Nse Ikpe-Etim Exclusive: ‘I wasn’t born to get married’


A diva with eloquent diction, Nse Ikpe-Etim speaks on her family, job and why she not yet married
Who is Nse Ikpe- Etim off stage?
Imperfect. I am a person that wants stuff to be the way they should be. I might not get that all the time, because I know I’m imperfect and I’m just trying to make it better.
How was growing up for you?
Growing up was very good for me. I enjoyed my childhood a lot because I come from a close-knit family and a lot of love abound. My dad and mother encouraged us a lot to always speak our minds. Over the years, I have tried to be diplomatic about things. Growing up made me realize that there was no need to furnish anything, it is either black or white, but I have started seeing grey areas now (smiles). There was a period I didn’t grow up with my parents; I got that kind of mentality from my Godparents, who were foreigners, I lived with them a lot. That also created another thing for me. So rather than have toys, my father gave me books to read. I played with gravel a lot! (Laughing).
You said you didn’t grow up with your parents at a particular time, why was it so?
Well because my mother was in school and she was very young and my God mother decided to keep me to herself.
What is your educational background?
Yes I went to school, where do you want me to start? Nursery school? I went to Awa Nursery School in Kaduna. I went to Command Primary School, Kaduna. I went to Command Primary School in Jos, I also attended St. Louis College in Jos, went to FGC College in Jos for about a year. I went just for a term and then I finally went to Federal Government College Ilorin. In JSS2 and don’t ask me why that was (laughing) because my dad worked for the central bank of Nigeria and each time he was sent on transfer, we move with him. My growing up was interesting because I got a little of people’s culture even though living in the GRA will not really ‘make you’. You know in those days, it was not really as if you were living amongst people, but I still learnt a bit from school.
Which university did you attend?
Yeah! I remember that one because I almost forgot I went to the university. (Laughing) I went to the University of Calabar.
Are you from Cross Rivers?
No, I’m from Akwa Ibom
What did you study?
Theatre arts
Your first day on set, how was it?
Now which of the first day? Because I have had two first days on set. Now is it from the early days when I first came in, or my come back which was Reloaded by Emem Isong? Which one of them?
Let’s have the first one because I still have a question on RELOADED
Reloaded (smiling)…For the first one, my first day on set wasn’t anything spectacular. I did it, you know fresh out of school. You are thinking about a lot of things. You know you are not sure, and then being a rebel, I didn’t want to be a banker, which was what my mother wanted me to do. So this was my way of saying, I’m not going to do what she wants me to do. I didn’t even know what I wanted to do. But it was just a case of ‘okay, just try’. And then I tried. The set I enjoyed back then was when I did ‘Scars of Womanhood’ with Basorge Tariah Jnr. Then in 2009 I now did Reloaded. And I always say my coming back into the industry was not designed and planned. My passion and hobby has always been my kitchen, writing and all that. For me, I was writing here and there. Emem brought a script and I’m looking at it like ‘what can we do because I want to play this role’. And then she starts cursing me in my kitchen. And I said to her what is wrong with you; I’m not an actor. And of course she said I didn’t have faith in myself and all sort of stuff. And I said ‘okay’ and finally she was able to convince me and I did it.
Is it that you used to run a kitchen or you still run it?
I didn’t have a kitchen I was running. I was working from home. So I delivered food to people and for big events, usually private parties. People like my cooking, it is fun. It is something I like doing.
So you cook very well?
I don’t know, but I think people like the food (laughing)
How do you choose the movie you feature in? I mean the criteria you use
The script is what informs the choice of movie. And then, on the other hand, maybe I should say this: I think I’m lazy (laughing), so I end up not doing a lot. I must say it is not easy. It is not easy to do a lot of movies at the same time, so I work with the scripts. I choose my script basically.
A lot of people see you as a star; do you see yourself as one?
No, I’m not a star. I’m just a working actor. Being a ‘movie star’ is not what defines me as a person. What defines me is the smile I’m able to put on someone’s face. The fact that I can say sorry when I can, the fact that I can stay through with my friends and family, that is basically it. It has nothing to do with my job. My job is my job.
Was it because you studied theatre arts that made you go in to acting or you got inspiration from somewhere?
No, it wasn’t because I read theatre arts. When I even did theatre arts in school, I didn’t major in dance, acting, drama criticism, or directing. I majored in administration, meaning it was the business side of it I wanted. So the fact I’m in the front of the camera is just something I can’t understand.
But are you enjoying it?
I guess it is my job. I love my job. Enjoying? It comes with its own topping.
When you say toppings, some toppings might not be so palatable but I guess you get to eat them. So that is the kind of topping I’m talking about. (Laughs)
What is the worst set you’ve been on?
I think every set has its own peculiarities. I don’t think anyone has been bad and so it depends on the kind of energy that you are preparing to give out. So whatever energy you give is what you are going to give out. My output is based on what I get. It’s based on the surroundings. So if you give me something bad, I won’t do well. But for me, it has been good. I don’t think I’ve ever been on any bad set.
