Does her name ring a bell? It should, if you ever watched that hilarious sitcom So wrong so wright. Lillian Bach is a woman of substance, an actress and businesswoman par excellence. Lillian is principled and she’ll always tell you how it is and what it is, concerning her life, her business and acting career. So, what has she been up to lately? Find out in this interview she had with Samuel Olatunji
Where have you been? Have you been hiding, busy or doing something else?
I’ve not been hiding. I’ve been very busy and I know the reason you asked this question is because you have not been seeing me in home videos. I took a break from home videos, because of certain reasons. First, the challenges are no longer there and secondly, I took time off to nurture my production house and of course, I’m into so many other things, so I’m busy doing some other stuffs I do for a living. I’m very much around.
If you have been watching television, you’ll notice I’m currently featuring in two soap operas and this one we are celebrating is So wrong, so wright There is also life style which was produced and directed by Paul Adams . I also did my own movie after five years or six years last year with Teco Benson in the film titled High blood pressure . Then I did the Yoruba one which was produced by Omogoriola, the husband of Ayo Adesanya.
What other things have you been doing?
I’m in business too. I do corporate gifts, interior decoration, and so many other things.
What’s the secret behind your looks?
You know I met one of my friends, Sylvia Edem, at the executive launch in Hito and she said, Lillian you don’t ever change. It’s like you are always the same and then I had to take a very good look at myself in the mirror and told her are you serious and then I said well, I owe it to very good genes. I think it runs in the family, because if you see my mum, you won’t believe she has given birth to seven children. I’m even fatter than her and I try not to worry over anything.
I take life very easy. I mean those who know their God will do exploits. I believe in God and I try to follow the principles God has laid down in the bible, so as not to worry too much about what I can’t help, because sometimes you are worried about this and that. That makes you age faster . I try to eat good food and I guess that’s why physically , I’m still like this. In terms of my being free and all that, I owe that to God.
You know our God is a free God. No air of a stardom, you know stardom will come and stardom will probably go some day. All of us will depart from the surface of this earth one day and face God and you will explain how you lived your life. I want to be remembered for being simple and good to people. Besides, I see playing superstar as arrogant , and I’m not that kind of person. This is just me and it gives me joy.
You’ve not been active in Nollywood and your lifestyle hasn’t changed. How do you manage?
You see, that is the work of God. If you follow my career, right from the very beginning , you will notice that I didn’t feature in all the movies that came my way. Maybe if I had done so, I could have been on the same platform with the rest of my colleagues but I made a point. I told myself that, Lillian look if it is just five movies you want to do in a year, do those five and do not let hunger push you into doing more than five.
You see I’ve never believed in volume; I believe in quality. I don’t want to be part of a bandwagon and as a matter of fact, I don’t have strength for every week recording. I don’t blame my colleagues for doing this every week .Recording, jumping from one set to another, but it’s because the money is not enough to sustain you . I am so lucky , because I have something apart from acting that I’m doing for a living. If I’m not acting, I’m busy doing my other businesses, so I’m not hungry.
I can afford anything . Look at the home video sector;if you are not careful, you will find yourself not practicing what you are preaching. What do I mean not practicing what you are preaching ? It’s appearing in home videos and the standard of this movie you are preaching is not improving. The standard is dropping everyday and we are busy preaching don’t do this, don’t do that and we are preaching let’s give more time to this or to that . But you are there doing everything that comes your way all in the name of money.
I just told myself Lillian, don’t let money push you into doing what you are not supposed to do. Be a good example, so at the end of the day, when somebody brings me a script to come and feature in a movie and I look at it and I say, hey there are mistakes in here and you need to correct it and the person says if you don’t want it this way just leave it .
It’s the way I want it and I know this thing is wrong and I can’t correct it and I need the money, you know you will just go ahead and do it and I’ve told myself that I will not do it and in fact I have started rejecting scripts. I’ve rejected scripts in the past and I will keep rejecting them if they are not good enough for me and I will not starve . I’m going to do my own, the best way to correct what is going on in the industry is the way I’m going about it now.
