In this edition, we present to you one of Nollywood’s finest veteran actress and screen goddess, now producer, Dolly Unachukwu. Charming crew met up with Dolly Unachukwu in her London home recently. With her down-to-earth, cool and calm personality, Dolly still exudes that aura of goodness that has so far endeared her to the hearts of millions of Nollywood fans worldwide.In a very relaxed atmosphere, evergreen Dolly speaks on her humble beginning, shares her love for Nollywood, and her life and interests outside the movie industry.
Could you please introduce yourself and give us an insight into your background?
My name is Dolly Unachukwu as always. I come from a family of seven – four brothers and two sisters, I am from a village called Amichi in Anambra state, and I consider myself also a Lagosian, as I lived in Lagos for good thirty years of my life before moving to England, eighteen years ago.
Who or what triggered your journey into Nollywood industry and when did it all begin?
In 1986, while I was waiting for my results after finishing secondary school, my mum believed an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, so she asked a family friend Chris Ebie, who was then the Programmes Manager at the Nigerian Television Authority, to get me a holiday Job in NTA Lagos, and he did.
I started working, assisting producers like Danladi Bako on Morning Ride, and Tade Ogidan on Junior Drama. One day a character didn’t show up and Uncle T., like we fondly called Tade, talked me into taking the small role. I was terrified and convinced I couldn’t do it – then I wasn’t an actress, and planning to study Law at university when my results were out. Anyway, I did it and that was how the journey started.
Was your family supportive when you told them you wanted to become an actress?
I would say my mum led me to it, so I got it on a platter of gold. She was applauding me to do it, and my dad, God bless his soul, he just trusted her judgement.
Did you have a mentor or godparent in the industry? How true is the alleged existence of sexual harassment and favouritism in Nollywood? Did you experience any form of it?
I would say Chris Ebie, was my mentor in the industry as he gave me the head start and sent me off for training when he saw I picked interest in acting.
I have never experienced any sexual harassment probably because I came into the industry through the boss, so I was more like Oga’s daughter, and did only what I wanted to do. Again, I wasn’t desperate – I had a choice. However, this doesn’t mean sexual harassment does not exist in the industry, like it is in every industry; but I just wasn’t exposed to it, I was a lucky one.
Having said that, I believe it’s all down to the choices we make. You can walk away and do the right thing and believe that what will be will be, God will settle your profession as long as it is yours. There are other producers that will take you on based on your talent – if you have one in acting.
As an actress, what is your driving force – what motivates you on set?
The first thing is the storyline – I love a good and educative story. There must be some good message to pass on.
What movie gave you your big break?
… Movies, it would be Deadly Affair. Though before that I already was a Household name from the television series, Fortunes.
In addition to acting, nowadays you are more into film producing and directing. Please tell us about your recent film ‘The Broadway’. How successful was its UK premiere?
Yes, I produced and directed Broadway, which is a television series and we have just completed work on the second season in the month of October. We premiered the first season in April, and amazingly, got a huge turnout. That on its own, I must say was a huge motivation for me to keep going.
Using Hollywood or Bollywood as a benchmark, how well do you think Nollywood is presently doing in the world of Film?
Nollywood is doing absolutely well and moving towards the right direction. It is a serious business now and we need a lot more collaboration on the part of Nollywood movie producers. Also support from the Government to fund and explore areas that will push the industry forward, for example, building a film village for Nollywood industry will be a huge step.
What sort of impact do you think free availability of Nollywood movies on the internet is having on the industry?
I would say it’s a good thing and it’s creating more awareness and entertainment, as a lot of people rely on this platform to get their entertainment, it’s a digital world now. It appears to be free online but the producers must be getting their money back one way or another – some get paid by google depending on how many views they get .
Asides Nollywood movie making, what other projects are you engaged in?
I have an interest in the lives of children living with Autism. I have a friend who has an autistic daughter, time spent engaging with the beautiful girl, grew my interest in these special children, and I decided to research more about the condition and find some answers to my questions. I also am into prison ministry – I love to go and visit people in prison, be a friendly face and a source of encouragement to them. I feel fulfilled just being a listening ear to them, assuring them there is still hope and help available to them when they come out, and that the end of a prison sentence, is not the end of their life, rather a new beginning to it.
A handful of your Nollywood colleagues are now into politics, do you foresee a future in Nigerian politics?
Politics!! Nigerian Politics!! Just one word….Deadly!
What are your hobbies and how do you relax in your spare time?
I like my own space a lot, being alone and meditating with me, myself, and I. I enjoy writing, especially movie scripts, and I love a good swim any day.
In terms of fashion, do you follow latest trends, or you create your own style?
Most times, I create my own style.
What is the fashion accessory you cannot do without? And what fashion Brand do you have an affinity with?
I love my Earrings. I love to shop with Studio Eight as they do lovely evening gowns and fantastic weekend casuals.
In terms of beauty secrets, what would you consider your best qualities and what skin care and make-up products do you use?
A good heart…. Yes, I consider that the best beauty secret!!! lol.
As for make-up, I am in love with MAC products …. though I recently discovered Vichy.
Lastly, what advice would you give to aspiring actors and actresses wanting to join Nollywood industry?
I would advise anyone interested in acting to first get the right training and then go for auditions. If you are indeed good, someone that will not harass you will find you and give you a chance to showcase your talent. Just believe in yourself and go for it. Whatever will be, will be – if it is in the will of God for you.