I think one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever had would be God calling
Q: Kindly run us through your background
My background in Nigerian entertainment began roughly in 2012. About a year before that I had developed an online TV with a friend of mine and the purpose of the show was to basically share with the diaspora what entertainment was like in Nigeria. To try and get control of the story, to tell a different type of story.
So we would come over the summer holidays and Christmas and try to do as many interviews with celebrities as we could; from concerts, you know, just trying to network with people. And we did that for a little bit.
There was a time I was around for about a month or so and I heard about a few auditions happening, so I decided to go for one of them. And this is having done some work in the UK and having taken part in a few productions over there.
I never really had the main intent to come to Nigeria and become an actress. I was literally coming with this online show that I had and trying to just get more content and then sharing this content online. So I went for this audition and was offered the role. The Director said to me; “you know you can’t be in this series and be living in London at the same time, you need to sought of decide what you want to do.”
And I was done with my degree and I said, well hey I’m really not doing anything really major right now I might as well just take the chance. So I moved back, started working on the series, things were a bit slow and trumpy.
It was a bit of a culture shock as well, seeing how we work and seeing how the industry sought of runs. There was a lot of shock, to begin with, the shock of seeing how production runs to seeing we were writing scripts as we went along, you literally get to set one day but the story is just different or the script is just different.
Or you find out that the person you’re supposed to be playing alongside is not that person anymore; he’s been recasted or just finding you don’t have say a contract or systems in place that will foster a free-flowing or better flowing environment. So from there, I sought of left that series and ended up auditioning for Ebony Life TV and had to move to Calabar.
I was there as a presenter and producer. We created two daily shows and I also featured on them as well for about a little over four years I think before we now moved over to Lagos with the channel.
The moment I moved to Lagos it meant that I was at the heart of entertainment, it meant that I could go for more auditions, it meant that I could now pivot on my presenting and producing career and really focus on the acting thing that I now discovered that I really wanted to do a lot more, as they say, the rest is history.
Q: What was growing up like for you?
I remember a lot of good times. I grew up mostly with my cousins, my aunt and uncle were like my mom and dad. My siblings were here and we had a certain level of freedom to be academic and also be very creative. Like I remember, my cousin was really good at barbing hair, that was his side thing and the thing he would do and my other cousin was in journalism, so there was no strict path.
I was studying law and had the blessing and the grace to go off and model, and act, and do an advert and things like that. So I had an expressive childhood as I would say.
Q: You studied law and now you are a TV personnel, why did you switch?
I don’t think there was a particular switch, I’ve always been very academic and very creative, so the law and the creative side of me were working hand in hand on the same bird.
It just happened that it was a bigger opportunity presented to me at a crossroad when I was done with my degree which was the opportunity to feature on the series I spoke about earlier.
At a point, it was literally between taking that job or going to the States and now furthering my law career as a media lawyer.
It was just time and chance really, it wasn’t one was bigger than the other or I picked one over the other. I was presented with an opportunity and I literally just ran with it.
Q: Where you at any point coerced by your parents to pursue a particular career path, if yes, how did it turn out?
The option for me to study law was my decision, I remember I was with my mom, we were going back home late at night and I was at the bus stop and she asked me; what did I want to do? What did I want to be? Bear in mind that both my parents are both entrepreneurs and that’s how and what I’ve always known them to be.
My mom studied fashion when she was younger and then went into entrepreneurship. I remember telling her looking at one of those really big shiny glass buildings, that I want to work in one of those buildings.
I like to talk a lot, I like to argue a lot, I want to be a lawyer and she ran with it. The only thing I would say my parents insisted on was making sure I focused on my school work and I focused on achieving the best that I could with my degree and chasing that dream.
There were a lot of times they didn’t understand the creative side and it was with the help of my aunt and uncle to just helping them come to terms with being a creative person didn’t mean I was going to let anything else suffer.
I don’t remember having any major issues outside of that. My sister studied social work and then she became a makeup artist and a beautician. My family has always been really good at pivoting.
Q: If you were not a TV Personnel, what would you be and why?
I’m an actress, I wouldn’t classify myself as a TV personnel or TV personality. Acting is what I love to do. Acting for the rest of my life is what I would love to do. It’s always been and it’s something that grew in me, and that’s what I’ll be doing forever.
Q: What’s the most challenging movie role you’ve ever taken?
I think one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever had would be God calling, and that was because of the enormous amount of emotional and psychological weight that came with that.
I am a Christian, and I am an actor, and I got a chance to do something that was connected with my faith. And the result of that was, you know when you produce the movie and you get messages from people saying, you know, this really touched me in this way or this helped me with this decision.
It was a very powerful agent and just shooting the movie and the amount of emotion, and what went into just stripping all the way down, it was very heavy. I could remember moments when I’ll come back home and you know I’ve cried the entire day or I’ve been rolling in something the entire day and the security guards at home they’ll just look at me and be just like, Is everything okay?
Not knowing that I’ve come from a set or my husband will say that, when you were shooting that movie you were just a completely different person, for the time you were there, you were just in a zone. So that was probably one of the most tensed roles but also rewarding roles.
Q: What’s your favourite movie you’ve featured in?