Don’t you think you are missing out on being the rave of the moment, being number one?
That’s why I said, it’s not about volume. It’s about quality. I’m telling you that. I won’t miss anything and I’m not going to mention names. I was called upon for an endorsement with a price that I didn’t like and I said no. In fact, I’ll use that Tenant movie as an example. You were there at the premiering and I had a chat with the producer and the director and they told me that the guy who acted The Tenant was new to acting.
He wasn’t one of those who had done numerous jobs. Just one good job landed him in Hollywood. That’s what I’m talking about. You could see that they had to play the video of him apologizing to us that he could not attend the premiering because he was busy shooting the Incredible Ethan Hulk in Hollywood. You see, so I don’t believe that I have to do hundred home videos a year , or two hundred or three hundred, so that I will not miss out in some things.
I believe in looking out for one very good script, doing it and doing it well. That could go a long way in getting you to where you want to be, rather than doing ten thousand that will not get you anywhere. So your time is your time. Besides, you can never wane, you’ve made the name. Anytime you decide to wake up again and do things , of course people will always remember you. So that is it.
When you see your peers don’t you feel awkward?
May be that why God is blessing me. I’m not feeling any how, I’m happy. They are doing well and I’m also doing well. I made a statement. I can feed, I drive good cars, I live in a good house and there is nothing they are doing that I’ve not even done and I’m happy for them.
This is the good news I want to hear… that my peers, my colleagues are thriving, especially the younger ones that are coming up now and that’s the way it should be . There should never be any air of jealousy. It’s never in my character. God forbid, I don’t believe there should ever be any air of jealousy but be happy for your mate. The people you do the same things with.
You said something about forgetting the beginning. Even me that has been monitoring you since 2003 has forgotten the beginning, but I’m sure some people out there don’t even know the beginning, not to talk of forgetting . Tell us about it
I started acting in 1997 and you know it’s my nature.
Yes! I accompanied a friend to an audition and actually it wasn’t me but I’ve always liked acting. I’ve always seen my self as a shy person but I’ve always liked it when I sit down to watch. How I wished I could do it, how I wished I could be like this
person but I never believed I could do it until I followed this friend, Bob Ejike to an audition. There was nobody to read with him , because he went there late. So the director now suggested to him to bring somebody. Why don’t you call her to read with you and that was how I was offered a role. That was how it started with me and that was in 1997.
Which was your first big movie?
The movie that gave me a very big break was Married to a witch and it was produced by Elen Opabio. It was a Christian movie, where I acted the witch.
That was maybe in 2003, I’m not too sure, because it been long. I think that was the movie that gave me a breakthrough because it was my first lead?
After that which other movies did you do?
I did a Yoruba one called Eja Osan. It was Wahoo , but I didn’t play the lead. It was very challenging and I couldn’t believe I could improvise while acting with some one like Baba Suwe who had all the lines memorized and was always improvising even when there is a script for him to read. He was always adding his own lines and all that; but I was able to cope with him. My life became the foot line of the movie. You know eh le gba be soda.
How many Yoruba movies have you done?
I have not really done much. They should be around seven or eight.
Why should we look forward to Eletan ?
There are lots of lessons to learn from Eletan just like my director said to you earlier. It is a comedy of errors. To me, it is a comedy because I’ve looked around and I realized that in this period of ours, everyone is so tensed-up. Of course, I have a massage to pass on, but I didn’t want it to appear too serious because at this period, we are facing all kinds of things in Nigeria, the political scene, hard times, everybody seems to be frowning, no one seems to be happy.
You know, the situation in the country doesn’t encourage you to even smile at the end of the day. If you say good morning to someone, the person might even reply you with annoyance. So, I thought of a way to pass a massage across not making it too serious . So, I sat with my director and we came up with a very wonderful script. The story is about a young woman’s woes .
She thought she was too smart but at the end of the day, her smartness landed her in serious trouble. So, we’ve got some reputable actors that featured in the movie. Among them is Latin, a well known clown, Baba Wande, Yemi Blaq, myself, Baba Ijesha, and Londoner. Everybody did so well that even Latin said, wow, this is the best role he has ever played since he’s been acting.
