Actress, Tina Mba, talks about her career and gives a glimpse into what has been keeping her busy
Did you chance upon acting?
My happening upon theatre was not planned. As a child, I nursed the ambition of becoming an actress. I actually started off as a child model but I was inspired by a play I saw on television titled Isiburu. The likes of Jimi Solanke and Taiwo Ajai-Lycett also inspired me.
Between stage and film acting, which do you prefer?
If stage paid as much as films, I’d stay on Broadway but it’s a time-consuming process and doesn’t pay much. We all live in Nigeria, so when you think about your passion, you also think about your bills but given a choice that is equivalent to what we put in on stage in terms of time and energy, I’d remain a stage actor.
For me, when it comes to scripts, the story not only has to be good, it must also have a positive effect on the society. It must raise questions and must not be another run in the mill. After I have been able to establish all I earlier mentioned, I begin to ask who is producing and who is the director? I take in all these before I begin to bother about other actors but basically, it is about the story.
How easy is it to get into every character then?
When I get a script and read the story, I begin to create a backstory for the character and start to build a world around the character. Then, it begins to take shape and form. That essentially is how I identify how a character works and reacts. It’s not the prospect of getting in and out, it is about developing, marrying and being that character that is important for me.
You have also worked as a producer…
I am an actor but I have produced for stage. Really, must we all be producers? It’s a specialised area. For those who do it, it is okay but personally, it is a tedious area. I cannot jump up and say that I am producing when I don’t have the capacity but for stage, I can tell you that yes, I have produced several works. I have done two major productions in my lifetime that I produced. The first one was As You Like It, in 1989 and the last one was The Return of the Golden Sword, in 2008.
How would you describe yourself when you are not working?
I am very laid-back in terms of socialising. How do I unwind? I clean my house, I watch television and I dance in my house. I am an introvert but people say that I don’t look like one. I am a firm person, I am not self-conceited, I am disciplined and I am very motherly. I try to look out for the weak ones anywhere I go; people who have no foundation, who are afraid to come out of the dark because I believe that goodness lies in everyone. I am not a condescending person. I wish I could love everyone but I can’t. However, I respect everybody because it is very paramount. I am a mother, so I understand a lot of things and as a woman; I have seen a lot of things. Therefore, when you encapsulate these things, I am humanity and that is how I describe myself. I don’t go to parties or clubs. I barely attend weddings and beg to be excused. I don’t socialise and I don’t have friends. My friends revolve around my work, kids and my church. I relax just by cleaning things; sanitising, bleaching. My kids seem to be interested in my line of work. One of them has a master’s degree in Human Resource Management. She is in England but she also runs a cocktail/mocktail enterprise. She is tilting towards entertainment as it were. Then, the boy is still in the university and he has also been doing some holiday runs for production. I think they are both deceiving themselves that they want to be like me.
What makes you think so?
My daughter wants to be black and white and it’s not working. She knows because she is a very creative person but my son has identified from the beginning that he wants to be a film director.
Is the acting profession fraught with challenges and how can they be surmounted?
There is no family without problems and I consider Nollywood a family. I do not involve myself with the politics of Nollywood because I have no time for it. I simply know that we are a family, so where you have people from different walks of life; even inside your home, your children are not the same. What you need to do is find the harmony, accept weaknesses and see them as strengths. Once there is a synergy, we don’t see the weakness of one but the strength of others. We have problems like every other association but so far, so good, we are dealing with them.
What career path would you have chosen if you were not a thespian?
To be honest, I would have been a nun. I love humanity because they get to a lot of places in the world.
Is acting financially rewarding?
People say there is no money but we are working. Some people will owe you while others will pay you very little or so much but you need to keep moving. If you keep saying there is no reward and you move to the next field and complain yet again that there is no money and keep moving, what then happens to the spirit of perseverance? Those who say these things, what do they want people like us to say? When people who came not too long ago are earning millions, getting endorsements everywhere in the sums that you cannot even begin to mention and some people who have been there for long haven’t been given the same opportunity. Maybe it’s not yet their time but it will come. Would you quit because of that? What about your passion and the things you talk about and tell people? How do you encourage others then and what makes you the role model? It’s important to pay your bills, be comfortable in life and all of those things but I think what is most important is to give people hope. Who knows whether the next Richard Gere would come from amongst these young ones? The sky is wide enough to take all of us. For those who want to go into acting, it is not free meal, because you have to work and earn your pay. If you are coming because of the razzmatazz, then I am sorry, you are in the wrong profession. If you are here because you’ve got passion and your drive, keep pushing, be respectful, pray, understand your talents, go for seminars, workshops and just keep doing the important things one day, your break through will come.
Do you have role models?
Maybe my father but in the acting profession, I love Bayo Oduneye, popularly called Uncle B. There are people that I respect and have learnt one or two things from but I realised most recently that truly, one person, who I know has touched me somewhere, has been Uncle B and Ihria Inakhimio. If you consider them role models, so be it. I cannot forget them. For me, life is confusion and in every confusion, there is a direction. Even in the midst of that, you can light up peoples’ darkness so I’d say to people, ‘Be the light.’
What informs your fashion choices?
Africa informs what I wear. I love wearing beads, a lot of beads. I love African hairstyles, even though it is now contemporary. I like to wear my African prints however and wherever in Africa and the world. Even when I wear English dresses, it has to have an African feel. I don’t know if that is acceptable but I get away with it. This is me; it’s my style so Africa inspires me. Nature and mother earth also inspire my dress sense.