I don’t really have one favourite movie, I can give you a few I really enjoyed being a part of; Wedding party 1, I really enjoyed that character and that role, it was fun, it was different, it was light-hearted; God Calling, as I mentioned before; Sylvia, was another project that I really enjoyed because I really got to step out of myself and allow the audience to see me in a different way.
So those are just a few of my favourite or a few that come to mind right now.
Q: You won the Future Awards in 2018, how was the experience?
I think that’s probably the most nervous I’ve been in front of a large audience because I wasn’t expecting it and I remember sort of quivering and trembling when I got on stage.
I do what I do because I love doing it not because of the accolades. It’s great when people tell you that they enjoy what you do but a lot of the times when I see those kinds of comments or compliments of any of those kinds of things, I literally just let them run way pass me because I mostly do what I do because I love it, like there’s just no way to describe it.
I have been on projects where I haven’t been paid, I have been on projects where you know it’s not just really about branding or marketing but simply because there is a story here, a story that I really want to be a part of.
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Q: What’s your take on the evolution of Nollywood?
I think I came in at a point where Nollywood was definitely taking an interesting turn. Video on demand wasn’t really a thing per se, we had a particular root to which we took products to TV or the cinema. It was either you were a TV actress or you were a movie screen actress, which seem to be a little bit less attainable to the average actor or so.
Then I watched that grow, I watched online and digital content becomes a thing. I watched all of these amazing platforms give opportunities to different belts of creatives. The industry has grown so much, the quality of our work has grown so much and it can only get better.
I think the one thing I would love to see is structure, more and more structure in the industry. Structure for actors, structure for crews, better payment, better protection, more professionalism, different type of stories.
We’ve gone through a phase where people are slotting in stories they feel as though they are going to work because of marketability or because of money. Though we’ve been through our slapstick phase, we’ve been through our copy and paste phase.
How about we take our unique stories, we take our own unique superheroes and we turn these things into just amazing entities, and I think we’re really on the course of that happening, it’s going to be interesting to watch.
Q: How do you balance your career and family?
I pride myself in being a bit of a really good multi-tasker. I think I got it from my mum, I’ve always just been really good at balancing. I keep myself as organized as possible and just have an order I just get through.
So when I am at work, in my business life, I’m thankful I have partners that are really supportive, so I can take time off and be an actor for two weeks or a month.
Q: Any project you’re currently working on?
I’ve been focusing heavily more on business per se, I’ve been reading scripts as well and just trying to decide what’s next essentially. Story is always very important for me, I’m not concerned with being everywhere, I’m not concerned with being in every movie or being in cinemas.
I am concerned with stories, I am concerned with quality. For me, a passionate desire of mine is to do more work, within Nollywood and outside particularly as well but as for right now, I’m doing a lot more reading of scripts and I’m focusing on my business entities.
That is very dear to my heart because I find myself transitioning as well within this entertainment space and finding myself. It is a platform that allows you to tap into the best for your mind, money, hustle, self-development.
I am literally sharing all the secrets that I have had, all the things that I have been able to attain to become a better person to get the best life for me. So I am connecting with people and it’s just something that I like to do and that is a platform that allows me to do that.
Q: How has Covid 19 affected your work?
Covid 19 has affected more so my business than say my acting life because acting life I took a bit of a break to focus on my businesses and for obvious reasons we have a simple concept salon called “wash and go” which is just coming up to about a year old and we saw ourselves literally have to close for about three months .
Let our work from home and continuing to support them financially during that lockdown which wasn’t easy as a business but we understood the importance of taking care of our people and the importance of them having something to do.
So we had to sort of re-adapt or should I say adapt, we had to adapt to what was happening which meant diversifying our product so that we can continue to increase our revenue.
It means having limited capacity in terms and numbers of people that come into the salon space and having to do a lot of things yourself because you don’t particularly have the support of the state.
Being a business owner in Nigeria is not easy at all and it often feels like a lonely road but the rewards are seeing what you do affect people’s lives, seeing what you do change people’s lives but in terms of acting, I think how COVID 19 is going to be affecting people is that it’s now going to be forcing people to take necessary steps that they should have taken before.
It’s going to force people to be mindful of security and safety, be mindful of health, be mindful of insurance, be mindful of making sure that they are putting their cast and crew up in comfortable places, be mindful of timeline, be mindful of budgeting and money, and results. So it’s really going to shift a lot of gears for people in
Q: What should we expect from you in the nearest future?
You should expect from me more amazing movie projects, a lot more international work, growth, mentally, physically, emotionally, spiritually.
You should expect more value from me, expect me connecting with people more and just overall growth. That’s what I’m excited about and looking forward to.
Q: Describe Zainab Balogun Nwachukwu in three words.
Zainab is loyal, Zainab is intentional and Zainab is focused. That is who and what I am in this moment right now.
Q: Final words to your fans out there
I just want to say thank you, like a genuine thank you from the bottom of my heart to every single person who has supported me, who has watched my projects, who has commented, who has loved, who has hated, who has just really been a special dose on this journey with me.
From the beginning I didn’t know where I was going but you guys followed, you supported, I am ever grateful. I may not get to answer every question, or get to answer every interview or like every comment but I try my best to connect with people as best as I can but I appreciate you guys, I love you guys. Thank you so so much.
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