Nadia Buari is not my rival—Jackie Appiah

Born in Canada but moved back to Ghana alongside her parents in 1993, ebony-skinned actress Jackie Appiah was a runner-up at the Talents Teens Competition back in Ghana and she started acting at the age of 12 in her local church group. She had her first onscreen appearance on the popular Ghanaian TV series “Things We Do for Love”. Her sweet and adorable character in the series endeared her to many who were not only enthralled by her acting talent but were also moved by her pretty face and dazzling smile. Married to Peter Agyemang in 2005, Jackie has won for herself a handful of awards and she says she might have ended up as a lawyer were it not for her passion for acting. She opens up on her marriage, why Ghanaian movies dwell on sex and a host of other issues in this interview with AHMED BOULOR.

WHAT would you say is the difference between Jackie Appiah 10 years ago and now?

I would say I have grown as a person in all ways, both personally and professionally. 10 years is a long time, I mean I was still a teenager 10 years ago, so in that time, I have definitely matured a lot and gained a lot of life’s experiences. I hope to look back 10 years from now and see similar levels of development and be proud of the decisions I am making now.

What are the challenges you face being such a renowned public figure?

We all strive to do our bit, really, and don’t really get caught up with being a certain type of famous person. I certainly don’t feel I would be any different if I wasn’t recognisable and, fortunately, I have a good reputation and my lifestyle doesn’t contain anything that would give me issues with being a positive role model to the younger generation.

What would you say is responsible for the lofty heights you have attained as an actress?

I have to be grateful to God. I have been lucky to do a lot of good projects and have worked with a lot of talented people but would definitely put my position down to the grace of God and to, an extent, hard work and perseverance.

How does it feel and what does it mean for you to have won awards such as the AMAA’s and most recently the AMVCA’s?

It is always a big honour and humbling experience to be recognised with awards. When you are on set trying to do your best to interpret a role, you are not thinking “I wonder if I will receive nominations with this role” and only focus on giving your best. Even after the project, your only concern is that your performance turns out well; so, to be recognised in this way is a serious blessing.

What made you accept the role for the movie Turning Point?

I fell in love with the script as soon as I received it. The first time I read it; I couldn’t put it down and I was screaming at the page as the story unfolded. Then I discussed the project with the producers and really liked what they were trying to achieve. It was a very different type of production with a lot of detail going into every single aspect and I had a lot of belief in it.

Was your role particularly challenging?

Not particularly, but I went into the role with an open mind and willing to stretch myself with it. The character I played can easily be related to, although the character can be quite manipulative and her motives seemed conflicting. She starts out as a seductress but then tries to be a good wife until she felt unloved and going overboard. How much of her actions are hers and which were influenced by 3rd parties remain to be decided by the audience.

Was it expensive getting you to play the role?

Not at all, I would say it was reasonable. Playing this role was not about money for me and even though it was obviously an expensive production with a large Hollywood crew using serious equipment, the number of Hollywood cast and total cast size involved, having to fly and accommodate so many people for so long not only in America but in Lagos as well. I felt the money was being properly invested where it should go, which in this case is towards making sure this powerful story is told well.

What in your opinion was the significance of the role you played?

Turning Point combines many elements in the story that were not commonplace before but are becoming things we are starting to hear about and can definitely relate to. A lot of people in Africa want to emigrate abroad and don’t really care how they get there or the personal cost. My character is such a person and when she gets to America and realises that life is not exactly as perfect as she imagined it would be, she decides to abuse the system to get her way further, not realising that everything has repercussions.

How did you cope on set with your other colleagues?

It was fun working with everyone; the director, producers, cast and crew members. We were like one big happy family, especially in America where we spent several weeks shooting and spending a lot of time together.

The atmosphere was always pleasant with a lot of creative energy and we all enjoyed working together so much, it didn’t feel at all like work. The chemistry between everyone was great, and being from different places, it was very jovial. The Lagos shoot was only for a few days but was a big reunion since all the Hollywood and UK crew came down to complete the shoot.

Can you still recollect the incident when a goat hit off your teeth as a young girl after you returned to Ghana from Canada?

How can I forget? It was my first time seeing a goat ever, too! That was one funny incident that I cannot forget in my life and it was my first time in Ghana after spending some years in Canada.

If you were to choose another career apart from acting, what would it be?

I hate the whole idea of injustice. You know people who are ripped off their rights because they are under privileged? I strongly believe that the weak and those who find themselves in desperate situations need to be vindicated if hurt! This is the reason why I’ve always loved to become a lawyer so as to bring in some justice in the ‘game’. I am still nurturing this dream and I believe in due course it’s going to materialise by God’s grace.

Tell us about your endorsements with GLO, UB Hair Relaxer, IPMC and others. How rich have they made you?

I work hard, I make sure I live up to the public’s expectations of me. I would say I live to make people happy and yes, if they think I can be an ambassador for their products, I would gladly do that.

What do you think is the state of the Ghanaian movie industry and the African movie industry at large?

Our film industries have done very well, especially in the last few years and the world is starting to notice. We proudly stand by international movie industries like Hollywood! I am glad of the fact that professionalism comes first amongst my colleagues. The level of confidence in every aspect of telling our stories has really grown and it is evident in the quality of movies that are now being produced. The success of these movies and the audience’s reaction to them further fuels the desire to do even better; so things are very promising.

Why are Ghanaian films going to the extreme when it comes to sex in movies?

My opinion is because they think sex sells and so they use it purely as a sensational tool. I also think it was just a fad as thankfully the emphasis has shifted away from that now and returned to telling interesting stories that the audience can enjoy and relate to.

How far can you go in a movie, when it comes to sex scenes?

I think any type of intimacy in a film needs to be tasteful and be crucial to the story, otherwise it is just for the sake of it. I can’t do anything I find distasteful or tacky and as professionals, we should know the difference between art and something seedy. There are also ways to suggest or depict a certain scenario in a movie without putting it all on show.

Why did you leave Facebook?

There are so many people pretending to be me on Facebook and Twitter; I am not on Facebook and I am not on Twitter. There was a time I went on Facebook to let people know that those people claiming to be Jackie Appiah on Facebook were fake and they should stay away from them. Then they said ‘how do we know you too are not a fake?’ That’s when I left. If you’re talking to anybody on Facebook or Twitter claiming to be me, I want you to know that it is not me.

How close are you to your son?

We are very close and have an amazing relationship. Even when I am working, I try and make sure that anytime he needs my help, I am on the phone and there to help.

How real is your perceived rivalry between you and Nadia?

It is not true at all and I urge fans not to believe everything they read or hear. We are all working in the same industry, and Nadia is a colleague, so I don’t know where this rivalry talk is coming from.

How do you blend the public Jackie and the shy Jackie?

I am a shy person, yes; but when the camera starts rolling and the director says ‘action’ it is not the shy Jackie anymore. I always find a way to strike a balance between the times I am on set and when I am not on set.

Tell us about the role you played in a scary movie where you were painted in black

This is for a new project I have taken on; it is quite a challenging role. It will be one of those films you will remember for a long time after you’ve seen it. Just keep your fingers crossed; it promises to be an exciting movie.

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