Most challenging roles
Let me say that my most challenging role hasn’t come yet. I am grateful to the directors I have worked with and their impact on me. I am also grateful for those productions, but I still think that we can go further. I haven’t reached the point that I will say I can’t do this anymore. So I think I still have the most challenging roles ahead of me. It is still yet to come.
On the set of the movie Phone Swap, we learned you were injured. How did it happen?
I had already fallen off from the bike while filming two days before on set. So I was still a bit sore. And so the next day I tried to pick up a phone which was ringing, and when I stretched to pick it, I slipped and fell. I am grateful to the people who came to my rescue at that time. I shall not mention their names but I say thank you to all of them. Thank you… (laughs)
Tells us about the role you played in the movie
Mary abi Mary? (Switches to local accent) Mary the tailor (hums). You know people that are tailors like to wear clothes. So the girl was wearing her thing.
Now you spoke in Ibo language. Was it because of the movie you learnt Igbo language or you speak normally?
(Nse cuts in) I speak Igbo. I speak a bit of every language, but speaking the Owerri dialect… no.
So how long did it take you to learn the language?
I had the script for over a year, so I kept going back and forth but then learning the language took me six weeks. I had a girl, Uche Benjamin, who helped me a lot in translation.
Congratulations on your nomination for AMAA in MR & MRS. So what are your expectations? Are you hoping to win?
Thank you. For me, a nomination is good as a win. It is not about the accolades that come with the work. But I did do good work. That is what it is all about, and for me, that is a win.
You are mostly seen on Emem Isong’s set. Do you have any personal relationship with her?
She has been a friend for years. Back before she became a household name, which is why she can sit me down and insult me (laughs). But I have done other productions apart from hers. She knows a lot of people, and she’s got the publicity. But I have done other works and when I’m not doing her work, people turn around and say we are quarreling. Any producer that comes to me and I like the work, I will do it. It is not about the person.
In ‘Reloaded’, your character was a funny one. You tailed your husband everywhere.
(Cuts in) So? Women do it.
Now the question is this, how do you get into roles so well?
I follow the school of thought of Konstantin Stanislavski, he is the father of method acting, and also Stella Adler. I also believe in the spirituality of acting. So when I get a script, apart from what my director is planning to draw for me, I go to the drawing board, I imagine a lot of things. I dig up experiences which might not be my own. Things I have heard and I create the character. Acting is not exactly doing what the director wants you to do. Any time I watch the film, I can’t help but laugh. (laughs). I think it was a funny role.
If you have an opportunity to feature in Hollywood movies would you?
Yes I would. I also think we have to conquer our own first. It is a prayer we all pray. That God enlarges our coast. Your coast is where you want to be and I’m home now, this is my coast. If the prayer is answered, fine. But I cannot be something here and want to be something else, elsewhere. Much as they say a prophet is not honoured in her own town, but trust me, I’m not saying I prefer Nollywood. I can’t say I don’t want Hollywood either. But rather than focus on that, I’m focusing on my work.
With the nature of your job, what kind of a man will you like to marry?
Recently I asked someone ‘did you come to this world to come and be married?’.
A lot of people ask me. When are you getting married? Time is not on your side. For me, I don’t know. It is whatever God wishes. I wasn’t born to get married, so I don’t need to rush.
Which school of thought do you believe in, sex before marriage or vice versa?
I’m of the school of thought that you should do what you want to do according to what you believe in. Whatever you believe in and that works for you, do it. What I believe in is ‘live and let live’. I try as much as possible to abide by the rules of life.
So you are saying you don’t have any relationship at the moment?
No I don’t have any relationship at the moment. It is sad abi? But I am happy. I’m happy.
What kind of relationship would you prefer?
I like to be happy, if I were to be happy I want to have a peaceful home. I don’t think anyone wants a turbulent marriage. I don’t want to do things because others are doing.
What’s your Relationship with your colleagues?
I respect everybody’s work. The way you will interpret a work is different from mine. That is what acting is all about. We are different. I have a cordial relationship with everyone.
You are not having any rift with any one?
Where does it want to come from? Are you heading to Monalisa’s story? Please I said I won’t say anything about it. I’m not having fight with anyone ooo. But why should there be a fight. I’m not a spring chicken, so what am I going around fighting for. I don’t have the time.
Are you permanently based in Lagos now?
Yes. I’m not going back to Abuja any time soon, knowing that I like to run away. At least, for the next three years, I know I will be here.
Where you into banking before?
Yes, they are both defunct banks now. I worked with FTB bank, and then Bank PHB. I’m no longer a banker.
Any new movies for your fans after Phone Swap?
Next production is with Temple Productions. There is a title but I don’t want to let it out of the bag
How do you relax?
Sometimes I go dancing. I like to play games. Board games: Scrabble. I also love cooking, writing but I’m not such a great writer.