She is one of the most talented and gracious actresses to have come out of the Nigerian movie industry. Liz Benson rode the movie industry from the 90s like a colossus.
Having featured in countless of movies, the beautiful thespian and mother was one of those that made the Nollywood brand what it is today. Now a minister of God and married to Bishop Great Ameye of Freedom Family Assembly in 2009, Liz spoke to SAMUEL ABULUDE on her new world of reaching souls for God, meeting her hubby and her new movie project.
How is Liz Benson-Ameye doing?
To God be the Glory. My husband has made the home comfortable for me. But the joy of people coming to you and saying pastor this is what is going on, this is what is happening and I counsel them with the word of God and they put it to practise. Oh my God, it gives me joy! And I tell them when you are doing well, when you are prospering, when you have answers to questions, I’m filled with joy. I’m fulfilled serving people and changing lives. Apart from these when you are filled with God and God is working in your life and you are in total obedience to God your maker, the assurance in heaven is something you can’t quantify. For me, I’m very comfortable with it.
Did you ever imagine being a pastor’s wife?
I tell you what? No one knows what tomorrow holds for him or her. I carried the heart of someone that wants to serve God but I never thought it will turn out this way. In 2001, I was in a thanksgiving service at Faith Foundation Church, made a testimony and I left although I had the mind of a minister of the gospel then. Bishop Sam Amaga and his wife came to my house one day and said, ‘Do you know there is a call of God in your life?’ I looked at them and responded, ‘God has made those he wants to use and I don’t think I’m part of them.’ I found out later that many of the servants of God that God wants to use never said I want to be this, I want to be that.
But they just find out that the more you love God, the more you get closer to him, God will want to use you and qualify you for his work. And for someone like me, you just find out that God moves you from place to place. I was just preaching in places like Allen Avenue back then. Two ladies saw me then and bore witness of my early days preaching around the place. One of them who acted in Twinkle sometime ago reminded me when she saw me at the airport sometime ago. She said she remembered that I came to her shop at Emporium Plaza at Allen, Ikeja to preach to her customers. So I used to do that a lot in those days when God started with me.
So how did you meet your husband, Bishop Ameye?
God did it. It was by divine arrangement. God was speaking through many people just like he used the donkey in the Bible. God used different witnesses to guide me. I was there waiting and he was there also waiting. I never expected such. And even after we met and he proposed, I still was running (She laughs). I still was running and where I was running to, a woman of God stopped me and asked me where I was running to. ‘You are running from your husband?’ The things of God eh, they are such that if you run from it, it doesn’t make it go away. When God takes a hold of you and you run away from it a million times, he will still ask you to do the assignment. The calling of God is such that you will have to surrender and all that.
How fulfilling are you now compared to your days as an actress?
I can’t put it in a box. I can’t really describe how it feels now but it is one of the most fulfilling times of my life. Being available to God, to humanity and doing something that is touching lives. In one way or another, you are investing in the lives of people and seeing that effect on them is most fulfilling. Doing what pleases your maker is fulfilling both to you and God. You may not have the billions but God has his own reward system and it surpasses the way of the world. God is most gracious and most sufficient.
Did you ever see yourself different from being a star actress?
Let me put it this way, a lot see the other side of me as a celebrity, star actress but two people that I call friends knew that I was always close to God. They knew Liz Benson as that kind of a person. In all the parties, I always go out and excuse myself to pray. We gather here, I live whatever we are doing to pray. So, it’s been like that for me. I know it couldn’t go on for a very long time. I had to do things my own way not conforming to their standards.
I think that was why my friends saw me a bit strange because I couldn‘t do certain things and fit into some area of our activities. And there are so many of us like that. There are a lot of people who are hiding under the cover of activities, showbiz and all that but they know that they have a personal relationship with God and are hiding this. But I know God will catch up with them the way He did to me.
Between yesterday’s Nollywood and today’s Nollywood, how will you rate it?
We now have the wherewithal, the financial wherewithal; some of the equipment we have now we never had before. When I look at the directing, even the editing, I feel that a thorough job is done. The directors are doing well. In terms of movie production, there is still a lot of infrastructure that we don’t have yet.
What attracted you to be part of the Living Funeral movie?
The movie is about breast cancer and it is a disease that its awareness has not reached home yet. I have been in a situation where the people are very religious and they talk about which side of the bed they slept last night. And I called someone, ‘let them check her blood pressure. It was 200 over! I told her, mama what you need is rest.’ Another woman came to me and she had pain in her breast. Immediately, I swung into action and this was before I became involved in this project. I took her to the teaching hospital so that they could find out what was wrong with her.
I told her not to deceive them and tell them exactly what was wrong with her. And they operated on her and now she is living well. She came in about three years ago to thank me. ‘Mama I thank God for you oh. Ignorance fit kill me person oh.’ If not that I was involved in her life, maybe we will be saying something else. So it’s not just preaching the word, preaching the word, preaching the word.
But being able to reach out to people and save lives. And things like this movie project, Living Funeral, are also a means by which I can reach people and impact lives. So I’ve not gone out of acting completely. It’s just that when you have a ministry, we are all gifted in different ways and when things like this come. It is something that makes me to do a lot of good to my fellow brethren and women especially.
So when situations like this happen it is not only the patient or victim of cancer that suffers it but the whole family, the whole community. So, I’m here to promote a worthy cause. If I say something here, I mean it and when my assistance is needed to propagate a just cause, I will gladly do.
When it comes to your movies what are your fond memories?
I always have the movies that I fancy based on experience but it is the viewer that can judge that because they all have their favourite. But for me, every production brings its own challenges that come with it. I deal with them in their own way. I can’t place a hand. But if I want to take into account, Living Funeral is it because I’m doing something as a minister of the gospel that projects my faith and tells a good moral story. I was moved and shaken by the movie. Some of the lines of the scripts are killing. I can’t even place what it is about the movie but the story line is touching and the movie has fetched us eight nominations in Africa Magic Video Choice Awards AMVCA including Liz Benson-Ameye being nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama.
So viewers should go to www.amvcaawards.com/nomineeslist to vote us in. I just thank God for giving me the grace to act in such movies. Life itself has its challenges. Even if there are some hurdles there, you will always survive them. I have so much work to do in God’s vineyard. To God be the glory, Now I can only appear in movies that have to do with humanity and preach good tidings. For me, the moral standard is what I deal in right now.
The best, depth and height of every human being and endeavour are all in the Bible. Even the most spoken words in history are taken from the Word of God. For me it is God because movie roles, boyfriend, girlfriend, romance and all that are no longer for me. The most recent one that we are projecting is in the bible. That’s why I’m saying that it just have to be God standard or nothing.
What are the things people don’t know about Liz Ameye?
I don’t know, it is for the people to say not me. I think one of the issues is being able to deal with issue the way it comes and allow God to have control of your life.