Queen Nwokoye, is best known for starring as the lead character in the 2014 film, “Chetanna,” which earned her Best Actress nomination at the 11th Africa Movie Academy Awards.
In this interview, she talked about her journey into the movie industry, the secrets behind her longevity in a very competitive field and lots more.
Given your onscreen popularity, the TV series and films you have featured in, who is the real Queen Nwokoye?
I am from Anambra State. My mum is from Anambra State and my dad is from Anambra State. I am the first of five children. I majored in sociology and anthropology at Unizik. I did my National Youth Service in Kano. I have featured in a lot of movies and wouldn’t be able to mention every one of them now. The most prominent should be “Ada Mbaino,” “Speak the Word,” “Heart of a Slave,” “Oshimiri,” “Chetanna,” “Mirror of Life,” “Pretty Liars” and “Excess Luggage,” among others. There are many. I can’t remember them all.
What motivated you into acting?
Nothing really. I have always loved watching movies, and I was fascinated by them; being someone that was always on my own, I used to read a lot of novels. You need to see my novel library, you will scream. I just felt I could do it and I went after it. Motivation, that idea of playing different characters. I am always fascinated at interpreting different roles, putting myself in different characters and wanting them to come to life. As you get older in the game, you learn more techniques, polish yourself more. When I watch my old movies today, I laugh and grin most times. What? That’s terrible, but at the end of the day it’s still the same motivation. Once you have passion for something, it hardly dies off.
What were your family and friends’ reactions to your choice of profession?
I didn’t really have any problem with my family because all the while they always rang it in my ears that once I finished university I could do whatever I wanted and they would support me. Their own was, just get good grades in school. Once you could do that, you are fine. So, after my degree, I went for my Youth Service. I came back and I told them I wanted to go into acting. They didn’t really object. My mum said, you know I trained you well (she was a vice principal then) and you know what is good and what is bad. Just go out there and make us proud. So, I took her advice. My friends were different. It was a different game with them. They watched my movies and they screamed, how? Is this really you? All the while they saw me as a very quiet and reserved person, so when they saw me acting those crazy roles they screamed, what is going on? This cannot be Queen. (Laughs) I get that from them all the time and I’m happy. That suggests that I’m doing something out of the norm or something that is not me. They understand it’s the profession and they are very happy for me and with me.
What are the challenges?
I think the main challenge I had was breaking the stereotype because I looked so young when I came into the industry and so innocent. It was very hard for them to give me those big challenging roles. I was kind of stereotyped doing the good girl roles where you didn’t really have to do much acting. I got stuck in that for a very long time because they just felt that even if I played the other roles well my face would be saying another thing. It took a long while before leaving that stereotype and, when I did, my career turned for the better.
Which film made you prominent?
It was “Ada Mbaino.” It was the first one that gave me that reach. It was very challenging. First of all, I’m not from Imo State, but from Anambra State. Prior to me doing the movie, I had not heard that dialect before. My character was supposed to be from Mbaino and it was challenging. Getting on set and knowing full well I was supposed to speak the Mbaino dialect, I was scared because the director, the EP, everybody put in a lot of work. I had to take a lot of cues from them. When the movie came out, it became the highest selling movie of the year. That was the movie that brought me into the limelight and the movie that made me very prominent. A lot of people now call me Ada Mbaino. Many people thought I was from Imo State because of that movie, but I’m from Anambra State.
What is your advice for younger ones?
My only advice is do not be in a rush. Don’t be desperate. It will happen, so far as you have the passion for it and you back it with prayers. That is the only advice. This advice will take you a long way. A lot of mistakes upcomers make in the industry is because they are always desperate. They think they can come in today and become stars tomorrow. It doesn’t work like that. I always tell people, a lead role can make or mar you. So, don’t be in a rush for that lead role. Start little; learn your craft, learn the basics so that when you finally land that big role you will know what to do with it so that it would announce you to the world.
What’s your relationship with old friends now that you are a celebrity?
There’s no celebrity when it comes to friendship, as far as I’m concerned. I still hang out with old friends. We still chat. I really don’t have a large circle of friends. The ones I have, I keep them and maintain them.
If you weren’t an actress what would you have been?
I think, maybe, a lawyer. I have always loved that profession.
Who are your role models?
I have a lot of people I admire in the industry. I can’t mention them all. There are lots of them that know their craft and I enjoy them so much, I love them. There are many of them. I can’t even start mentioning them.