have their own lives to live but it is just the two of you that God has brought together and it made you love each other so that you fit in to each other like the glove and you know that nobody has your interest at heart like your partner.

Is he romantic?
I would not describe him as romantic, he is a realist and he is a very caring person and very homely. I can not remember the last time he has not brought me my coffee in bed in years except he is not at home. He has been doing that for years. He won’t make a decision about anything without hearing from me, unless he is making me a surprise unlike me that will just go ahead and make decisions. He adores his children and he gets very upset when I bath our younger baby, he prefers to do it, until now that he is old enough to dress himself. He is also very cantankerous. He can shout and you will hear his voice at the end of the street and he scares people when he yells but he is virtually a very gentle person, he is also a very good cook .He really don’t like going out to parties, he likes to stay indoors and fixing this and arranging that. He is a good and loyal friend. He may not see or talk to you very often but once he is your friend, he’s your friend. He is also very inciteful about people, he can really read and study people, he has a kind of sixth sense at assessing people and he is a very good judge of character.

If reincarnation is real, will you chose him?
Yes I will definitely pick him but I will prefer to meet him when I am older and him younger because there is a nineteen years age difference between the two of us. So if there is any thing like reincarnation which isn’t I will still want him to be my husband.

Have any of your children showed any interest in acting yet?
One of them is studying Petroleum Economics and Politics, that’s the older one. The other one is still young. Today he wants to be fire man; tomorrow he wants to be an actor, the day after he wants to be lawyer. But whatever it is they want to do just like we were allowed at the time we wanted to be what are, I will allow them.

Of all the movies you have done, which one do you find most challenging?
The thing is that its not whether they will make thorns of money from what they want to do but that they will be happy and they will feel that they have contributed their own quota to the society which they find themselves. And that is what has helped my husband and I to be who we are today.

What advice do you have for younger ones that are coming up?
If you want a job that will give you a steady pay check that at the end of the month you will have so much in your account, then acting is not for you. for us work is precarious and our industry is anti- social because when everybody is going for one function is when you are on set and when you are on set, you can’t see anybody, you can visit anybody. This is a fantastic industry to be with a lot of vitality but it is also very precarious, you will not have a constant pay check. it is better to grow gradually in this industry than to come in like a myth and you become overnight star which will be a passing fleece. for those who go gradually, you will find that all your shock absorbers will be in place because you will have a longer career than coming in like a myth and they disappear.