Notable stage and screen actress, Tina Mba, took her turn last night on the ‘warm seat,’ a session on Whatsapp created by the Ibadan Film Circle (IFC) to celebrate deserving members and engage them on the career highlights. Hosted by the effervescent Judith Audu, the session, which lasted till midnight, afforded members of the platform the opportunity to take on the beautiful and well-built actress on her career and life.
Soon as Judith called for questions to be directed at the actress and cultural producer, members stepped on their pads and the questions came in torrents. Observers said they were not surprised that the platform administrator chose the Enugu State-born actress to warm the seat.
They agreed that the actress and mother of two (a boy and a girl), whose career has spanned over two decades now and whose passion for acting is glaringly boundless, deserves to be celebrated for her inimitable gait and dexterity on the acting turf. They added that the quality and skilful theatre Amazon should be celebrated for being a delight to watch on stage and screen, always.
Her peers and those who had an opportunity to work with her, like Tunde Olaoye and Niji Akanni, alluded that Tina Mba represents for them, a perfect example of who any actress should strive to be on and off the stage. They held, and rightly too, that hers is a summation of hard work and an inalienable commitment to her first and what she says has remained her only love- acting. Here are excerpt from the warm seat session and off session interaction with Tina Mba, the queen of the stage and screen…
You have been around for a long time. What is your staying power?
I would say it is the grace of God and the other secret is focusing on the things that make me happy. Acting makes me happy and I don’t see myself doing any other thing. You lose it when you want to do everything and you have nothing you can hold on to as your calling. I have been asked a couple of times how I have been able to evolve and I simply say that I evolve by simply doing a lot of research. I ask questions and allow my environment teach me. You can’t go wrong as an actor-observer. As an actor, your instrument of expression would be your body, voice. You must also live right, eat right, exercise and be happy, as well as learn to laugh a lot too, because it helps your facial muscle. The other thing is to generally sharpen your tools. So, for longevity in this industry, you need to respect people, know your trade, make sacrifices, sometimes, and understand that productions can fail and be supportive.
At a point, you veered into stage production. What was the motivation?
What motivated me first was the treatment artiste got from producers. I had a point to prove: that it could be done with some level of respect for cast and crew alike and then society. But even as a producer, I still worked as an actor, because I am first an actor. I believe that producing is a specialised area. So, if I have to be it, I have to learn it. Right now, I am still learning to be one and struggling to be a good actor. But I still produce for stage and when I am busy, I hire a consultant. However, I still have my production company intact, even though I need to find a place for it. What I originally set out to do was great a museum. I still will.
It took you time to transit from stage to movie?
Yes, and that was because I love the stage and we were working back then. When we all set out, we had a direction, but things changed along the way and so we moved with the times. I love the theatre, but I am also glad to explore other art forms. I simply feel rounded and grounded. So, even when every one left for home video, I remained on stage until I also had to move on. I love what I do and I haven’t allowed the lure of politics or any other form of distraction cloud my path.
Was it a smooth ride for you into the movie?
Yes, it was. It was almost natural for me to transit, but I remember I had to work on my posture. I kept doing the Elizabethan stance.Any way, I had to study a lot of screen actors and above all, I listened to my directors. But I love the stage. If I didn’t have to pay bills, I would still be there full time. However, I love the screen because it affords me a variety and I reach more people and I have better opportunities.
Are women strutting their stuff in the arts at all?
I think we are. We just need to take a stand. It is believed to be a male-dominated industry, but recent statistics have shown that women are taking their creative space in all areas of the arts. Really, we have brains and we have hearts and desires and drive, so I really don’t know what can stop us.
So, what do you consider before accepting a movie role?
The script! It must be good. And what I look for in a script would be transitions, would be delving in the mind of the writer trying to see if I would be transported. I also do a back-story, just to create a direction for myself. There are really no new stories, but how a writer tells his or her story is what does it for me. So, a good script for me would have all these elements, primarily, and good progression of story is also key.
Where are you originally from and where were you raised?
I am from Ezeagu Council of Enugu State. So, I am a Wawa woman. I was born and raised in Lagos. I was educated in Lagos, elementary and secondary schools, but I also attended a secondary school in Eket, then the Institute of Management Technology (IMT), Enugu and Kilburn Poly, London. As a growing child, I loved books and I had thought I would be a writer. However, I have no regrets being an actor.
Which of your stage and screen moments, do you find memorable?
Plenty! So many of them that I cannot readily remember. But I will point to the stage play, Iphigenia Find Aiyelala, which we toured with as one of my most memorable. Then Aishatu was another one directed by Niji Akanni. Then there is The Visit Of Bishop Alaba, Toy Soldier and Boy Soldier. Then we had this celluloid film, Baba Zak by uncle Ladi Ladebo. Then, there was Tango With Me, Asise Eda, Half Of A Yellow Sun, 93 Days and so on.
What are the pains and gains of working as an entertainer?
Challenges would be travelling from my house in Alagbado area of Lagos at 4.am to Lekki and Ajah for a shoot and leaving at past 12am, with no considerations for my safety, because of a production.I have heard people mention the fact that they have been sexually abused, but that has not happened to me, because from the word go, I told myself that it will never happen, as I know my worth as a woman in theatre. For the younger ones, all I can say is, know your worth. Just know that this is a job and you are not doing anyone else a favour, but yourself by doing your job well. Don’t be static; explore, read books, watch other actors, learn. Concentrate on your part as an actor and stop playing to the gallery.
None! I am okay. I am enjoying what I am doing.Yes, there are pains, but when there is no pain, there would be no gain. And since you insist that I must share the pains and gains of the profession, the pain for me in this profession would be the misconception of me being saucy and haughty, because I stand up for people and insist that the right things must be done. Of course, the gains would be knowing that I am appreciated and I am fulfilled.