“I’m so sorry for the delay and rigours I have made you go through sir,” Tonto Dike, the fast rising Nigerian actress, who was one of the first housemates of the Next Movie Star, pleaded as she settled down in her Murano Jeep after pleading with the director of the film on whose location she was to have this chat with Klieglights.
That the screen siren has done pretty well for herself in the movie industry is more like an understatement as she has also been able to get some of the best of things of life for her herself-her car and good apartment.
Quite enthusiastic and passionate about what she does, Tonto seems ready to stay the course in Nollywood.
“My only reason for being in Nollywood is my increasing passion for acting that comes with every passing day. I wake up every morning yearning to do more in the industry. My interest developed many years back and it has been increasing daily.
“To be serious with you, I intend to be in Nollywood for a very long time,” she said.
Tonto, the Port Harcourt-born vixen took the movie industry by storm just three years after her participation in a TV reality show, Next Movie Star. As a contestant in the reality show, she impressed quite a number of people with her skills and after emerging as the first runner up, she took her chances in the industry and today she is one of the most sought after.
“I think it was just God’s timing. God has everybody in mind and He has a particular time He wants you to hit it big. God and my talent have been responsible for the rise in my career within a short time. These things have been working for me like magic and it has been my strength. It has nothing to do with my beauty; in fact, beauty is the last thing that helped me in Nollywood because I believe if I had no talent, after one or two movies, I would have been kicked out. The beauty is just a complement,” Tonto said candidly.
The petrochemical engineering graduate of the Rivers State University of Technology was quick to speak up when the issue of the opposite sex was brought up.
In her words: “I don’t think I have had any contact or brush with obsessed male fans or admirers, in fact, all I know I have are fans who love and appreciate me just the way I love and appreciate them.”
On marriage, she said: “I won’t get married because I want to please anybody, I would only do it when I feel and know that the time is right. I would be waiting for God’s time to tie the knot when it comes but for now, I’m not rushing into anything that I might later regret. I only pray that my parents are alive to witness it all when it eventually comes.”
So, is she saying there isn’t any man in her life at the moment even with her wealth, fame and beauty?
“See, there are many boyfriend materials, but what about the husband materials? It’s just the same way with guys. I don’t want something I would do and in the next few months, it’s over or I’m out, so I want to be very careful before going into it, so that I can do it well.
“At present, I’m not even thinking about any man because I don’t even have any! All I’m concerned about at the moment is my career and that for now is my priority!”
Why would she study petrochemical engineering despite her love for the arts?
“I’ve always loved the oil sector and petrochemical engineering came as the only course I could read despite my love for acting. It remained with me all through my years in school because my father wanted a job that could pay my bills, something that is serious.
“But I know that acting is far more serious than people take it to be and ,in my third year I decided to start off the burning desire and here I am today.”
What would the light-skinned actress be doing when she eventually retires? Picking up a white-collar job?
“There is no possibility of me working as a petrochemical engineer, but maybe doing contract or something. I doubt I want to leave Nollywood anytime soon.”
With the number of movies that she has taken part in since in 2006, Tonto must no doubt be smiling to the bank.
“We thank God. I’m not doing bad and I give God the glory,” was her terse reply.
Those who know Tonto very well say she is loved and adored by her father and stepmother but what was her dad’s response to her choice of second career since the death of her mother when she was just three years old?
“My father didn’t just like the idea but I would say he is okay with it at the moment. Secretly he nurses the possibility of me picking up a white-collar job in the oil sector. My stepmother though has always been there for me, telling me that if that is what I wanted to do I should go ahead. I think they just don’t really understand what it is to be an actress, they don’t know it is as serious and tedious as being a doctor or lawyer,” she said.
How soon does Tonto see herself acting in Yoruba speaking or Igbo speaking movies?
“If I have my way, I would really want to go into the Yoruba or Igbo or Hausa genre of movies but I don’t speak the languages. The only thing I understand is English language and pidgin. So, if there is any genre that is known as the pidgin genre, maybe, I would want to be there. Sincerely I want to explore different parts of the industry but I can’t speak the languages”
But one of the criteria that makes a prolific actor or actress is his or her ability to diversify and even speak languages that are not his or hers, so wouldn’t she learn?
“That’s very true and I know that but I can’t give what I don’t have. I lived in Port Harcourt all my life and just came to Lagos like one or two years ago and I can’t just pick up these languages just like that, it would take some time.”
But what if she is challenged and given a role in a Yoruba or Igbo speaking movie with good pay?
“I would obviously not take it because I can’t speakÃƒÂ·I would have loved it because I want to do movies in other languages aside English and I would have loved it but I can’t because I can’t speak the languages, so why waste my time or the director’s saying just one line for several days? It just won’t work,” she spoke with a note of finality.
What impact has Nollywood made on the life of this sultry actress whose name seems to be soaring higher and faster than one can imagine?
“I sincerely don’t know how to say this but sincerely, Nollywood has made a lot of impact in my life. It has taught me to be humble, very respectful and prayerful. My business sense has increased rapidly and I have been more appreciated than I thought. I think it has also made me more matured and I have been smiling to the bank.
“The most interesting thing which Nollywood has brought me is fulfilment that I’m doing what I love doing though it has also taken away my privacy and everything you do becomes public consumption; everybody wants to know little things that you do. I am now used to it though and it has made me stronger and more matured.”