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Tope Oshin-Ogun came into the movie industry almost a decade ago. Her face may not be as prominent in the movies as those of the actors and actresses on the A-list, but her roles in soaps and sitcoms have made it quite familiar. Oshin-Ogun was the presenter of the just concluded TV reality show, Maltina Dance All. In this interview with ‘NONYE IWUAGWU, Oshin-Ogun recounts how she landed this role and how she became an actress.

How did you get into acting?

Basically, I would say I came into acting by accident. At the point when I went to school to study Theatre Arts, I could have gone for another course, because I had lost two years and my peers were already in 200-Level. I needed to go to school and the first available course was Theater Arts. I thought it was all about literature, so I went into it not knowing what it was all about.

When it was time for me to perform in my first play, because I was supposed to play the lead in a convocation play, I refused to take part, because I am a very shy person and had concluded that I could not act. But my lecturer said I had to act. She threatened to score me zero if I didn’t do it, so I said okay. Somehow, I struggled through the convocation play and it came out well. I started giving it a thought and started acting in more plays at school until I finished my course. That was how it started.

How did your parents feel when you decided to study Theatre Arts?

My father was only concerned about me catching up with my friends who were two years ahead of me. He didn’t quite know what the course was all about. He only knew what it was all about when I started coming home a bit later than usual, because I was rehearsing for stage plays and all that. It was a bit hard at the beginning, because they didn’t understand why someone with the kind of upbringing I had would go for such a course. But after a while, he started seeing me on television and he realised that it was not a bad idea, particularly, when his friends started calling him and telling him that they had seen me. He started enjoying it, became relaxed and later realised that there was nothing embarrassing about my career.

Who introduced you to Nollywood?

I won’t particularly say that I’m a member of Nollywood or that I belong to Nollywood, because looking around, you would realise that I have not done a lot of Nollywood movies. I have basically done a lot of soap operas, sitcoms and drama series. So, I won’t particularly say I am in Nollywood.

I started in school. One of my lecturers then, who is also an actor, Sola Fosudo, told me about productions outside the school and recommended me to the directors. That is basically how I started out. And I can say I haven’t done a lot of Nollywood movies. I could count the number of Nollywood movies I’ve done. But I have done soap operas, voice over, radio dramas and all that.

Why are you not really into Nollywood movies?

I’m a very reserved person as a lot of people must have noticed, I am very careful about what I appear in and the roles I take. My career has spanned close to 10 years, and I am obviously not one of the biggest faces. There are lots of big actors and actresses in Nollywood who only spent five years in the industry and became big faces. I am very careful about what I appear in, what roles I want to do and all that. I’m not someone who would do anything to gain the limelight. It is not a hook or crook thing. Most of the films I have done are based on the relationships I have with people; people that I have worked with, who say I am good, so they call me again. It is not that I am the next big thing and all that. I get satisfaction from acting and as for me, that’s enough. It’s my passion; it’s everything.

Don’t you want to be like the biggest faces?

I’ve never wanted to be a star. I’ve never wanted to be in every newspaper. I’ve never envied them. I’ve never wanted to be on every billboard. What I want is to be the best at what I do and do it well if it is possible. But if it is possible for popularity to come along with it, that is okay. As long as I get job satisfaction, I am happy. It must not always be about the limelight or being a star. At the beginning of my career, I was reluctant because it wasn’t what I wanted to do, I just wanted to get into school and get a degree, not enter into Nollywood. So for me, it is not about stardom or limelight, it is about what I want to do and doing it well.

Are you going to stick with soap operas?

I won’t say I will stick with the soap operas, but I will continue to do good soap operas. Actually, I have done movies and they are movies that people have enjoyed watching; movies that people see something different in. That is what my career has been like, and it will always be like that. I will always be seen in quality productions, good stories with good directors.

How do you determine whether a movie is good or bad?

A good movie is one that is well put together, well produced and everything is in place. It should, first and foremost, have a very good script; a very good story line. If the role does not make sense to me, if I don’t believe in the character I’m being asked to play, I will reject it. If I don’t believe in the story, if it doesn’t reach out to me, if I feel the story is not complete or I feel bored, and if it something that will embarrass me when I play it back, I will reject it.

