Actress and fashion entrepreneur, Mercy Aigbe-Gentry, opens up on her career and misconceptions in this new interview with Punch.
See excerpts below:
What projects are you currently working on?
I have a yet-to-be released movie titled Victims for the first time. I am also producing an English-speaking movie. I will feature in the film even though I am famous for my roles in the Yoruba movie genre.
Why did you decide to embark on the aforementioned project at this point in your career?
I am a professional actress and I can choose to produce a French movie if all that is required of me is to learn how to speak the language. I am not one to jump at any project especially when I am not too sure about the intricacies. It took me four years to begin producing Yoruba movies because I wanted to be grounded in the industry. As a producer, I am also an investor and I would want to recoup my investment as well as make profit. I will feature a number of Yoruba actors and Nollywood stars in the film, which will be released later in the year.
Why did you kick off your career in the Yoruba movie sector?
I didn’t choose to be in the Yoruba movie sector. I started out in Nollywood and I featured in several soap operas and movies. My career took a different direction when a Yoruba film producer cast me in his movie titled Ara. The movie became a hit and I soon began getting scripts from other Yoruba filmmakers and I couldn’t turn them down because I had just launched my career. In no time, I became a household name in the Yoruba film genre.
In between this time, I worked with Lancelot Oduwa-Imasuen in his movie titled The Other Side of the Coin.
You recently spoke about Yoruba movie practitioners being discriminated against. Why do you think this is so?
I really don’t know why and it has been on for a very long time. However, we have started to get better recognition unlike what obtained in the industry four years ago. The gap is already being bridged and I think it is only a matter of time. I think we Yoruba actors also need to let people know that we are also a part of Nollywood and demand to be respected like our English counterparts. Our works will speak for us at the end of the day. I think it is about time we are respected, so the gap that currently exists can be closed.
Do you think the Yoruba movie genre has better actors?
Our counterparts in the English genre have always had fantastic stories and actors. I think Nollywood should be one and devoid of any form of disparity or segregation. The term Nollywood in my opinion means movies made in Nigeria irrespective of the medium. I am also featuring in a Hausa movie which will be released soon.
Why are actors in the Yoruba sector tagged illiterates?
This is one area where I have a problem with people’s perception of Yoruba actors. Many people think we are uneducated and can’t speak good English. I think people are not informed, so whenever someone tells me they are not aware I speak proper English, I simply laugh it off.
In the last few years, you have attained new heights in your career. Some of your fans are of the opinion that you no longer fit into the Yoruba genre.
Some people write to me and request that I should feature in more English movies because they believe that only then will I gain more acceptance and recognition. My fans believe I’m not being appreciated in my sector.
Will you eventually stop acting Yoruba movies?
I can never stop acting Yoruba movies because that industry made me who I am today. As a matter of fact, a lot of people don’t know I am from Edo State. When I began featuring in Yoruba films, I wasn’t speaking the language flawlessly, so I had to learn on the job. My industry is very accommodating and that is why I would always be grateful to them for accepting me and giving me a platform to excel. I also produced a movie titled Osas in order to connect with my Benin roots.
What roles can’t you take up even if the price is right?
I can never act because it is against our culture and my beliefs.
How supportive is your husband of your career?
Whenever I am overwhelmed with my business, career and family, he is always there to encourage me. He always recommends that I keep pushing.
Is he comfortable with the romantic scenes you take part in?
Yes, he is and I actually kiss in my movies. I was already an actress before I met my husband and he goes through my scripts. Sometimes, he chastises for not kissing well in a movie. I could be on set for a week or more and he does not make an issue out of it. I know I married my friend and he is very understanding.
How have you being able to keep your home?
It hasn’t been easy and this is actually my second marriage. Before I got married to my present husband, I asked God to make this my second and last marriage because I want to stay married. Our marriage is under scrutiny all the time and a lot of people just want to find faults even when there are no faults. My previous marriage taught me to be more patient, tolerant and prayerful.
What is the highpoint of your career?
That would be winning the African Magic Viewers Choice Award for Best Indigenous Movie. The film Komfo, won me the award in 2014.
You dressed like a winner at the last AMVCA. Were you disappointed that you didn’t get an award?
No, I wasn’t disappointed. I already felt like a winner because my movie, Victims, got a nomination and that is why I was dressed in a glamorous wear. The icing on the cake was the fact that one of my mentees was the overall winner in that particular category. I have always dreamt of a day when someone would clinch an award and mention my name as his or her mentor.I have always dreamt of impacting someone in the industry. When you get to a certain stage in your career, it takes the special grace of God to mentor a junior colleague. I feel that singular action is what makes you an icon.
People haven’t stopped talking about my dress. So many people aren’t even aware that a young, creative Nigerian fashion designer made the outfit. We shopped for the fabric together, agreed on the style and God made it a hit. I arrived at the award venue with a team and a back-up dress even though we had settled on a dress. The outfit earned me more followers and some people have even requested that my designer make the exact dress for them as their second wedding outfit.