Mbong Amata, ex-wife of popular Nollywood director, Jeta Amata was in the country recently for the shoot cum premiere of Emem Isongâ€™s latest movie, Apaye: A Motherâ€™s Love.
The movie starred actors like Clarion Chukwurah, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Belinda Effah, among others. She played Swam, the heroineâ€™s first child and daughter.
In this interview, she talks about her crashed marriage that produced a five-year old daughter, her career, and the movie that relaunched her into the mainstream acting. She also refuted the rumour making the rounds that sheâ€™s currently in a fresh relationship, dismissing, any plan to remarry soon.
BY BENJAMIN NJOKU
Would you say the role you played in Emem Isongâ€™s latest film, â€œApaye: A Motherâ€™s Love, â€ is your most challenging role in movies so far?
I played the role of Swam, Apayeâ€™s first child and daughter, who eventually got pregnant out of wedlock. I donâ€™t think I would use the word â€œchallengingâ€ because itâ€™s a real life story. It was more emotional for me than challenging because one had her own personal struggles and emotions. It was easy for me to portray that character in the movie. Apayeâ€™s life was very amiable as well as emotional when she had to raise her six children amidst abject poverty. It was very easy for me to break into that person in order to interprete my role.
Apaye: A Motherâ€™s Love, is a moving story of one womanâ€™s quest to succeed in the face of hostilities. Inspired by true events, it is the story of Elder Irene Yepayeye Uriah, born in the creeks of what is now Bayelsa State, who was left to fend for her six children all alone. She struggled and toiled to provide for her family and to make sure they enjoyed the life she never had. Against all odds, she became a woman of substance in a community that never believed any good could come from her.
I must appreciate the family of Elder Irene Yepayeye Uriah for their co-operation while the filming lasted. They were all simply amazing. They are approachable, personable, and so humble to a fault. I feel like a lot of people should emulate lifestyles like theirs. No matter your status, just keep it real and stay humble. I had amazing and solid bond with the family. They were fantastic in every sense of it.
Would you relate the story to your own story?
Itâ€™s very similar because I am a mother and I have a child. Itâ€™s hard to be a mother as well as a woman. So, Apaye had to deal with raising six children by herself. I donâ€™t know how she was able to do it, and I donâ€™t know where she got the strength to push on and did all that she could do, for her children. Itâ€™s hard, and thatâ€™s how I can relate to her story, as a woman and a mother.
How challenging was it playing the role of Swam?
It was more emotional for me having to play that role. As a human being, we all have our personal struggles and challenges. The story captured some part of my life. Apaye had six children and she single-handedly raised her children. My mum at some point in her life had to cater for me and my siblings. She faced a lot of challenges making us what we are today.
How does it feel being part of the production?
It is a breath of fresh air for me because you donâ€™t do films like this every time in Nollywood. It is really expensive to pull off something like this. So, for me, it is refreshing to know we can achieve this great feat.
And the cast?
It was awesome getting to work with my senior colleagues, Clarion Chukwurah, Kanayo O. Kanayo and others. We had a great time filming in the creeks of the Niger-Delta. So, it was a great bonding for us since we were working outside Lagos.
We bonded as a family. We were part of the community and they will never forget us in a hurry because they made a lot of impact in our lives. And so did we. That was the first time Nollywood would be shooting in their community. It was fun and would remain memorable for us all. The crew was equally fantastic. Everyone brought in his or her expertise. From the producer, Emem Isong to the director, Desmond Elliot, I would say we had a competent crew.
You have been in the industry for a very long time, yet your face is rarely regular on screen?
I took some time off to have my baby in 2008. Later, I relocated to the United States, where I worked on one project or the other. Also, I really donâ€™t do a lot of mainstream films. For me, itâ€™s okay to feature in two to three films in a year and Iâ€™m satisfied with that. I can have my daughter watch my films in 10 years from now. Thatâ€™s what matters to me, and not how many films Iâ€™m able to churn out in a year. For me, it has to do with quality over quantity.
How long have you sojourned in the industry?
I have spent eleven years in Nollywood.I started my career after featuring in the much acclaimed movie,â€™Amazing Grace.â€ I also starred in popular films like â€˜Black Novemberâ€™, â€˜Mutandaâ€™, â€˜Wheel of Changeâ€™, â€˜Reloadedâ€™, â€˜Forgetting Juneâ€™, â€˜Darimaâ€™s Dilemmaâ€™, among others.
Would you say, â€œApaye: The motherâ€™s loveâ€ relaunched you into the mainstream acting?
Yes, I would say so. I have started producing my own films. I just finished producing my first movie. And very soon, it would hit the market. You are going to be seeing more of me now than before. As a matter of fact, I have about three films that Iâ€™m going to release before the end of this month.
Becoming a producer?
Iâ€™m used to the ropes, I understand the terrain. I know how these things are done. I was once married to a film director, so, Iâ€™d understand what film making entails.
You said, you were once married to a film maker?
Yes, once married to a film maker. But not any more.
What really happened?
Am I really going to say that? Life happened.
Were you ever worried by negative stories that trailed the crash of your marriage?
Never. I tried my best. I might not look strong but Iâ€™m very, very strong. If you are in show business or any business that put you out there, you have to build a solid, great wall of China around you. My wall is very tall. I only hear about it, but Iâ€™m not moved one bit. So, I have a huge wall around my person.
You are still bearing Jeta Amataâ€™s name?
Yes, does it change anything? It doesnâ€™t.
How you would describe your ex-husband?
Jeta is a great man, fantastic dad but life has to move on.
If you have the opportunity to star in his film, would you do so?
Why not? He was my friend before he became my husband. We had a great relationship. We are connected for life. We have a child together. If I see him, as often as I could, it doesnâ€™t change anything.
But you are not feeling the same way you felt when you met him?
And you are not in a fresh relationship?
Iâ€™m not in a fresh relationship.
Wonâ€™t you give marriage another chance?
I donâ€™t really know, but I donâ€™t want to say never. It is the future, I prefer to live in the now and see how that goes. But for now, it is about me doing more films, charity and raising my child. So, that is my priority.
At a time, you were only featuring in Jetaâ€™s movies. Was there any difference between then and now?
I did work with a lot of producers and directors at a time. But I featured more in Jetaâ€™s movies. Secondly, I think he was a fantastic director. He understands his onions. He knew my weak points and he also knew where he would touch to get the best out of me as an actor. There are a little difference here and there. But itâ€™s great that Iâ€™m beginning to get the opportunity to work with more producers and directors than I did in the past.
Did you have any formal training in acting?
Not at all. I was watching an interview session on CNN, where a Hollywood actor revealed that at some point in his career, despite the great experience he had in drama and film, he decided to take up a three years course in acting. Sometimes, we shouldnâ€™t be too comfortable because we are making a lot of money from what we do. We should actually make out time to enhance our skills.
What did you study?
I studied History and International Relations. I had a lot of dreams and career choices but none of them was acting. Fortunately, I found myself in the acting profession and Iâ€™m loving it.