Mrs Ego Boyo is a Nigerian actress and movie producer who is popular for her role as Anne Haastrup in the 1990s TV show, Checkmate.
The veteran actress speaks about her childhood ambitions, experience, passion, career and others
What type of childhood did you have?
I had a very good and interesting childhood as there was no trauma of any sort. I lived in Enugu till I was eight years old and then grew up in Lagos. It was fun. My parents were working but they were very focused on life at home as well. I had friends who lived close by and we rode our bicycles to meet up with one another, exchange comics, go swimming, etc.
As a child, what were your life ambitions?
When I was a child, I was quite dramatic. I remember a few episodes. I wanted to be an actor and I also wanted to be a lawyer. When I was very young, I had conversations with my father’s clients, he was a lawyer. I asked them a lot of questions and everyone thought, “she’s going to be a Lawyer.” I also used to read some old cases in his study.
I was really interested in that. I was really trying to achieve a balance between those two professions, trying to figure out what I wanted to be eventually. In the end, I picked the theatre, and studied Theatre Arts at the University of Benin, Edo State.
So you didn’t actually study law eventually?
No, I did not study law. It was always between those two interests, theatre arts and the law and I chose Theatre arts.
After you featured in ‘Checkmate’, you were not seen in movies or TV shows for a long time, what really happened?
I was off-screen but I have been a film producer since 1996. I have been behind the scenes.
Why did you choose to go behind the scenes?
It was driven by my passion to be a film producer. I found I wanted to do that more than I wanted to act. And that is what I am still doing today. I started off as an actor and then had the opportunity to be a film producer. I like it better than being in front of a camera.
How would you describe your experience when you played the role of Anne Haastrup in ‘Checkmate’?
It was a very good working experience because I worked with a lot of dedicated professionals. It was a well-organised work environment. There was a schedule, we knew when we were going to be on set. Everyone turned up on time. We camped in a house in Badagry and would be there sometimes for a whole weekend – Friday, Saturday and Sunday. I was new to the industry. Some of them had already been in the industry for a while, and they conducted themselves very well.
I got very friendly with a lot of the people on set and still have some of them as friends.
What relationship do you have with some of the other actors, like Richard Mofe-Damijo, after ‘Checkmate’?
The relationships have all been cordial. With Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD); we are still friends. I was very friendly with the writer and producer at the time, Amaka Igwe, until she passed on a few years ago. After ‘Checkmate’, we worked together on ‘Violated’. We (Amaka and I) also worked on three different productions after that. Recently, I bumped into Bimbo Manuel, who was also in ‘Checkmate’. We greeted each other warmly; it was lovely to see him after so long.
You started your own production outfit –Temple Production in 1996. What has the journey been like?
The journey has been interesting. There have been a few ups and downs, but it has been interesting. When we started Temple, the world was going digital and we decided to get on that digital lane. I bought the digital equipment. I remember Amaka and I talked about it because Amaka already owned a company. We talked about how it would impact the industry. Again, the relationships I built when I was part of ‘Checkmate’ helped me. When I bought the equipment and set up the studio, trying to find people to work with, Amaka and RMD were the ones that helped me get my first set of staff members. So, those relationships helped me and that was how I started Temple Production.
At first, we had some very interesting jobs – we did a lot of work for corporate clients; we did a lot of work for developing industries and a lot of people rented the equipment from us. In fact, our equipment and crew were used in a lot of early Nollywood productions.
Our equipment was used in a lot of Teco Benson’s productions, Don Pedro’s productions, etc. Those were the early days.
And then, like many new businesses, we faced a number of difficulties – like staffing problems, keeping staff, getting honest people, getting people to give their best.
Sometimes, we had difficulty getting jobs because at the time, a lot of advertising agencies were also getting into production and then of course, we also had competitors who were setting up studios too.
Eventually, we were able to stabilise and start making our own feature films like ‘Keeping Faith’ in 2002.
You produced a movie, ‘A Hotel Called Memory’ in 2017. The movie won the audience award for best experimental film in a festival in Philadelphia, USA. How did you feel about that feat?
