How my relationship set me back —Nollywood actress, Mary Uranta

Nollywood actress and UN Ambassador for Peace Mary Uranta is one actress who appears unassuming to many. Beneath her simplicity, modesty and her pristine beauty is a young lady who demonstrates an incredible critical thinking alertness. Labeled Nollywood good girl, the actress the River State born thespian in this interview with MERCY MICHAEL, opens up on growing, her love for the good things of life, friends, among other things:

YOU studied Secretarial Administration. Why not Theatre Art?  I’ve always loved the theatre but I said to myself that I wasn’t going to studyit; I would rather study Mass Communication or Linguistics and then have a certificate in Theatre Art. I didn’t get any of them though. I applied for Linguistics in University of Port-Harcourt and got Sociology. I applied for Mass Communication in Rivers State University of Science and Technology and I got Secretarial Administration. I then said to myself that I will not waste any more years.

The most important thing is getting a degree. That was how I settled for Sec. Admin. By the time I was done with school, I was already in the movie industry but when the jobs where not really coming, I had to take a break off. I thought, rather than to be idle, I should go and better equip myself. I then went to London School of Art where I obtained a certificate in Theatre Art.

How has that been of help?

It has in no small way. Anyone who has seen my movies before now will know that I’ve improved. My works speak for me. Of course the scripts are coming more now. The more you work the better you get at whatever thing you are doing. When you shoot one movie then you have to wait another ten months or so before you go on set again, believe it or not, it affects your skill.

Talking about movies, what are you working on right now?

This is a New Year but thank God I’ve done one movie this year. I’m even about to hit the next movie location soon. I’ve been very busy actually. This year I’ve travelled abroad and back. I travelled to London.

What took you to London?

I went for business. I know a lot of people don’t know that side of me but apart from acting I also do business. I need to make money.

In one of your interviews you said acting alone can’t pay your bills…

This thing I said has really gone far but truth is that is what it is. I don’t know about anyone else. I was just speaking for myself. Acting alone can’t pay my bills. I have a lot of bills so I need to make money and that’s why I do other things that are legit anyway.

I do little contracts here and there. I’m also into buying and selling. I sell stuff from shoes to perfume, even automobiles just to be comfortable.

How do you ensure it doesn’t clash with your acting job?

Yes, scripts don’t come all the time. There are times I don’t shoot for up to three months. At those times, I just get on the plane to go buy stuff to sell. I’m always thinking of the next available thing to do just to make money.

Where did you get this trait from?

I’ve always been an independent woman from my childhood. I’ve always been that kind of girl who wouldn’t even take money from home. Growing up, those days you carry things on your head on the tray. I remember packing rice to sell on the street because I wanted to make money. But guess what? My father caught me hawking and he gave me the beating of my life. Still talking about growing, even in my house I sell, I sell little, little things just so I have money. That’s how I am.

Where did you grow up?

I grew up in Port-Harcourt. I’m a Port-Harcourt girl. I’m from River State, Opobo to be precise. I lived all my life, schooled in Port-Harcourt before I relocated to Lagos.

Was it that things were so bad then?

They were not bad at all. I never had it rough or tough growing up. I’m from an average home but it has never been bad. One thing I can say about me is that I love to have money on my hand right from my childhood.

For someone who can’t be without money, did you find yourself in a situation where somebody offered you money to date you or something?

That’s far from it. I don’t take huge gift from people. It has never been part of me. I can accept little gifts but not huge gifts like cars, big money and all that because it doesn’t work for me. Anytime I take something really big from someone I end up paying for it so I stopped taking from people. For me, loving money doesn’t mean I can take money from anybody. I work for my money. I appreciate whatever money I can make myself to what anybody can give me.

What’s the biggest amount you made as a teenager?

I think it was N500, 000.

What were you doing then?

I used to go to Ghana to buy clothes. I used to buy this fabric called Kente. I think the first transaction I did was with about N200, 000 and that gave me about N500, 000. I also used to buy their beads and other accessories, bring them back here to sell. In my house, I can say I’m the odd one out. My sisters can stay without money and feel good but not me. I can’t stay without money because I love to have everything I want and I don’t like to ask from people.

What was the most trying times you had in your business back then?

It was when someone gave me money to go get Ankara in large quantity. It was meant for Aso-Ebi and I lost the money. It was about N350, 000. It wasn’t easy refunding it to the person.

How many are you in your family?

I’m from a family of thirteen. My mum has seven children while I have four stepbrothers.

What fun memories do you have of growing up?

It was fun growing up with my brothers and sisters. With my stepbrothers, you will never know that we are from different mum. We are one. We grew up walking and holding hands or even holding each other by the neck. We eat in one plate and all that. That was how we grew up.

As a pretty, hardworking lady, do men fall at your feet?

Men? That is secondary. I’ve always being a one-man-kind-of-girl. I’ve never been that girl who wants to date all the men on the street because I need money. I’m focused. I know what I want.

What was your net worth before you came into the industry?

I may not be able to tell you specifically how much I had but I can tell you for sure that I didn’t come into the industry a poor girl. I’ve always been comfortable before I came into the industry and that’s how it’s been. I wouldn’t say I have too much or that I’m there. I’m just a comfortable person.

How did you find yourself in the movie industry?

I’m very passionate about drama. I used to come to Lagos then from Port Harcourt just for auditions. I and a few friends used to go to Asaba, Enugu, Owerri and even within Port Harcourt, just to get auditioned. After sometime, I said to myself, If Lagos is the place where it’s happening, I think I should just move into Lagos instead of coming and going. And that was it.

What was your first movie role?

