Screen and stage actress, Tina Mba, speaks with KORE OGIDAN about the film industry, love and other issues
How did you get into the entertainment industry at a time when the profession was not too popular, especially among parents?
I stole into it. My parents weren’t supposed to know because they’d have had my head. I lived on Apapa Road, Lagos, around the National Theatre; so, sneaking to the theatre was easy for me and no one ever found out. It wasn’t until my mum began to hear my name on radio that she realised that I was already appearing on television. Gradually, she began to accept who I was and what I did. Today, parents encourage their children to be in the movie industry but back then, it was seen as an industry for dropouts and loafers. It was a wrong notion but it was what was assumed.
Do you sometimes wish you had chosen a different career path?
I am quite satisfied with my career decision. There’s nowhere else I’d rather be than in this industry where you can be whoever and whatever you want to be. Every day births new talents and creativity, plus there’s always something to learn. I thank God for the talent He gave me to show the world. I am able to entertain and educate people with my gift and it’s awesome that I can influence peoples’ thoughts and/or lifestyles.
How do you feel watching movies you appear in?
I don’t hate watching what I have done because it gives me the opportunity to be better. At times, my busy schedule doesn’t permit me to watch the projects I’ve appeared in and I even miss some premieres. When I do watch them, however, it helps me to evaluate what I’ve done and it prepares me for better prospects and performances.
What’s your secret to remaining relevant in the industry when many others have faded off?
There is really no secret to remaining relevant. I absolutely believe that I am a product of God’s grace. Added to that, one has to keep learning and remain educated, while sharpening one’s skills. For example, there were no managers back then, but people have agents and managers now. Negotiations are different and getting hired as an actor is a different ball game now. Most times, it isn’t verbal, it is contractual.
You’ve appeared in stage and screen productions. Where would you say you draw more thrill and fulfillment from and why?
I wish there are as many stage productions as there are film productions because I love being on stage, although, it is hard work. The question is, how many people can you reach via stage and how many stage performances can you do in one year? If it takes you a minimum of six weeks to rehearse for a stage performance, you could have appeared in about two movies in that time. The joy of being a stage actor is amazing but we all have bills to pay and our talent should create wealth for us. Looking at it critically, you do some stage acting to fulfil your artistic hunger and some films for the same reason. But one gives you more money and time than the other. They are both relevant and fulfilling but I love stage more because it gives me the opportunity to express myself wholly and absolutely.
In an interview, you said you’d have been a nun if not an actress. What excites you about being a nun?
I may not be a nun but I’m in the service of humanity. As a speaker of the word of the Lord, I speak a lot to youths and women. In that light, I believe I’m fulfilling the spiritual part of my life. I find it necessary to impact people by sharing my experiences and speaking the word of God. Though I am not a nun, I am on the path in a way.
Have you ever faced sexual harassment?
I’ve never been sexually harassed and that’s probably because I’m clear on why I’m an actor and why I may be in any production. No one has even ever remotely suggested such to me.
How do your kids cope with being the children of a celebrity?
I don’t see myself as a celebrity; I’m an actor. They don’t have to cope with anything, as I’m their mum and they are my children. They have their lives and I have mine. Perhaps, these things may influence certain parts of their lives but above all, I always encourage them to find their own path and pace. So far, I think they have agreed to that.
Are you open to love and the prospect of getting married?
God is love and if you believe in God, you must also believe in love. Love is the relationship between two people and I don’t think I’m doing badly in that department. To be honest, I am fulfilled. As for getting married, let’s see what the future holds. I definitely have love in my life and a partner. Sometimes, you don’t find love when people expect you to. Sometimes, you don’t even find it when you expect to. But when you wait patiently and are open and true to yourself, not wanting to live by other peoples’ standards, you’ll find love in the rarest places. It’s not a prospect anymore. I have found love. I am in love and will stay in love.
How would you describe your first childbearing experience?
I can best define it as unreal. Through pregnancy, you just don’t understand what you’re getting into. Then, when you have the baby, it’s a different feeling entirely. The feeling of carrying your baby in your arms is completely indescribable. When you begin the journey of motherhood, all you want to do is protect your child with all that you’ve got. There’s no handbook for being a mother but you’ll learn as you go through that path. It was an amazing feeling indeed.
When was the saddest day of your life?
That was in 1981 when I lost my dad. So far, that was the worst and I hope I never have another sad day. I pray everyone around me live till ripe old ages.
You smile a lot and it seems to be your signature look. Is there any particular reason for that?
It is just who I am. I have come to realise that smiles and laughter are infectious. If you enter a room with a smile, even the grouchiest person will smile back at you. It is so uplifting and I love people around me being as comfortable and happy as I can make them. Giving a smile, for me, is akin to giving a priceless gift and no matter the situation, I try to be happy. Life is short. You have been in the movie industry for a while. How do you rate the growth of the industry over time?
The industry is growing really fast and although there is nothing I’d change, especially because I don’t have the capacity to, there are things that can be taught. Everyone is working hard and there’s no one who is not important. The biggest change I would crave is the attitude towards crew members. Actors, sometimes, think that they are superior to crew members but that’s not true. We all learn on the job and thinking that an aspect of production is lesser is delusional. Often, actors and crew members are treated based on different standards.
Actors often get breaks but crew members can’t, and on some sets, actors and crew members eat different meals. We are all working for the same results on a production. This is one area where I’ll like to see a change. I also tell the crew members to educate themselves and know their rights.