We made that film as an experiment and it was an experiment that worked. I was very happy about that. After Blackstar, we won three AMAA awards as well. We won the awards for sound, sound editing and one other. We had six nominations that year and won three awards. It is gratifying when one wins for their work, it is validation from your industry, so I was pleased.
Don’t you think what we see now in movies is a departure from the way ‘Checkmate’ was cast considering the fact that in some films today, decency is not taken seriously?
At the time ‘Checkmate’ was on television, there was a certain standard that was expected. I think the Broadcasting Organisation of Nigeria was a bit more rigid in terms of what was acceptable and what was allowed. You had to satisfy certain expectations, but there were also all sorts of foreign films that were being shown on our screens that didn’t exactly mirror that. I think that nowadays, it is a case of mirroring the times just like shows like ‘Checkmate’ mirrored those times. Now, a lot more things are permissible.
As a veteran actress, do you think what is shown on television should promote the nation’s culture and ideals?
If it is a case of promoting moral values or promoting culture, then that is the job of BON. It is not for me to monitor who is doing what. It is for them to decide what is permissible on air. I think that each individual or group of individuals decides what sort of programme they want to do.
People can do all sorts of programmes and at the end of the day, it depends on what BON states is the criteria to be met and what it wants shown on air.
How would you describe the state of Nollywood?
I would say that Nollywood is an evolving industry; it has come a long way. From where we started and where it is now, it has evolved in so many ways, and I think it has been quite positive, it has done quite well. Of course, there are going to be things that we don’t like or support, or think should have been different but one can’t like every single change.
Apart from acting and film productions, what other things do you do?
Apart from film production, I don’t do any other things. Acting and production are my careers.
What other extracurricular activities are you involved in?
Yes, I have other extracurricular activities. I belong to boards, societies and a number of clubs.
What special moment in your life will be hard for you to forget?
My father’s death. I was 22. It was a shock because he wasn’t ill. He was travelling and we had a nice conversation before he left. Two days after he travelled, he died. It is one of the things that have shaken me to my core.
Do you have any regrets in life?
Well, there are always regrets but I don’t have any strong or life-defining regrets. You know, you regret having that last slice of the cake or having said some harsh words to a friend. I have those minor regrets but I don’t have any life-changing regrets.
When you are not working, what do you do to have fun?
I love gardening. I have been gardening for about 15 years now, and I love it! I love watching things grow, getting my hands dirty, and monitoring my plants. I love reading so I’m always reading. At any point, if I am waiting for someone or in my car or have a moment to myself, I read. I read books, magazines and newspapers.
I also love movies. I have seen a lot of films from different parts of the world. I love walking – I like to take long walks. I love sitting out with friends, having a good chat. I enjoy listening to music. It could be soul, rhythm and blues, jazz, etc. I like listening to live bands.
How are you able to achieve a balance between your responsibilities on the job and at home?
That is not an issue. I combine them easily. I never found them difficult. I am lucky that my job is not a 24-7 or nine to five. I am not someone that believes that you can do everything by yourself. If it is something that I can delegate, I delegate. I have been able to do that and I have got great support from my husband, my family and domestic help when I have needed that.
Are you mulling the idea of doing what you are good at by acting more in movies and TV shows?
I might go back. I don’t know. Never say never because one never knows. If somebody offers me a nice role, a good script, I just might do it. I have done a few things recently, I worked with RMD in his show on television, Mr X Family. That has been two years now. That is fairly recent. I also play a small role in a film that is coming out next year, working with Mildred Okwo and Rita Dominic.
Piracy is a big problem in the industry. What is your advice in this regard?
We have been battling piracy for so long. People need to understand that every time they buy a DVD or VCD while they are held up in traffic, the material is most likely the result of piracy. It is not material that is actually going to benefit the owners of that work – their copyright has been infringed upon.
It is for the industry and the government to continue working on creating awareness constantly with the general public, and for the government and judiciary to bring pirates to justice.