Again, if it is a role that will present me in bad light, I will reject it.

What kind of role do you think can present you in bad light?

Definitely, I will not take steamy roles. I have never and will never take such roles. It has nothing to do with the fact that I’m married. People who knew me before I got married would testify that I didn’t do steamy or sexy roles.

Is it a bad thing?

It is not because there is anything wrong in them but because I will not enjoy doing it, and I don’t believe in it. For me, working as an actress, performer or director is not about the money.

I will not feel good doing steamy roles, so there is no point doing it. I would rather do roles that will make me feel good.

That means you are not versatile.

According to my own dictionary, versatility doesn’t mean not being able to do steamy roles. It’s basically a matter of choice. And in my career, I have taken different kinds of roles. Two years ago, I took a role where the character was not particularly a good girl; she was always bitchy. I had fun playing the role and I was not harbouring any negative feeling. Because it was so different from who I am, I enjoyed playing it. It did not involve me exposing my body. It was fun because the character was not me. But I didn’t have to preach anything negative to my audience or people watching. So, when it comes to versatility, I have actually played a couple of roles. Three or four years ago, I played a role in Amaka Igwe’s movie as a 17-year-old. At that time, I had two children and was almost pregnant with another one. They were two movies; one is Full Circle and the other one is still in her cupboard.

What gave you the break in acting?

I would say the most prominent soap I acted in at the beginning of my career was Saints and Sinners. I acted with Desmond Elliot. It was at the point when Desmond’s career picked up. I won’t say it brought me to the limelight, but it was my biggest role as at that time. That was in 2000.

How much were you paid for that role?

I can’t remember. I played the lead role, but it’s been long. That was about eight years ago.

Let’s talk about Maltina Dance All. How did it come about?

For almost two years, I deliberately decided to stay off the camera. I have not been doing any acting or presenting. I have been doing voice over and directing. I’ve taken part in directing movies; creating, instead of performing. I’ve also read a lot of books, such that when I watch movies, I am always pointing out the wrongs. So, I dedicated two years to learning directing. I deliberately stayed away from the camera. I have done about one or two assistant directorships for free. So, I could say I have paid my dues. I have directed about three radio commercials and one radio drama.

I was actually on a radio production job. I was producing a radio drama when I got a call that I should please come for an audition as the presenter of Maltina Dance All. After I dropped the call, I told myself that I had decided to stay off the camera but I had the conviction that if I went for the audition, I would be picked. I don’t know why; I just had that feeling. I had to sit and think about it. I almost did not go for the audition. I later went and a couple of days later, I was called back. That happened two or three times and then I got the news that I had been picked as the presenter.

Inside of me, I was very happy, even though it was not a new experience for me because I had presented on radio before and had done like two studio television programmes. But this was the first big presenting job I have ever done. I was under a lot of pressure because I knew it was big. I knew Nigerian Brewery wanted a better production than they had last year. I knew they wanted it to be more exciting. So, I was under a lot of pressure. I fasted and kept praying until I got there on the first day. After that first day, I came off stage and people said I did well. So, that was the journey. I would say that I’m glad I went for that audition.

How much were you paid?

You are not expecting me to tell you that. I was paid well and I will spend it well. Like I told you, money is not important in my career; it is job satisfaction, and I got it.

So, if you are called again, will you do it?

I definitely will do it. They are people I would love to work with.

Do you think Maltina Dance All will open more doors for you?

With regards to that, in my entire career, God has been the one opening doors for me. So whether Maltina came or not, I believe that God has been the one opening doors for me and He will take me to where He wants me to be. I want to believe that Maltina was a part of the plans He has for me. I believe it’s another step.

Which family was your favourite at the academy?

I’m not allowed to say that; it is very unethical. Maltina Dance All is not over. It will go on, so it will not be nice for me to say that I had a favourite family. They were all wonderful families. Any one of them could have been the winner.

How did you feel when one of the families mimicked you in their dance?

It was very humbling for me. I felt happy that there was something I was doing that people liked it. I was very happy, and I felt good.

Can you dance?

Way back in school where I studied Theatre Arts, I was one of the best dancers. So, let me leave it at that. I dance at the corner of my house. I dance at parties, but not professionally. I will like to go to a dance school, because I like to jump around.

