Actress and TV presenter, Belinda Effah, first hit TV screen as a housemate in Next Movie Star reality TV show in 2006 where she finished fifth in 2006. In this interview with SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, Hazeez Balogun, the graduate of genetics and biotechnology speaks about her passion for acting and other interests.
You were in the soap Tales of Eve; what was the experience like?
It was really challenging for me as I had been out of the scene for a while but deep down inside I knew I could do it. The role I played was so emotional that I had to be seen crying all the time. It was a challenge because I watched people cry on TV and I felt like it was a huge joke and I wanted a case whereby I would draw the emotions of audience watching because I wanted to build a huge fan base. I had to cry that much so people could feel my pain. I also had to go to that extent so they could understand what victims of rape go through.
Do you feel that passionate about acting?
I will not be exaggerating if I say acting is my life. I studied genetics and biotechnology and ended up acting. It is not funny because all through the time I was working, I made sure what I did was entertainment inclined. So, even though I was passive in the industry, I was still a part of it. Acting is like the air I breathe and it is very personal to me.
You were once a presenter on Soundcity, and after leaving you are still doing TV presentation aside acting
Soundcity was a good platform for me and I will have to give them the credit for unveiling my potential in TV presentation. Prior to that, I had never tried presenting. I have not stopped presenting on TV as I currently have a show on TV called Lunch Break with Belinda. I love presentation and I will keep doing it as long as time permits. Aside acting and presenting, I have several other talents but in the creative, I can write and I am working on harnessing that talent of mine because I love and admire writers. I feel writers are the voice of a nation, and depending on how creative you write you can present to people a better understanding of things.
Which one are you more comfortable with, acting or presenting?
Any day any time I will always tell you my strength is in acting. As a little girl I used to play out roles in my head. I will imagine an audience. I also write short stories of my imagination. I will say I stumbled upon presentation and I found out that I love it, but my strength is in acting.
Would you say your experience as a housemate of the Next Movie Star reality TV show in 2006 has helped your career in any way?
Yes. Next Movie Star opened my eyes to the reality of acting. If I thought I was an actor before the show then I was a joker. I learnt a lot of things from being a part of the show. It taught me that putting up an act is not about coming and acting but about assuming the character and becoming the character so much so that you will leave your audience spellbound as to who you really are. If you carry a character so well, you cease to be yourself but the character you are playing.
You have acted in many movies, is getting roles easy for you now?
That is a very interesting question. If you are looking for a job as an accountant you have to get some level of experience before you are taken seriously. No one wants to jeopardise his business because of a greenhorn. When you are able to prove what you have then people will acknowledge you. For instance, you go for a job interview as a fresh graduate and you are being asked for 10 years experience, where are you supposed to manufacture that from? For me, in as much as it is a challenge, I see it as a hurdle that I have to cross. It means there is something I am not doing right, but I have to say that when I first ventured into the industry, that was the case, but not anymore. Everything will fall in place with time as long as you are dedicated. The keyword is patience. A lot of young actors want to become superstars overnight forgetting you have to earn it, you have to work for it.
When did you discover you had the talent for acting?
I always knew I could act since I knew myself and understood the essence of life. For me, it was more like wanting to express the hidden talent in me and the things I perceived around me; so, I always found myself playing out different characters. I was not really attracted to celebrities and their shows as back then in Calabar, NTA and CRBC did not run for 24 hours and they had limited shows on air. I was more into watching cartoons, Tales by Moonlight and any other shows they had to offer. I do not think they had any of the shows that we are used to watching now. But what I was attracted to was fashionable people, the way they dressed and portrayed themselves. I used to watch my mother’s friends who I considered fashionable. My mother has always been a fashionable woman so I watched her closely, how she paired and combined her clothing and make-up.
What do your parents think about you and your acting career?
My father always wanted his kids to go to school so that no matter what happens, in the end you will always have something to fall back on. Going to school was a major thing, and after completing my education I automatically got the ticket to plunge into whatever profession that I wanted, with supervision of course. My parents have 14 children, so I guess one deviating to acting will not be really noticeable.
What kind of movie will make you put in your best on set?
I will give any movie I accept to do my best. I like challenging roles; not the usual girly ones. I will like people to see me in a different light and to be confused when they see me playing different roles and cannot exactly say if I am the one playing the role because I look different and I play the role very well. The one thing that makes Next Movie Star so memorable was when I had to play the role of a guy and I totally had to transform myself to look like a guy, which I did convincingly considering the fact that I used to be a tomboy.
Are you in any relationship at the moment?
You know there is a difference between the make believe and the real life. Enjoy me while you have me on the make believe, but as for my real life it is very private and I like to keep it that way. No offence meant.
Has your popular face increased the number of suitors?
People ask me out on a normal day, not in regard to my work. Also people related to my work ask me out. So, for me, it is about my being able to separate work from pleasure because advances will surely come. I cannot stop people from making passes at me even in the industry, because if they do not I will feel like there is something wrong with me, but it is how I am able to manage it that really matters.
How daring can you get on set?
I am an actor and I only have a few limitations because I am an African woman. But as an actor I believe there should not be any limitations. I watch Hollywood movies and I fall in love with them because I feel like I am watching a real character and not an act. I want to be an actor that people will watch and get lost in. I do not want to be an act. What is worth doing is worth doing very well.