Genevieve Nnaji on the 3o Days movie sex scene with Chet Anekwe: This interview was conducted on May 1, 2006, by SOLA OSOFISAN. It was in DC., at the US premiere of 30 Days, a movie by Mildred Okwo. Nnaji wore no make-up when she came down from her hotel room that morning. She had on a T-Shirt with “I Heart Geneviveans” on it. For the benefit of the uninitiated, the country of “Genevivea” was created by Nnaji fans on naijarules.com. They are, of course, called “Geneviveans”. Mildred, also her manager, didn’t want me to take a picture of this casually attired Genevieve for obvious image reasons, but Ms. Nnaji said it was okay. Since this interview, Nnaji has been unbanned by the Nollywood powers and has since resumed full duty in Nigeria making Nollywood movies. Reports also allege she has had a falling out with her manager. The 30 Days DVD is still pending release at the publication of this edition of NollywoodNOW! and naijarules.com. NAIJARULES.COM: Genny, Its nice talking to you again. You look as beautiful as ever. GENEVIEVE NNAJI: (LAUGHING) Thank you. NAIJARULES.COM: How many times have you heard that? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: I hope for ever. NAIJARULES.COM: So, how many times have you heard it now? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: Uncountable. But I don’t mind. Keep it coming. (LAUGHING) NAIJARULES.COM: The praise and attention and all the fuss…Does it ever get trying? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: Of course it does that. We’re humans. We all want our space and sometimes our peace. But you also have to pay attention and hear what people have to say, especially when they appreciate what you’re doing. Its not something to complain about. Its something to be grateful (for). NAIJARULES.COM: You haven’t had a movie open in many months. What’s it like to be back on the screen, watching yourself again? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: Truthfully, I’m glad that after being away for so long, my comeback will be 30 Days. This has carved a niche for me again. Now I know the sort of movie I want to be a part of. There’s no way I’ll be doing the “rush-rush” thing I’ve been doing with Nollywood. I’m bored already with what Nollywood has to offer me. They’re going to have to… Not just better scripts, but better quality. This is what we were trying to encourage in the beginning that caused the whole blacklist thing. And since then, I’m sure the marketers have seen that is not the easiest or best way out. I will say we have sort of sorted things out. Still, we need to stand by what we believe in for growth and professionalism. I’m still going to look for the best quality scripts, the best quality movies, best directing, best screenplay for me. I need something challenging. I don’t care if I do two movies a year. As long as they’re worth my while. NAIJARULES.COM: This is your first movie premiere in the US. How is it different from movie premieres you’ve had in Nigeria? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: I haven’t had any other one except “Keeping Faith” and “30 Days”. And isn’t it a coincidence that Ego Boyo is involved in both of them? “Keeping Faith” was a huge success. It was sold out. Tickets were sold out. It was quite expensive, but it sold out and everybody enjoyed “Keeping Faith” just the way they enjoyed this one (30 Days). So, at least that’s already setting a trend for myself. If you hear Genevieve is having a premiere, its definitely something to look out for. NAIJARULES.COM: The movies in Nigeria are just released without premieres? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: Ehn now, that’s the big question. You should ask the marketers in Nigeria. Why haven’t they been premiered? And this is the answer: they can’t be premiered because they are not good quality. They have not been taking their time…”Keeping Faith”, we took our time to shoot “Keeping Faith”. It took months. Same thing with “30 Days”. If you’re shooting a movie with a premiere at the back of your mind, then you will shoot a good quality movie that you know you want the public to see, that you want to showcase in the theatre. So, I think that’s why other movies have not been premiered, cos when they were shooting it, they didn’t have it at the back of their minds that they wanted to premiere it. Or else they would have come out with something better. NAIJARULES.COM: Could it also be because it costs so much extra to premiere a movie – and they don’t have that kind of money? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: It cost “Keeping Faith” a whole lot of money to premiere, but they made that money back times 3, if not times 10. That was because it was good. I mean a good work speaks for itself. Its not how much you spend on it. How much time and dedication you give your work…it speaks. Your work will always stand for you, no matter what people say or do. Concentrate on that work because that is where the blessings come from. And that is what will happen with “30 Days”. We took our time. We believed – I mean everybody here (Mildred Okwo, Chet Anekwe, Iyabo Amoke). Its not like we were paid millions to shoot it for Christ’ Sake. But money, time and dedication has been put into this film. Everybody did it with an open mind because we wanted change, we wanted to do something different. And that is why this film is completely different. We went out believing and that belief is going to carry it a very long way. NAIJARULES.COM: I spoke with Ramsey Nouah when he’d just finished working with Tade Ogidan on “Dangerous Twins”. He said then that was the most challenging film he’d ever done. Would you consider “30 Days” the most challenging movie Genny Nnaji has ever done? Or would you consider it the most ambitious? