“Edo State-born actress, Doris Simeon, talks about her life in an interview with ‘Nonye Ben-Nwankwo
I have done a couple of English movies. But I do more of soaps and TV series. But there is a new movie, The Nanny, in which I played the lead character. But I still do English movies.
How did you become a part of the Yoruba movie industry?
I actually started with Papa Ajasco and Co. I went for the auditioning. My purpose for going wasn’t to get auditioned. I went there to see if I could sight some stars and mingle with them. I never had in mind that I would get auditioned. But fortunately, I was given a script to audition and I did well. I met a director on that set and he was the one that brought me into the Yoruba movie industry.
Do you remember the first movie you featured in?
Yes. The title of the movie was changed twice. But funny enough, the movie wasn’t released early enough and some other movies I featured in after it came out before it. When it was eventually released, I think the title was Ten Million Naira or something like that.
When was this?
This was in year 2000. The Papa Ajasco sitcom I featured in was in 1999. I have stayed some time really.
Did you think, back then, that you would get to the level of playing lead roles?
Sincerely, it wasn’t my goal. I wanted to be behind the camera. When I was coming up and I saw how fans almost mobbed my senior colleagues, I had a rethink. I said I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes. I would rather wish that people would know the name and not the face. But I was told it didn’t work that way. I also realised that you make more money being in front of the camera than being behind it. I decided to go for it. I didn’t plan it this way but I thank God. In everything you have to thank God.
But you have started producing your movie, why?
It is not about trying my luck being a producer. It is not every time your luck will shine. It is about what you have inside and also the passion you have. You would want to do something people would appreciate and learn from and not only to get entertained. But it is not only actors that produce movies, directors also produce movies and even act in the movie. It is just what you have inside you and you don’t want it to die so you try and explore it. Money can come out of it, yes but let the passion be the drive for becoming a producer.
Talking about money, we hear that the Yoruba movie actors are paid peanuts…
That is what most people will always come up with. But this industry is not about fixed prize. We have our different ways of negotiating. It all depends on the way you carry yourself. If you want to do for me and I do for you, nobody will query you. If you want to do a job and collect your money, that is also fine. This is not a salaried job that anybody will sack you or tell you he won’t pay you at the end of the month. If they pay them so fantastically well in the English movie industry, most of them wouldn’t have gone into producing movies as well. It is about choice.
Do you have a fixed amount you charge?
No, I don’t.
Can you tell us the highest amount you have pocketed?
Hmm… let it be inside my pocket. But I am comfortable and I thank God for that. I am good.
Why do you reject scripts?
At this point in my career, there are some scripts you would read and try to advice the producer especially when it has the potential of tarnishing the image of the actors. If you can’t go with my advice, I reject the script. I have been building my career for a long time. I wouldn’t want to do a movie and I tarnish this image I have been trying to build in a good way. So if the script to me is not what people would wish to see me in, I reject it.
Actresses in Nigeria live above their means, do you do same?
I don’t do that. I am myself. You have to accept me the way I am. I don’t do things to impress anybody, no policeman will arrest me. But I have some other businesses I am doing. I want to venture into TV presentation and some other stuff. I don’t bite more than I can chew and that is a fact.
How was growing up?
It was fun. It was just the typical Nigerian child growing up. We were told not to watch TV but read our books. During my time, parents wanted their children to be doctors and lawyers and engineers. But fortunately, my parents were free minded. I told them I wanted to be a news caster or a radio presenter. I used to watch TV a lot. There was a day my mother beat me black and blue. She sent me on an errand and I went and got the wrong thing because I was watching Indian movie in my neighbour’s place. My parents gave me their blessings. They supported me. One woman was so angry with my mother and asked her how she could allow me to become an actress. She told my mother that actresses sleep around and all that. But it was that same woman that came back years later and was begging my mother that her niece wanted to be an actress and my mum should help her talk to me to help her.
What kind of home did you grow up in?
I came from a polygamous home. We fight and settle and fight again and settle. It was so much fun. Now, I remember all we did and I laugh. My parents were wonderful, God rest their souls.
So your parents are late?
Yes. I am an orphan. I am actually looking for an orphanage where I can move to if they have a bed space for me. (laughs). I miss them a lot anyway.
Every young girl will always remember her first boyfriend, do you remember yours?
I remember that I did ‘shakara’ a lot when I was growing up. ‘Toasting’ then was just writing letters. But when I was growing up, the guys I liked never asked me out. The ones I didn’t like would always flock around me. I don’t think I remember having a first boyfriend. It was actually when I started acting that I started having boyfriends. But afterwards, those ones I liked started coming and I told them it was too late. There was this guy, in his mind, I was his girlfriend. He came to Lagos for his youth service. He used to take me out to eateries. So I would say he was my first boyfriend but we didn’t date. We didn’t even kiss.
He said he was very patient and he would wait for me till I was ready.
So who eventually became your first ever boyfriend in the real sense?
He is in the UK. We dated for two years. I was grown up then and I realised that I couldn’t stand distant relationship. He liked surprising me. He would come around and wouldn’t tell me he was coming. He is still based in the UK.
A lot of people may think you are arrogant…
I thank God that I am not. I had parents that brought me up in a great manner. My mum was a very beautiful woman and sometimes, I asked her how she got married to my father. I would ask her why she didn’t marry somebody like Dangote. She would tell me that if you have a fine face and you don’t have a good character, nobody will come after you. I don’t take life so hard. When you die, it will all be vanity. It is better you are humble and be yourself. Your lifestyle has to be decent.
But you should feel bad that your marriage didn’t work out few years after you got into it?
There is always time to be happy and time to be sad. There is time to reflect and think and learn from your life. You make mistakes to learn. You don’t make mistake and go back to it or dwell in it.
But will you get married again?
Hmmm. I don’t know what to say. I am not taking life so hard. You don’t say some things when you are happy because you might regret it. I want to go the way life goes.
But are you in a relationship again?
Yes. I am in a relationship with God and my son. Is God not male? My son is also a man. He is my boyfriend now.
Would you say it was your fault that your marriage broke up?
I just thank God. I thank Him for everything.
How do you cope with the scandal your marriage generated?
You have to accept life the way it is. At least I am alive and people talk about me. Some people are alive and they are not known. Even if I die today, people will talk about me.
What if your ex wants his son back?
He is his son. It is not all the kids that you train that will remember you. You just do your own and leave the rest to God.
What is your greatest desire?
I won’t say I want to be like God, but I want to touch lives. I want to make an impact so that people will never forget me.
What if your husband comes back to you and begs you for forgiveness?
I leave it to God. (sings) I am married to Jesus, Satan leave me alone…
But you look so happy…
I am so happy. Do you know that one of my colleagues died recently? I am older than Bisi Komolafe and she is dead now. I can provide for myself. Why should I be sad? That is why I am not taking life so hard. You don’t know when you can slump and die.”