Maltina Dance All has come and gone, what’s next?

I am actually thinking about taking one acting role before the end of the year, then I will go to the backstage again. I worked on Apprentice Africa last year as an associate producer, and I’m going to work on this year’s edition again. I look forward to it. I’m looking forward to all the other television commercials and my movie, which I intend to shoot early next year.

Now that your face is back on the screen, do you think you will still be able to reject the huge number of requests you may receive to act in movies?

I know that is what is going to start happening. I expect it, because during Maltina people that had not seen me for over a year were happy to see me. That’s human behaviour for you. So, I expect that a lot of producers with one script or the other would want me to take roles. And as I always say, I will only pick roles that I believe in and that must not be to the detriment of my directing career, because that is very important to me.

You got married after you became an actress.

I met my husband when I came on a movie set. We went to shoot a movie somewhere and he was working there. My husband is a scriptwriter. He is also a producer. To a very large extent, he understands the industry and my work. He has not had any cause to be embarrassed by the roles I’ve taken in the past or about my dealings in the industry. I try as much as possible to make it easier for him because I know definitely his friends and family would want to ask why he decided to marry an actress. God helping me, I’m trying to make it possible for him not to regret marrying an actress. And he is proud of me. He is proud to say ‘Tope is my wife.’ He does not cover his face when he sees a particular movie. All in all, I would say it’s love and that love conquers all.

You have not really been associated with any scandal…

I have not had one till date, and I hope never to have one by God’s grace.

Is it because you have been careful?

Yes, I am careful. But I don’t think it’s all about being careful or careless. I just pray that I don’t get anything written about me because, sometimes, people are really out to get you. They do anything, they say anything just to tarnish your image.

Did you choose your husband because of his place in the industry?

I didn’t choose him because of what he does. Even at the time we got married, he was a writer struggling to get up. I just met him, he liked me, I liked him, and we became friends and started a relationship

When was that?

That was six years ago. We have four boys now.

You don’t look like someone with four children. How did you do it?

I am a fitness freak even though I slack at times. Like now, I haven’t been to the gym in the last two months. I do a lot of working out. I watch what I eat, I try as much as possible to remain youthful. I see myself as a girl, and even when I am 80, I will still see myself as a girl.

How do you feel about girls coming to your husband to help them to get a role?

My husband is a producer and he has handled some productions in the past. Definitely, actresses come up to him to see if he can help them get roles. It’s a natural thing and, to a large extent, I know how to handle them. That’s not a problem.

What if they want to take your husband from you?

Nobody gave me my husband and nobody can take him from me. God gave him to me, so only God can take him from me. I have no fear of any woman.

You trust your husband that much?

I trust God.

You call God a lot. Are you a born again Christian?

God is the very essence of my being. I cannot exist without Him. He is everything I have been and will ever be. I attribute everything to him–my failures, my successes, everything.

You have four boys; don’t you want a baby girl?

I am happy God has given me children. I don’t care whether they are boys or girls. Somewhere within me, I am actually happy I don’t have girls. Have you been to children’s parties lately? Have you seen what those little girls are wearing? So, a part of me thanks God that I don’t have a daughter. I don’t have to cope with all the teenage stress and all that. I am cool with what I have. I am happy.

Why do you wear cropped hair?

It is easy to maintain, though it is expensive. I love it and my husband loves it too. It’s very convenient for me. I’ve tried to grow my hair a couple of times, but it doesn’t last six months before I cut it again.

How was growing up?

I am the fourth child in a family of six. I am the last girl. My parents are both ministers. My mother is a pastor, my father is also a pastor. We lived a well sheltered life. We didn’t do a lot of going out in my childhood. That was how our parents decided to bring us up. We are family people; we like to stay indoors, we don’t jump around. Maybe, that is why I don’t have a lot of friends. I enjoy the company of people, but I don’t go out of my way to get friends or keep in touch with them. It is not as if it is particularly good. I’m trying to improve, but that’s how I grew up and that is how I am.

My parents were strict. They didn’t allow us do what other young girls were doing then and I was angry at them. But some part of me now appreciate that aspect of my growing up, because it helped in shaping me to what I am now. Even if I wanted to be wayward, I couldn’t because of the upbringing I had.


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