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: Yes, I would say ambitious because I’ve done things I haven’t done – you know, the sex scenes and stuff – I’ve done things I’d usually not do and I haven’t done before. I thought okay, if we want to be professional – everybody’s saying be professional – why can’t we be realistic at the same time? (I did it) just to show we’re ready for some things, change – not just anything. If we as actors go a step farther, hopefully, producers and directors and our filmmakers will go farther as well. It shows that we’re ready to come this close to Hollywood. As for challenging, yes it was, but it was not that difficult. It was challenging because I had to do physical exercises I hadn’t done in movies before. There are particular exercises I do on a regular basis. I did a bit of martial arts and I used to work out in a gym and I still do that every day. I’ve had (other) movies challenge me more, like really brain task me. There are a lot of other movies that have grilled my brain. I think it was fun and I enjoyed it because it was different, cos I think I was really dying for change. I was really dying for change, so… NAIJARULES.COM: Career-wise, what do you envisage “30 Days” doing for you? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: I think “30 Days” in not about me. It’s a lot more about shaping the industry and the country. That is what I think. When “30 Days” comes out, hopefully, a lot of people will watch it, especially politicians. And they will get the message. And the industry will also watch it based on how much quality and time and energy was put into it. And they will also get the message that you can achieve this. It can be done. That’s just what it is. It is not about me. I don’t believe it’s my best performance per se. If it’s me, then you should be looking at my performance. There are so many other movies you can watch to get a good performance from me. In terms of what it will do for me, it’s a better quality so foreigners can even watch and understand, because we as actors have been doing the work alone for years now. We have to do the camera angles. We have to do a lot of things because there is nothing else to watch. Picture is bad, sound is bad, blah, blah, blah, so it’s up to you as an actor to carry the whole show. Your performance is what people at the end of the day, watch. So we’ve been doing that for years. Okay, so it’s not any different from this. But if just for the fact that it’s a better quality, now, a lot of foreigners can watch it. And anything can happen from there. So I hope it’s a medium for growth and development for not just me but for every member of the cast. NAIJARULES.COM: Genevieve, you mentioned the love scene a while ago. That’s the farthest, I think, that we’ve ever gone in Nollywood productions. GENEVIEVE NNAJI: You think? I’ve seen more. NAIJARULES.COM: I could be wrong. That’s why I said “I think”. How was it getting yourself psyched up to do it? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: It looks like a lot was done, but that’s the power of editing. I think the most challenging thing I did there was to act like … you know what I had to act like. Nothing was happening. It was just me playing for the camera. So I closed my eyes. Of course I didn’t have my eyes open, did I? And I imagined…(LAUGHING) Not like I’m speaking from experience. (STILL LAUGHING). I closed my eyes and I imagined. So it was just between me and the camera and I thought, okay, you’re either going to do it or you’re not going to do it. If you’re going to do it, you’d better do it well. That’s what I carry through whatever I do. Once you go in and say you’re going to do something, do it well, good or bad. If you’re doing it and you’re not doing it well, you’re not doing it properly, you get a lot of “she can’t act. She’s not a good actress”. But you know what it is, so don’t hold back. Don’t be ashamed of what you’re doing… That’s what I did. Okay, there’s going to be an oral sex scene. What is an oral sex scene like? What is it? Just do it. I tried not to overflog it so it doesn’t look obscene. NAIJARULES.COM: It’s a movie that the Censorship Board in Nigeria is going to have all kinds of problems with. They’re going to have to cut a lot. GENEVIEVE NNAJI: Yeah, that will be done. You’ll get the full thing on DVD. NAIJARULES.COM: What was it like working with Chet Anekwe? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: Working with him was a relief… to do something different. It was a relief to work with a different person. It was like… I knew I was bored. I didn’t realise how bored I was until I got on set the first day. I knew something was wrong. Yes, the money was coming in. I was working week in, week out and I was getting paid, but I wasn’t giving it my all, you know… I knew I was acting … Same old “cut”, same old scene. But I realised I was more laid back than when I started, when I was still very gingered up. So, working with Chet was a huge relief. It was like challenging me further to work with somebody who was trained in Hollywood. Now, if I could pull it off with him, I could pull it off with anybody else, no matter where you’re from. And he’s a wonderful person. Especially the sex scene, the bedroom scene, he tried to make it comfortable, he tried to joke. People think I’m bold, but I’m actually a very shy person. I’m a chicken, in a sense. He tried his best to make me comfortable doing this. Of course, he’s more experienced these things. NAIJARULES.COM: I don’t know about that – GENEVIEVE NNAJI: (HASTILY) No, no, I’m talking about work – NAIJARULES.COM: I know. I’m just kidding. GENEVIEVE NNAJI: I’m talking about work. Having worked in Hollywood, he’s such a sport. Hello? Who would do that in Nollywood? (GIGGLING) It was fun. NAIJARULES.COM: But that was a very effective scene. The ladies freaked out in the hall – (when Chet Anekwe flashed his butt). GENEVIEVE NNAJI: Yes, it was. It was. (LAUGHING). I just cringed and actually sunk back into my seat. (GENERAL LAUGHTER) It was good and it was amazing that we were birthmates. I think we were able to grasp a lot from each other. We fed off each other. It was amazing how we could do things that were not in the script and he would actually give it back to me. We were feeding each other off and the director was sitting back there and wondering “okay, that’s good, but how did they get that?” I think that was amazing to me. It was good to see somebody with such swift instincts. NAIJARULES.COM: Let’s talk about your reference to boredom earlier. Can you clarify that? