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Thursday, April 26, 2012

''I Am Quitting Acting'' – Ramsey Nouah

Tracking down this ‘Nollywood’ A-lister
was an experience in itself. The journey
coupled with leads from e-mails, text
messages and phone calls to well-known
industry contacts, finally took me to the
ancient city of Ibadan in Oyo state where
he was in the process of shooting an epic

However, because we were pressed for
time, the following interview was not as all
encompassing as i had hope but i had
extracted a promise for him for a sequel.
In this interview which revealed Ramsey
as one who is very guarded about his
privacy, the award winning actor talks
about the industry, his humble beginnings
and projection for the future after
‘Nollywood’. Enjoy…

How would you assess the industry now,
after almost 20 years on the scene?

In the beginning, nobody knew that it was
going to be this big. Back then, when we
started off, we had good content,
storyline, production, and acting. You
would actually think that with time it
would get better, but unfortunately there
are so many obstacles with anything
good. The changes in policy [and in]
government, etc has affected the industry.
Also there was a huge break out of piracy,
which of course affected it adversely.

How have the lack of effective regulatory
bodies affected the industry?

Regulatory bodies are needed in any
industry in the world, not just in film.
Indeed, we do not have that, and you can
blame that on many factors. It is a chain
reaction that’s affecting us on many
fronts. Our guilds, for instance, are not
very effective in making these things
work. Also, we are not unified; there is no
unity among most of the actors, unlike in
the music sector. If we all come together
as one and find a unifying front, we will
make it happen.

How true is it that some film makers
have become more determined to make
good movies?

Everybody is talking about having
fantastic productions. For instance, here in
Ibadan, we are shooting a very strong
movie about the assassination of Murtala
Mohammed, [which] is a very sensitive
issue. We’ve been planning this since
2001, but we didn’t get permission from
the military, which stalled it. However, we
finally have the approval and we are
getting on board. A very good movie will
stand the test of time, the type we can
keep in the archives and people will refer
to it later and commend it. The type my
grand-children will see and [say] ‘yeah
that’s my granddad, they revolutionised
the industry’.

Did you model yourself after any
particular actor when starting out?

Not exactly. When I got into acting, there
was nobody to really model myself after, I
mean I grew up with the likes of Arnold
Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone. But
you know we don’t do action films, so I
couldn’t possibly tell you that I was
looking up to these actors.

What about others like al pacino, robert
de niro…

Well, I wasn’t privy to those films at the
time. I grew up not having a lot. Television
was like a huge luxury at the time. It was
when I bumped into people watching
movies outside that I got the opportunity
to see some films. James Bond was one of
the very popular ones at the time. But I
didn’t even think I was going to act. Back
then, most of the people who were acting
in Nigeria were Theatre arts graduates or
students who were fantastic actors.
Before then, there were soaps like
‘Ripples’, ‘Checkmate’ and the like. It was
after I got into acting that I could actually
say ‘Oh yeah, I like Al Pacino’.

At what point did you realize you were
no longer a ‘regular’ guy?

After ‘Fortunes’, people, when they saw
me would go wild and start calling me ‘Jeff
Akin Thomas’, which was the character I
played on ‘Fortunes’. I used to get upset,
and I couldn’t handle it. I didn’t know that
that was what followed fame, but I didn’t
understand it at the time, I didn’t
understand what it was to be famous.

Was it because you were a recluse?

No, on the contrary, I was the boisterous
type. It ‘s just that I didn’t have the
privilege of seeing the things of life from
an early age because I grew up not having
[a lot], and for me, it’s a fantastic balance
because it made me grounded and
focused. But I like that, [because] seeing
both sides of the coin has helped me.

How has your experience helped in your
kids upbringing?

It’s about personal training. Of course I
wouldn’t want a situation where I
wouldn’t be able to provide for my kid,
but I wouldn’t just provide everything he
asks for, because it would be silly for me
to just let him have anything he wants at
his beck and call.

What if your kid wants to go into acting?

I don’t have any reservations about that.
I’m a very free and liberal minded person.
But I wouldn’t really want them to go into
the movie industry.

Nigerian movie industry you mean?

Well, to me, there is only one movie
industry, and that is the Nigerian one.
That’s my opinion, of course, because I
know a whole lot of people are targeting
Hollywood. But for me, I’m not keen on
getting into Hollywood. I’m of the opinion
that ‘Nollywood’ will get to a point where
it will be very big sometime soon. Don’t
forget, most of the people targeting
Hollywood are doing so because of the
pay, and then maybe the fame on a much
bigger stage. For me, however, I think the
fame I already have on the platform of
‘Nollywood’ suffices.

Are you quitting acting?

I think I’ve had my fair share. To my fans
and loved ones, I know they’ll always
want to see me on screen, but as they say,
it’s best to leave when the ovation is
loudest. I want to leave a very strong
legacy. I believe I have left a very strong
imprint in that line. There’s no possible
way you can mention ‘Nollywood’ without
mentioning Ramsey Nouah.

So what’s next for you?

Well, I’ll be going behind the scenes. I’ll still
be acting a bit here and there, but it will
phase out for directing eventually. For a
while now, I’ve not really been on the
screen, and that’s because I don’t want to
act just because I want to be on TV. I only
want to be associated with the kind of
movies that are poised to take the
industry to another level, which is were
we are headed now. Plus, I want to focus
on working behind the scenes.

How do you find time to unwind?

Well, I don’t normally get to have that
family time which I really crave, and when
I do take my family on vacation, it usually
turns out not to be the way I had hoped.
Sometimes, you’re just relaxing with
family in a nice, quiet place, and next thing
you know, someone wants to have a
picture with you. I kindly tell them ‘if I
oblige you, I can’t turn the other down, so
it’s best not to start at all.’ Then of course
you know Nigerians, they are quick to
jump to conclusions, and say you’re not
being considerate and all. It has to be
about them all the time, and once it doesn’t
favour them, it becomes an issue.

Is that why people think you are

Yeah. But you can’t please everybody.
Being a star or role model doesn’t mean
I’m not human too. I’m not Jesus Christ, I’m
a human being like everybody else, I have
blood flowing in my veins. Some people
however don’t understand it, it’s only
what they want that counts, not what you

Why do you rarely attend red carpet

I consciously hide away. I also hardly
grant interviews, except to renowned and
dignified media channels; the types that
don’t carry stories just to sell their paper. I
try as much as possible to avoid public
events, and that has helped me keep my
head above water over time.

What else will you be doing once you
step away from the screen?

Humanitarian activities and charitable
ventures. I started a project at one point in
time, but due to circumstances I wasn’t
able to see it through, so it didn’t see the
light of day, but I’m working on that now
and getting the resources together. Like I
said, I grew up not having much, so I
know the pains. Sometimes you want to
help, but greedy people hijack it and in the
end, the people who really need the help
don’t get it.

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