Is it a comedy ?
Yes. You know, my director calls it comedy of errors. He actually played the comic and he was making errors along the lines in terms of its characters. I don’t want to give it all out until it’s out. There are lots of lessons to learn from it.
What should people expect?
People should expect humor , laughter, whatever good things they can think of in this movie. We are now in the post-production stage but we gave it our best. During pre-production and production, we used good equipment, we used good directing. In fact, I was surprised that Niki Adeoye directed so well because I have always known him as a production manager , but he now told me that he could direct and I gave him the chance since I know he’s brilliant and I have seen his work as a production manager and all that.
I have acted in a movie produced by him, Eja Osan, and I said well, if you have directed before, why not. So, he came in and managed the production and he directed it and I was very impressed. In fact, with all the cast and crew, everybody did so well. So, I am very optimistic that this will be a chart buster and it will make a lot waves in the cinemas and on DVD when it comes out in that format.It will be premiered by the special grace of God.
But do you think it will do well in the cinemas, because there are only two Nigerian movies that have done well in the cinemas, Figurine and Through the glass. Do you think a Yoruba movie will make such waves?
Yes, it’s a Yoruba movie subtitled in English and we planned to subtitle it in other languages as well. I’m optimistic, I know it will do well. It will do well.
When I was growing up, we used to go to the cinemas to watch Indian movies yet we didn’t understand Indian language. We don’t even speak Indian but we went there to watch because they were subtitled in English.
Who wrote the script for this movie?
Okeade Oye, Olaide, I’m so sorry, I can’t remember their names. There are about four of them.
Where was it shot?
It was shot in Lagos . All our locations are in Lagos Island . My house was also one of the locations we used.
I live on the Island, at Lekki ,but all our locations were on the Island .
Do you have another production coming up?
Yes, that is coming up in October. It’s going to be my first English production.
Is this your first Yoruba production?
And your first English production is coming up soon?
Yes. Actually, I made up my mind that I would be producing three movies every year. Two English, one Yoruba annually, but you see, the Yoruba script was ready before the English one. We thought we would be shooting the English before the Yoruba but this one came out faster than the English.
How much did you spend?
I won’t reveal that.
What do you have to say to people who think artistes are poor especially now that you are producing three movies a year?
They should understand that aside movies, I do other things. It’s not just from home video or acting that I earn a living. I make money from my other businesses and I have been working on this for some time, you can imagine that . I mean how long have I spent in the industry?
So, if at this point I am saying, yeah, I want to produce a home video, people should not ask me where I got the money from. Even if I had gone to the bank to secure a loan, it is my business. If I have emptied all my savings, it remains my business. All I know is that, good amount of money went into this movie.
You and Yemi Blaq are always together; what’s between you?
I like when I see a talent. Yemi Blaq is a multi-talented actor. My first encounter with him was when we did High Pleasure. I never knew him from anywhere. He acted well and I looked at the observations he was raising during the acting. I also have other talents as well. I sing, I dance and I respect those who are multi-talented. People that are able to note some mistakes and provide solutions.
Those are people I like to work with , because you cannot know it all. So, if you have talented people like that on set, it makes your work easier at the end of the day than having some dull people who have nothing to contribute to your production. I guess we work well together. Just like in this production, I welcomed his ideas. That’s because he merits a role, there is a role he can play. It doesn’t mean that if there is no role that fits him, I will have to give it to him. You will have to fit in into the role, merit the role at the end of the day. So, that’s why it’s been Yemi Blaq.
What happened to your music career?
At a time, I wanted to release an album I actually produced with my money. I didn’t know the marketer who was to market it had some people on his label and when they got to know that the new person who just came on was Lillian Bach and our boss wants to release, it was war.
So, I had to pipe low. In the process of piping low, I got carried away in my other businesses. But now, I have kept it for so long. I cant release it the way it is. I have to go back to the studio to make some amendments because music changes with time. You have to be current to know what’s in vogue , but I am promising that you will get a bang from me and very soon.
