Clarion Nneka Oluwatoyin Folashade Chukwura is a name that any follower of the Nigerian film industry should be familiar with. She has been a household name for over three decades.
Clarion, the only female among four children, has today become a role model to many actors and actresses.
In this interview with… she spoke on her acting career, the problems of the film industry in Nigeria, among other issues.
How did you get into the movie industry and what was your parents’ reaction?
Well, I lost my father when I was 11 years and one week old; it was only my mother that I can say reacted when I started acting. But she was never against my acting. I actually began acting in the university community. My mother spoke with Bayo Oduleye (then a lecturer at the University of Ibadan.) She also spoke with Yomi Shohunde. My mother, being an educated woman, did not have problem when I began acting, though she thought I would study law. The fact that I became a star early did not let me have the problem my pals were having. I became a star at 15. When I got pregnant, there was a crack between me and my mother – which any mother would react to. At that time, I was 17, and an undergraduate. She felt it was her fault, having lost her husband, she had the responsibility to look after us so that she would not lose any of us.
I started acting (stage and television) in 1979, when I was 15 years, and I joined the Nigerian film industry in 1982 with Ola Balogun’s Money Power. But if you want to talk about home video, I joined the home video industry in 1994. I was the lead female character in the first attempt at home video production in Nigeria by Jimi Odumosu, Fiery Force (1986).
As a young girl who became a celebrity at 15, how did you cope?
For me it was all excitement. You know why it was an excitement? Fulfilment. What people call ‘challenge’ – having to work 15 hours a day and travel a lot, to me it was part of the experience that made it adventurous. The excitement was that I was working with the professionals. I trained with professionals. I was learning a lot from them. There was a lot of laughter; we were a family, kind of.
Can you compare the industry of then with what obtains now?
I can’t. Today there are more people involved, but one thing is missing: people that can take the arts to the next level being involved. I will explain that. In my early days as an actress, every producer, every director was trained and wanted to work with like-minded people; the professionals who wanted to take their work to the next level. But today, you will see a person who was a production assistant now becoming a director; you have somebody who was a cameraman five years ago becoming a D.O.P without going through any kind of training or learning the skills or going through the rudiments of what he wants to do. Nollywood is evolving, but the greatest challenge facing it is lack of training and experience. People are in a hurry, and they do not want to recognise the need for common training; neither do they want to pass through the proper channel. And because they don’t want to do that, they don’t respect or recognise people that have done that. They find them intimidating; they want to be bosses.
Was acting your childhood dream?
Yes, acting has been my childhood dream. Since when I was five years old, I had been dreaming to be an actress. It actually started when I saw Michael Jackson performing on stage with the Jackson Five on television, and also saw Elizabeth Taylor in Cleopatra at the Casino Cinemas. I said to my father sitting next to me that night that I wanted to be like her.
When was your first stage attempt?
That was when I was in primary school. I played Mary Magdalene in my Primary 6 graduation play, which was about the birth of Jesus Christ. I was 10 years old then.
What about your first play professionally?
My first play semi-professionally was Prof. Bode Sowande’s Farewell to Babylon in 1979. It was a published play of his; it was done on the stage of University of Ibadan and I was 15 years old.
Culled from The Nigerian Tribune