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: I’m bored. In other word, I’m doing the same old thing. Same way of shooting, same scripts over and over again, sort of… I always did something similar to what I’d done before. And the whole “rush-rush” thing, I just felt we were not doing something right. Too many scripts were coming, too many producers, too many directors. And I thought, you know what, I need to put a stop to this. And that was when I said “okay, I’m going to increase my fees”. I need to discourage people from bringing “just any script” to me. Maybe when I tell you how much I want to collect, you will change your mind, cos I needed space… I tried at first… I was actually giving excuses why I couldn’t do movies. Oh, I’m busy on another set. Oh, I have to be here, blah, blah. Then later, I thought these people will never understand if you just keep giving excuses. Then I started saying it to their faces. “I’ve read the script. It’s good and can be done, but I think it can be done better. Do this, do this, do this. Why don’t you rewrite blah, blah, blah. Let’s take our time. I want to be a part of it…” “So what?” was the reaction. “Just take the money and let’s work. Don’t worry, we’ll do it. Genny, leave this thing”. Then I realized it wasn’t going to work just speaking to them. They were not listening. I realized very few of us are in this profession for what it is; for the love of art; for the love of filmmaking. It was amazing. I said okay, I have to deal with this some other way. Tried a lot of strategy. So, yes I was bored. I tried to help it… NAIJARULES.COM: What does it feel like to have your name precede you everywhere you go? Before you get there, your name is already there. Your name is in places you probably will never have any reason to ever go. What’s that like? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: It’s shocking most of the time. It’s amazing. It’s really really a humbling experience and I thank God for it. It’s a fulfillment. I’m not totally fulfilled but at least I’ve been encouraged to continue with what I’m doing. And I believe I’ve taken the right path. Most especially, I think I’m grateful for the industry. I’m sorry, but I’m more about the industry than (I am about myself). NAIJARULES.COM: Why is that the case? Why does it matter? Why is it not about the money like it is with others? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: I can get the money in other ways. There are so many things I can do and get money. But for me, it’s about inner joy, inner happiness and I’m happy as soon as I am on set. So, if we lose that essence, if the industry does not do better, then I’m not going to be on set and I’m not going to be happy. So I need the industry to grow as a whole for me to live and survive. That’s the way I see it. It’s not the money. I can get married to a wealthy guy somewhere and have all the money in the world – NAIJARULES.COM: I have a lot of proposals for you sent to me through naijarules.com GENEVIEVE NNAJI: (LAUGHING) You see, those are options. I’m a woman. Women can survive anywhere. But that’s not it. I want something more out of life. I have grown and I have faced life the hard way and I have seen that what we thought matter in the beginning absolutely does not. And until we begin to open up and be truthful… We’re not truthful to ourselves. That’s the problem we face as human beings. And to hide how much distrust we have for ourselves, we concentrate on others, because you’re trying not to face your own problems. Face your own problems. That’s the only way you’ll find the solution. I know mine and I know how to solve them. I won’t solve them marketing myself. I won’t solve them blowing my top. Who am I without Nollywood? I understand it. The industry needs to grow. It’s not a matter of being on top. It’s a matter of doing what you believe in. it’s a matter of just being in there. As far as I’m concerned, I could act, I could direct. I could do something, but just seeing… It’s like seeing a baby grow. There’s a joy it gives to me to just be on set and just say “okay, you’re a part of somebody’s imagination”. You’re a part of it and they come to life. I’m weird, I’m sorry, but that’s me. NAIJARULES.COM: How did you meet Mildred (Okwo) and what was it like working with a first time writer/director? GENEVIEVE NNAJI: I met Mildred (Okwo) last two years (2004) because of this film. She was looking for me to play her character. I didn’t even know her before then. I spoke to her on the phone and the next time she came to Abuja for a film festival, that’s when we met. We got talking and we hit it off. She didn’t know what to expect. As usual, people don’t know what to expect when they meet me. Everybody has a different impression of who I am and what I should be, and its all in their head, stuck up there. She met me and we got talking and she fell in love with what she saw and my vision. She said we should do things together… how can we do it? I think people are just scared to take the first step, to take risks. They’ll take risks when somebody else takes the risk. She was like “okay, we’ll take the risks”. We’ve been working partners ever since. She’s a fantastic lady. She’s strong. I thank God for the day I met her. I don’t know what I would have done without her. She’s done a lot in such a short period of time and that’s the truth. But there’s no way I would have settled for less. I’m sure if there was no Mildred, I would not have a manager today. I would probably be sleeping in my house somewhere in Lagos now. I’m glad I met her.