Is there something like wedding song?
Yes. That’s a Christian wedding song but you never got to listen to Jo fun Jesu.
There’s a Yoruba hip hop track in it.
You have your hands full in 2010, don’t you?
I’ve always had my hands full, but you see, the reason why you guys don’t get to see that is that I am more of an introvert. I like to be a quiet, but it’ll look like, this girl has disappeared and all that.
But some people feel you don’t really love acting that much. What do you say to that?
I love acting very much. You see, I don’t want to be stereotyped. It’s the same thing Monalisa is shouting about. You look at a beautiful girl and the only role you think that beautiful girl can play is how to seduce another friend’s husband or something similar.
You give her the same role to play all the time. I don’t want to be like that, I like challenges, I want to jump, climb. Maybe because people have not seen me do a lot of challenging roles, that’s why they think I don’t have the flair. I don’t love it that much. So, maybe when I’m doing it myself, people will see what I am capable of doing.
Don’t you feel sometimes like having a husband around?
Is it a criterion to enter heaven? So, if it’s not, what’s the big deal? (laughs). Anyways, it will happen when it will happen by the special grace of God. Of course, I am a human being, I want to. Like I said, it will happen when it will happen. Let’s just leave it that way.
How about your reunion with Johnson Davidson?
I don’t have that typical Nigerian mentality that if you’ve gone out with somebody before, you can’t talk, associate or do business together. What people don’t know is that, Davidson and I do practically almost the same thing. We started out as models together.
He sings, I sing. I used to do things with him . I mean, if I have business to do and my friend knows this business so much more, why can’t we do it together? Johnson Davidson and I work together and we’ll continue to work together without any qualms and I don’t care what anyone thinks or say. I’m not dating Johnson Davidson. He’s an ex and he’ll remain an ex but he is loaded upstairs in terms of ideas and talent. So, we’ll continue to work together.
Is it true that actresses can’t maintain their life styles and do you believe that men should foot your bills?
What about my other colleagues who are working around the clock, people that are even stronger than I am? Will you say men foot their bills? What about men that are doing well, are they living-off women? People should wake up. The industry has changed. People earn a living from it.
Gone are those days when the sector never used to pay as well as it’s paying now . Acting is generating money for a lot of us to survive .For those who want to survive mainly on it at least . For people like me, like I said, I am into several other things. I don’t know why when it comes to actresses, that is what they have to say.
Have you had your fingers burned in the game of love before?
My brother, I have never had my fingers burnt oh, because ,as for me, I don’t put my fingers near the fire to be burnt. In as much as I have a tender heart, I don’t just put it down to be broken. What I’m saying is that, whatever you are doing, use your common sense. You should know when you start seeing signs of red light coming up. So, before I get my heart broken in anyway, I use my hands to caress my heart.
So, what red light did you see that made you take-off?
The thing is that, I take note of every detail. When a guy is beginning to lie and all that.
But sometimes, do we lie?
We are talking relationships here. If you are not telling the truth, then what kind of relationship are you keeping? When we were supposed to meet, we didn’t meet and it has never been like that.
How do you handle such situations?
I don’t hold on to anything bad. If it’s bad it’s bad. I don’t know how to manage it. When it’s good it’s good. I am not saying there shouldn’t be misunderstandings in a relationship, but you will know a relationship that has gone beyond misunderstandings , because we just have to face misunderstandings in a relationship all the time. But then, when a relationship is getting to that point of rottenness, you’ll know.
So, the signs are there. If you don’t yield to the signs that’s when you get your fingers burnt. So, that is your cup of garri ,if you have your heart broken when you saw it coming. When a guy is crazy about you, you’ll see the signs, no matter how long you’ve been together, you’ll still be crazy about each other. So, if the relationship is not what it used to be, quit.
How do you tell him?
Dialogue like matured human beings. It is not the end of the world.
What if he still wants to continue?
Continue? As long as he has distractions elsewhere, he should just go and fulfil his heart’s desire.
Can you take an ex back after he has realized his mistakes?
No, I’m not into ajeku (Leftovers).