Nollywood actress, Vivian Anani, recently signed a deal with Indian TV channel Zeeworld. The actress speaks to DUPE AYINLA-OLASUNKANMI on the contract, among other issues. Excerpts
Tell us about the Zeeworld contract
We are going back for the season two. First of all, I saw the advert on TV, that all should put in for the all African Zeeworld Prodcution. At first, I didn’t put in much interest because I felt they would have selected those they needed. So, someone called and said I should put in for the entry; that a director by the name Abbey Osho recommended me. I give all the credit to Abbey Osho and Mike Ellen.
I had just finished a production and I was still in my hotel room and the cleaner, who happened to be a young guy, after the phone, call said ‘ma’am, I think you should put in for the production.’
I was like, ‘so you have been listening to my conversation.’ He quickly apologised and said, ‘Aunty, you never can tell’. So, I said, ‘even if I wanted to, I could not because we were supposed to send in a video.’ Eventually, the young guy ended up helping me out with the recording of the video and sending it. To show how reluctant I was about the whole thing, I didn’t remember to include my name and a lot of other things. Mike had to call me back and ask me to send pictures too.
Less than 24hours later, from India, I got a call. I had been picked to play the lead role of the mother of the house from the lot of more than 2000 people that applied from all the African countries.
I was like, is this for real? The next day, I got another call asking for my fee. And they mentioned a fee I had never heard in my life before. (Laughs) Yes, they mentioned millions. And then I said, ‘can I call you back?’ I dropped the call and screamed. So, what I have been doing for so many years have finally paid off. `
I picked up my phone and called the person who recommended me to thank him and told him that I have been picked. I was still not convinced until the day I was asked to come and sign the papers. Though there was a little changes in what was offered, sincerely I was not after what has been changed but the platform, which was the best I had ever been offered.
Even if I wasn’t paid, that platform was what I was after. It goes beyond the money. This is an international project. I have never done one before. All my work has been done here in Nigeria. And everyone knows Zeeworld is a massive platform.
Is the series on air?
I am looking forward to it. It is yet to be aired. There is one airing now called Miyark. It is Indian and South Africans. Ours is the first all Africans. But we were told it will go on air soon. It might be after Miyark. Maybe they don’t want to have two Africans series at the same time.
How was the experience like for you while on set?
It was not easy. In fact, let me say no job has ever stressed me like that of the Zeeworld contract. No job has been challenging to me as an actor as what I did there. Because I have never on set taken on 13 pages off hand and played them out. We shoot randomly. By 5am, I am on set till the next morning. It was very challenging for me but I think it also built me up the more for more future challenging roles. They say ‘no pain, no gain’. I thank God.
What has kept you going as an actor?
Focus. And I discipline myself. And I keep studying, yearning for more knowledge. So, I try to make myself better each time I take up new role because no knowledge is a waste. And I also try to maintain a good relationship with any production outfit I work with. For instance, the work I am doing currently is due to trust and relationship. I have been with Wale Adenuga Production for 10 years now, way back when Superstory started. They keep calling me back. If I didn’t have a good relationship with them then, I bet they won’t call me back. So, I think it is important to maintain a good relationship anywhere you find yourself.
Tell us about your new trim look
(Laughs) I am aging, so I am cutting down on a lot of things. I am trying to be careful not to be overweight. And the Zeeworld job I just finished too really stressed me out but it is okay. Maybe I should add a little.
What was the reaction from fans?
There have been mixed feelings. Some have seen me and are in shock and ask me to go back to my former shape. And some want me to maintain the new look. But in all, health is more important.
Sometimes we watch weight and not the healthy part. Even if you are trimming down, make sure you are healthy. It is something to be careful about.
You are usually referred to as ‘Queen of soaps’. Why preference for soaps?
Soaps are educative, informative and entertaining too. Not that movie is not, but soaps keep you there. And those things that are tolerated in movies are not tolerated in soaps. There are some kinds of scenes you can do in movies and get away with, but in series which are family drama, you cannot get away with them. So, every time you are there, it is to pass a message, because families sit together to watch. It is not that I don’t do movies but I do the ones that come my way. If I have a decent script, I will do it. Recently, I have featured in a lot of movies. They will start showing soon.
Is it because the late Tony Omale is no more that ‘One Love’ ended too?
May his soul rest in peace. We were TV husband and wife and he passed on. I don’t know if that is the reason the soap was rested. But recently, I got a call from the executive producer, Tajudeen Adepetu, that they have done new cast. But a date for the shoot is yet to be communicated. I am sure we will be getting back on set soon. I am excited. I cannot wait to get back on the set of ‘One Love’. It is one of my favourites.
Do you have a personal project on the line?
If I have time before we go on set for the second season of the Zeeworld production, I have a short film I want to shoot. It is my first personal work, hopefully, by December when we will be having the Calabar Festival. This is the first time I will be running my own movie. I don’t want to spill all out until we are ready to roll.