Uche Mac-Auley is a top Nollywood actress. She is a graduate of English from Delta State University. This indigene of Delta State, who divorced her first husband – Osotule,in this interview with ODUNAYO OREYENI, talks about her second shot at matrimony, her new movie titled: ‘In a Lifetime’, her plans for the industry and the heavy price she is paying for fame.
Where did you grow up?
My name is Uche Mac-Auley. I was born in Delta State. I went to school in Delta State I only came to Lagos for my Youth service.
I went to Delta State University and I read English Language. I went to different primary schools, because my parents were teachers. They were being posted from one place to the other, so I attended like four different primary schools, but I finished at Osoro Primary School. I did my secondary school at Anglican Girls Grammar School, Osoro, and Idia College before I later went to Delta State University. I’m the first of five children, two boys, three girls. My mum is late, my dad is still alive and he’s retired from teaching, and he’s back to the village. My father was a principal; he’s Mr. Gabriel Mobuogwu, and my mum, Mrs. Clementina Modupe Mobuogwu, was a vice-principal before she died.
So your mum is a Yoruba?
She’s not Yoruba, my mum was born here in Lagos and a lot of her siblings. Most of them have Yoruba names, but we are not affiliated to Yorubas at all.
Where did Osotule come from?
Osotule was my marital name. I know it’s not a secret that I was divorced; I broke up with the other one and I’m re-married.
How is life as an actress?
It’s fun; it’s a lot of work and what a lot of people think out there that being an actress, you only need to have a pretty face and an empty brain to be an actress, but it’s a lot more than that. Life as an actress can also be a bit tasking because I’m a very private person, but because the career I chose comes with a lot of exposure, a lot of publicity, your life is no longer the same; you belong to the public. Sometimes it gets a bit overpowering, sometimes I just want to be left alone, sometimes I don’t want to be seen, I just want to walk into a room and nobody notices that I’m there. I want to wear anything I want to wear. Sometimes I feel if I could really walk on the street and eat and nobody will notice that it’s me (if I would hardly do that), it will be fun. So my privacy is totally murdered, but it also has its really good side because people will know you, it opens doors. Where ordinarily you may not be able to walk into, but because somebody recognizes you, people are willing to help, it’s a major plus to it, the disadvantage is very minor.
How have you been able to cope with fame?
I’m beginning to live with it, because I’ve finally come to realise that I really don’t have a choice on this matter. When I chose to become an actress, I didn’t see the fame that will come with it. I love to act, I’ve acted all my life. So it was something I naturally will do. I just don’t think it will come with that kind of fame, but like somebody rightly said, I think that was when it dawned on me. The person said, “If you are somebody and you make a success of anything, you’ve become famous, your name will be known, you will probably even be asked to speak. And according to the person that we are public speakers, unless you do not excel in what you do because when you do it, your name will be known.” Definitely I don’t want to be a nobody, I guess it’s okay and I really should be grateful to God for fame that has come with it.
How did you begin in the acting industry?
Professionally, I started from my youth service, I served here in Lagos, after working my redeployment back to Lagos because I hated where I was posted to before. And then I joined the Drama group of the NYSC and things started coming in. NTA had something to do and wanted us to do some soaps, which is the ‘Destiny’. It was as if they heard about me, they heard that I was redeployed from where I worked my way back to Lagos. It was a story of a youth corps member, who hated where she was posted to and wanted to be posted to the city. It was titled ‘Selfless Service’. That was the very first one and after that I did ‘Checkmate’. One of the people who was with us then introduced me to it when they had a casting for ‘Checkmate’. I played a role of Nkemji. So, basically it started from ‘Checkmate’ and other production. Here we are today.
In ‘Checkmate’ you acted Nkemji, and that brought you to the limelight, what was your experience like?
That was the role which brought me to the notice of the public. I still considered my role ‘Nkemji’ in Amaka Igwe’s ‘Checkmate’ as one of the best experiences I have had in the industry so far, because it was a role telling away from me. The character I actually auditioned for was supposed to be a university girl, but when the casting came up and I was given the role of a village girl, I was a bit disappointed, I was very upset. And I thought to myself, do I look anywhere close to a village girl, why would she be giving me a role like that. But I thought about it, when the first script came out, I read it and it became very interesting, and for the first few minutes I opened my mouth to say the first line, it was an experience that I’ve never had before because everybody there, the director, the producer, the camera people backstage, I made them laugh, and it continued like that. And what interests me most then is that I cannot walk into an estate without the whole estate turning upside down, the whole estate will just be screaming like “Nkemji, I really wan go village”. It was an experience and till date people still call me Nkemji. I looked back and I thought that I was able to play a role like that, it was fun and I really wish I can play something like that again.
