By Prisca Sam-Duru
Ramsey Nouah is one of the most-sought-after and handsome actors in Nollywood who has been consistent in his career. Nouah who is known as ‘loverboy’ for his many roles in romantic movies, in this interview, the 2010 Africa Movie Academy Award winner for Best Actor in a leading Role shares the pathetic story of his journey into acting, the industry and why he stopped attending public functions with his family.
How did you begin your journey into the movie industry?
My journey into the movie industry actually started when I was trying to sit for my GCE examination. I didn’t have money to purchase my GCE form, and there were no jobs then. It was hard to secure menial jobs and I couldn’t bring myself to do such jobs. Later, a friend of mine advised me to try my hand at acting. But I didn’t welcome the advice because I prefer to act in Hollywood. It was funny.
Later I went for a couple of auditions and precisely in 1990, I went for a soap opera audition called Fortunes and was engaged. Later it had a problem with the title and so it was changed to ‘Mega Fortune.’ I was one of the key actors in that soap and it was better than Telemundo.
After starring in that soap, I did a couple of movies that didn’t see the light of day. I was supposed to have featured in the famous “Glamour Girls” but the producer was too stingy. He was very professional, and actually brought a letter inviting me for audition for “Glamour Girls” and I played my role. He jumped from his seat and shouted yes, that’s the guy I’ve been looking for.
He invited me for negotiations and to my disappointment, he was “pricing” me like I was a meat in the market. It didn’t work out. I actually became a hustler working with marketers and other practitioners. I was in all the episodes in Fortunes as Jeff Akin-Thoma and was paid N100 per episode. I was paid N1,200 for only a quarter. I was in that soap just for the passion. Things were bad that I didn’t have clothes, my trousers were torn.
I actually patched my trousers by myself. Thank God my mom taught me how to sew. With the 1,200, I rushed to Yaba to purchase second hand clothes. I looked at myself after I had washed and ironed them and said, “Ramsey, you have arrived now.” I wasn’t thinking of the cash or fame though I was in serious need. I didn’t even know the benefits of being an actor.
It took me time to be used to my fans rushing at me and appreciating me until my producers told me it was normal. As time went on the job actually began paying my bills. With the first major money I earned, I bought a sound system, TV and later Air conditioner. By 1996, filmmakers discovered that I am a better actor as a lover boy so I was typecast as a lover boy. I played love in my life and grew tired. Whenever they brought love stories, I asked if there wasn’t any other issue they could talk about.
Later in 2003, there was a nose dive as pirates made it impossible for filmmakers to get back their money so, they began churning out films. Some of us who are more concerned about making Nollywood a brand, began thinking of how to make things better. At this point, cinema came as a huge breakthrough, Bank of Industry has also been helpful unlike the banks. Today I’m very happy about how things turned out.
You were the guest speaker at a Nollywood event held at the Pan African University, Lagos, recently, how was the experience?
I saw that as an opportunity to exchange ideas. A lot of people don’t know what’s going on in the industry so I was elated when I discovered that there is a Nollywood Study Centre there.That means Nollywood is going pretty far. So, with honour I obliged to come and share my experience with people who are aspiring to join the industry and also, to let people know that the industry is not secluded but an open market.
Before AY’s “30 Days In Atlanta”, you have been missing on screen. What happened?
It’s not like I went off the screen. You know that I have been one of the pioneers wanting to fly the new Nollywood. You know the industry lacks structure, it’s almost like buying and selling which it shouldn’t be. It’s like you come and act, they pay you off and there is no future for you. It ends there ; there’s no pension plan, some of my colleagues were sick and when they died, we had to start begging from people to bury them. That’s too bad.
What else do you need since the past President Goodluck Jonathan set up a grant for filmmakers to access?
The grant is not enough to sustain the industry. We need structure, the structure I’m talking about predominantly is distribution. The distribution channels. If we have more cinemas in the country there will be a huge improvement. “30 days in Atlanta” for instance, showed only 13 cinemas in Nigeria and gross more than 160 million Naira before it was pirated by our Alaba brothers.
It sold even more than Avatar, only in 13 cinemas. Imagine if it is in 20, 100 or even 200 cinemas, you do the math, and understand that Nollywood is a big industry that can sustain itself.
Why do you call being a celebrity a cross?
Well it is a bigger cross than you can think about because you have to be concerned about your looks. You must make sure that everything is on point. Dress properly to suit every event. You have to build on your looks and image so that people will admire you. It makes you classy and a role model. Your behaviour or attitude is another selling point. If you maintain good looks and image, big multinationals will be after you.
If your track record is bad, then there’s no space for you. People look at us and want to be like us not understanding that we wish we had a more normal or simple life style. Ramsey will dare not be seen fighting on the streets. I better turn the other cheek to be slapped a second time than retaliate. Although there are benefits for instance, the pay is good, you got to be admired but then, its a cross.
As a celebrity, who are the set of people who avoid most?
It is the Press! I might just say hello to a girl and the next thing is, Ramsey Nouh is toasting one girl. The media almost destroyed my marriage. But thank God they failed and my marriage is 14 years now blessed with four children. I told my wife to keep away from the press, let me handle them. If they don’t see you, there will be nothing to say about you. Because of that, I have stopped appearing at public functions with my family.
Aside the restriction, how have you been able to deal with the press?
The best way to deal with the press is to ignore them. Whenever they start telling lies about you, just ignore them. The greatest mistake you’ll make is to respond to scandals. When you ignore them, the stories die off with time.
What else has being a celebrity done to you?
It has prevented me from enjoying quality private time with my family.
If you are to change anything, what would that be?
Get back my private life.
We see same faces in so many movies, does it mean that producers don’t call for auditions anymore?
Auditions are publicised even on the social media. The problem is that producers want to put their money down and get it back. So, content must be sold and if they use new faces, it wont sell.
How then can up and coming actors break into the industry?
Just believe in yourself, be passionate about your career and let nothing stop you from pressing forward.
What’s responsible for your transforming into a star actor?
Hard work and passion. Also, the mirror has been my best teacher. It helps me learn to get into character and improve upon my job. I am concerned about how to make the industry great, so passion remains my motivator.
Most challenging movie yet?
The most challenging is “Dangerous Twins” because there was no technology sophistication at the time of production. Everything was done manually. One scene took two days to be shot, so it was tasking. But then, it was part of the tutorial to be professional.
Culled from Vanguard