The first time I got a role was in Port-Harcourt and it was in the movie titled Girls Hostel. It was a very big one. Girls Hostel was my first movie. There was Olu Jacobs, Ngozi Ezeonu, Uche Jumbo, Empress Njama there were a lot of us. It was all girls thing.

What was that experience like for you?

I was still in school then. The movie was shot in Port-Harcourt. There was an audition in Port-Harcourt and I went with my friends who were in Theatre Arts Department. When we got there they each got a role. The Director turned to me and asked if I don’t want to act. I was very shy. He then auditioned me for a role and surprisingly I did well. That was how I got the role. I played the role of the hall President in the movie. After that, he brought us to Lagos for another movie Silver Spoon.

After that it was Church Committee. Movies were always very big then. At a point I stopped because I was still in school so it wasn’t easy for me to do movies because any movie I do and my HOD gets to see it on screen it was always a big problem for me. I had an extra year because she saw me in one or two movies. After school I took up that challenge.

Did you have any form of harassment back then?

That is a natural thing in the industry and I don’t think it’s peculiar to our industry. It’s the same thing everywhere. I think those in banks and other firms also get harassed. It’s not what I love to discuss when granting an interview. Definitely they will come but it’s a choice thing. Movie or no movie, a producer can see you and get attracted to you. An actor can see you and like you. A marketer can see you and like you so for me it’s not a story to talk about.

So how did you cope?

Like I said it’s a choice thing but when I see it’s a condition for getting a movie role I just take a walk. If you don’t want to give in, you miss getting a role and those where the times I left for like two years to do other things. I came back just for the love of it and still it was the same thing. I left again for another two years went to study at the London school of Art. And then I came back again. I keep finding myself here so I decided to stay.

You decided to give in?

(Laughs) I looked for those I didn’t have to ‘give’ and started working.

How did the man in your life cope with the pressure?

Naturally, you know men, even our parents; now that they are beginning to come to terms. They can allow you to go and pursue a career in acting because people are beginning to be famous and make money from acting. Then, when we started, it was for the love of it. We never knew that we could make money from the industry. So no parent at that time encouraged you to run all over the place looking for roles. They had a way of discouraging you. One other thing that actually pulled me back was my relationship. Nobody ever wanted his girlfriend to go and do movies. They have a way of coming up with “don’t go now”, okay, “go for the next one”.

I never had the full support at the initial stage from anyone around me. Actually my parents didn’t have a problem with me doing it in Port Harcourt but when I have to leave home, it was a big deal because I was still very young. Coming to Lagos was even a problem. Initially, I didn’t tell them I was relocating to Lagos. I already came, got a house, furnished it and kept going to Port Harcourt as if I was around. Later I had to tell my mum and she asked how I would cope all by myself. I assured her that I will. So that’s how I came and became a Lagos girl. I’ve been here for about six years now.

What movie would you say announced you?

That will be Secret Mission done in 2006. I played the lead role in the movie. I played the role of Ngozi Ezeonu’s younger sister who married her husband. There was Desmond Elliot, Tonto, Chioma Chukwuka, and others. That movie stands out for me because I had problems interpreting the role. I had to go to the producer twice to return the script. I shot to a point and I went to the producer to plead with him to look for someone else to continue my role because it was so difficult for me.

I wasn’t just getting it at all. I was just fumbling. While we were shooting I even escaped to Port Harcourt. They were looking for me everywhere. They called me and asked me to come back to Lagos because I had already shot half way. It taught me that it wasn’t about getting a big role but interpreting it. I guess it was because it was my first lead role. Of course now, I’m a pro, if I can use that word. My work speaks for itself now.

Who are your friends in the industry?

I have colleagues. I don’t think I have a very close friend in the industry. I have people who are my senior colleagues who I respect. I also know those who are my junior colleagues. I really don’t have a particular friend that I roll with. I know I have colleagues. If I have anything to do I call them. If they have anything to do they call me and I attend. Once in a while we say hello to each other on phone but I don’t have that friend that I roll with in this industry.

Is it because you’ve had a rough deal with them?

I think so. I had so many rough deals so I think its better I stay on my own and be friends with everyone. It’s safer than having one close friend because there is no way, you guys won’t fall out.

Why is there that lack of bond among actresses?

Sometimes I also sit down and wonder why we can’t do things as one. I wonder but that’s how it is. You can change it.

A lot of actresses now are delving into movie production. Any plans in that regard?

Yes that will come later. We are working on that.

What has changed about you?

I love Junk. I love eating things like Akara, puff-puff, fried yam all those things that in the evening, you stroll around, looking for where to get them. A lot of things like that. I just can’t see my life normally anymore. Now, I watch my back, trying to see who is looking. Recently, I drove to a friend’s place within my estate to get some CD’s. I now saw Akara and I was like wow! Mehn I must chop this Akara this night whether devil likes it or not. So I crossed over to get the Akara.

As I was going towards the woman selling the Akara, a boy saw me, I’m sure he recognized my face. He was looking at me like, what is she doing? What is she actually trying to do? I saw him I didn’t even look at his face. My friend was, see that boy is looking at you. Do you want to go and buy this Akara. I was like na him sabi, dis Akara I must chop am today. I crossed over bought my Akara and Agidi to go with it.

What are your likes?

I love music. I love to dance. I’m also addicted to ice. My friends call me Ice Queen because I actually chew ice from morning till night without food.

Who is that man in your life?

I don’t want to talk about my relationship.

Does your level of independence scare men away?

Sometimes, yes. Men will always be men. When you are independent they worry like, are you sure this one can stay. When you are dependent on them they are like, this girl your bills too much. So it’s like that. When the right person comes he will understand that you are doing what you have to do.