What motivated you in playing your role as an actress?
I just try as much as possible to live in the character I’m supposed to be portraying, and I try as much as possible to allow the character progress. I try to forget me.
Some actors, especially the upcoming ones believe you cannot become a star without having a godfather. Who is your godfather?
I really don’t know where they are getting that information from, because like I said before, a lot of people believe that being an actress is just to have a pretty face and then you jump in front of the camera, but how far can your pretty face take you? If you are talented, you don’t need a godfather. Yes you may need one or two persons to introduce you, but you don’t even need that for crying out loud! If you know and believe in yourself that you have the talent to act, look around, there are auditions everywhere, go for an audition. If you really have it in you, a serious minded producer and a casting director will notice you. So you don’t need to have a godfather, you don’t need to take off your cloth, you don’t have to spread your legs, you don’t even have to go begging anybody for a role.
What is your assessment of Nollywood?
I will not say I have the solution or I’m the messiah of Nollywood, or there is something special that I want to do that will transform the industry. But what I will like to say is that, the reason we are where we are today is because majority of us are not even ready to unite. Yes we are talented, but we are not thinking of the future, they are always interested in today, what can I get as at now. I hardly watch home videos, but majority of the ones that I’ve seen, you will see that everybody is involved, we haven’t done our home work well. We really just want to get the money, get the idea today and get it spread, go to location the next day, two to three days time you are done with shooting and in a week the poster is out and then you are selling. A product like that cannot go very far. An American actor once said that Nigeria does not have movie industry. I was at a forum in South Africa and somebody there also said that South Africans hardly watch Nigerian movies, that they are not interested in them. That they look very much like what they have in their television stations, and they have a lot of television series. We are still crawling and we really have to go back to our drawing board; let us learn the craft because there is craft to every process of film making and we don’t even have to start to create a brand new process to it. The white have done it for us, we can learn from them. It’s just to take the blueprint of what they’ve already created and build on it. Let it still be a Nollywood production. Majority of us even though you give us a hundred million dollars, we will still not do anything.
You are from Delta, and sometimes you feature in Yoruba movie, why is that?
I don’t even speak a word of Yoruba. People think because I took part in Tunde Kelani’s film, ‘Thunder Bolt’, that I do speak, but no I don’t. And the word of Yoruba that I spoke, they said it to me and I rehearsed it over and over again before I was able to speak it. And then, regarding me not being a part of most of home videos and all that. Yes I’ve come to love the film because it comes in very handy and I excel at what I do. But I don’t think I want my face everywhere. I don’t think I want to be called in the sense that I don’t want to be in every stable movie that is done.
Because I want to excel in what will assist me, in what people will see and say ‘Well Done Uche’, in what the people will watch and want to learn my craft of acting. I don’t want to be in every single movie. When they call me, I tell them no! I don’t want to be a part of it. Apart from your script being good, your director also has to be good. In the world nowadays, the director has to be it, the producer has to know what he’s doing, and the editor who is going to work on it at the end of the day has to be sure of what he’s doing. If you are working with a great director and a brilliant producer, you will know that what they will come out with at the end of the day, they will do justice to whatever they are to do.
Why don’t we get to see you on screen this days?
The reason for that is I’m actually back and I got tired of everything. The roles that I was getting, there was nothing exciting about them, nothing challenging, the scripts were not exciting, because by the time you read the title of the script, you’ve already known the entire story; you’ll know the conclusion, so I lost interest and then words started spreading and I needed a break from Nollywood that ‘okay Uche has stopped acting, her husband has stopped her from acting.
Did your husband actually stop you from acting?
How can he stop me from acting. How can I marry a man who would be a stumbling block to my dream, it’s not possible; it’s unthinkable.
If he did not stop you from acting, what then went wrong with your first marriage?
Alright you are fishing for a story that I actually don’t want to get into at all, and that’s happened so many years ago, even before the press got to know that I was no longer there, it was over a year. So I don’t really want to go into such details at all, because he’s actually happily married as well, and I’m also happily married.
What about your new hubby?
His name is Solomon Mac-Auley, an actor, director. He’s my husband and business partner.
Which film are you working on presently?
It’s called ‘In a Lifetime’. I wrote it recently and Solomon is directing it, that’s my husband. We are shooting some in Lagos. The story is something close to my heart, and I can’t really wait for it to get out there. I wanted to do something that people could pick something out from. I don’t want what people will just watch and after they got up they will forget it. I want a good production that will touch life, something that will transform lives.