Colette Orji came into the industry a few years ago but already she has a profile that would bedazzle any producer.
Beautiful, talented and sexy but most people who have met Colette keep talking about her magnetic backside which tends to sing a song many could not help but follow. She has several claims to stardom and they include “Strength of a Woman”, “Blue Blood”, “Raindrop”, “Two Can Play That Game”, “Amaka Mustapha” and a host of others. In this interview with Showtime, the Enugu and Abuja based Thespian talked about her acting career and opened a can of worms on the happenings in the movie industry.
How did you find your way into acting?
Let me say I was a star of a sort in Cameroon because I was always on top of everything I did back then. As a child, from Primary school, I represented the school in handball. When there was a quiz, I was the one to present the school as well. In swimming and virtually everything, it was Colette Orji that led the way. When I moved to Secondary school the same trend continued.
In church I did a drama series where I played the role of a Reverend Sister, that was like one of the biggest church activities for a very long time and everyone took to calling me ‘Colette, the Reverend Sister because I interpreted the role so well.
There in Cameroon we would pick up Nigerian films, the few ones we could get, and gathered in our numbers to watch the films and with so much excitements. We knew all the Nigerian actors by either their names or their stage names. Like Pete Edochie, we knew him as Don Pedro. So, you could imagine the whole of Cameroon calling him ‘Don Pedro’. So it became a burning desire in me that when I get to Nigeria I must act.
Fortunately, when I got to Nigeria I went to Enugu in my aunt’s place and there she was, having dinner with an actress, Aunty Stella Oku Egbu. When I saw her I was so overjoyed and could not contained myself. I shouted and screamed even my aunt was taken aback with my show of emotion. Before she left I made her promise to take me where they were having an audition. Fortunately too, it just happened they were having one the next day and she invited me to come along.
Before 6am I was in her house and she said “Colette, it is by 8am” and I said she should not worry that I would wait.
She took me to the audition ground and had me registered. That same day, I was given a character to play. They just gave me a role to read and when you give someone like Colette Orji a chance like that I take over. I simply took over the stage. By the time I was done reading my script everyone was clapping and they gave me the role just like that. The next day I was on set filming.
Though it was a bit role of four scenes in “Two Aside” but that gave me the confidence I needed. The movie was directed by Afam Okereke and produced by Great Movies. I guess I was so impressive they gave me a script for another role immediately.
When was your first major role?
My first major role took time. My first film was in 2004 and I didn’t get my major role until 2008 but that was partly due to my going back to school full time. So, when I came back to the industry in 2008 immediately I got my first major role. In fact I got 3 scripts because the films I had done spoke for me. My first major role was in “Hidden Treasures” and since then I think I have done 16 or more major roles.
So, how would you compare taking up the small roles to taking up the major roles?
You are so sure you are ready but despite all the trainings and the groomings you still find out you are not ready for the big ones. Fortunately for me, there was a film I did, an OJ Production “Bad Blood” directed by Tchidi Tchikere. In that movie two characters were involved. Ini Edo, who was playing the lead role was supposed to be a twin: Juliet and Colette. So, they said they needed someone to play backstage, so when she was playing Juliet the other person would be playing Colette. Because the character’s name was my name they called me from school to come and pick up the role.
That was the biggest training I ever had in Nollywood because I was playing a major character, I was doing everything but I was behind the camera but I had to act like I was actually the person in the movie. That movie brought Ini and I together. It was a great movie and it opened doors for me.
Since 2008 till now, would you say acting has been good to you?
Oh, it has been so wonderful and sweet. It’s something you are actually enjoying. It’s something that brings fame and creates some pathways for you. Like now, I own a fashion shop and I am about to launch my own magazine and NGO.
Since I am not a type of person who works and have to settle anyone back home in my family, all I have to do is reach out to the society to help the needy. I have got cars from acting, so, I can say it has been good.
There’s always this issue of sexual harassment in the industry. Have you ever encountered such?
I think the answer to that is yes. If somebody tells you they have never faced sexual harassment in the industry, it is either they are lying or they don’t want to open up to the press because you guys may blow it out of proportion. You just can’t go through the industry without being sexually harassed.
Nobody really comes to you to harass you but there are things you would realise you are not getting because you are not willing to play some balls. Like me, nobody pushed me around but you know this thing would be like this if you do like that. So, if you are like, I don’t want to do like this, take it and go or you are like, lets do it and see how it goes.
I’m telling you the truth. It is there. Right now as I am speaking to you, I’m praying for those coming into the industry. It’s five times worse than what it was. The industry is in a chaotic situation. I cannot even discuss some of the things going on now. It’s sinful, it’s sin at its highest order.
Just how chaotic is it?
What is happening now is that marketers don’t even pay them any more. What you have to do now is probably go and screw some rich guys to get money to come and pay the marketer to feature in their films. During that time, you feed yourself, pay your own hotel bills and even costume yourself.
Before I came to Nollywood I wasn’t aware of all these things. I was very young, I didn’t know that kind of thing could be happening. But now the girls coming in know that shit happens and they are prepared for shit before coming in. Already they have the mindset for it and maybe that’s cool but for me I didn’t know.
So, have you dated anyone in the industry?
Yes, I have had a relationship within the industry
Can we know the person?
No. I can’t tell you the name of the person but he is not an actor. He is a person who works behind the cameras.
He is a really big producer and at a time I thought I couldn’t stand the competition any more. Everybody wanted him for different reasons. Sometimes we would be together and his phone would beep and it was an alert that so and so have paid money into his account for a role in his upcoming movie. The girls were really doing everything to get his attention. If he said he needed a Blackberry phone like 5 would just appear in no time.
It was too much for me. He would bring someone into a film we were about to shot and I knew for a fact that person paid him. It was too much and these people knew you knew and they would be fighting and attacking you at every chance they got. I had to let him go because everybody wanted him and they were ready to do anything to get him.
So, what would attract you to a man?
I love a man that respects a woman. When I say a man that respects a woman I mean a man who isn’t too proud and too big to say simple things like “sorry”, “thank you” and “please”. It doesn’t really matter if he’s old, young, Black or White, Igbo or Yoruba. It’s like respect for women is gone these days, so if I can get a man that respect a woman, that’s okay for me.
What’s your idea of sex generally?
You know what the Bible and our parents taught us and also what actually is happening out there. If you want to listen to your parents or your Bible, you can wait till you get married. As for me, I don’t want to wait (laughing). Sex is something normal. If you know you are matured and ready and you can handle it then go ahead.
What do you think should improve about Nollywood?
I like what Uche Jombo and Stephanie Okereke are doing now. I think more people should embrace it. They are working on producing better films. Our President once said the movie industry is one of our biggest export and if this reflects the image of the country I think more investment should be driven into it.
I also believe Nollywood should do more films that are message-driven to improve the image of the country. It should not all be about money, movie production should be about quality, the message and the image of the country.