Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde is one of Nigeria’s biggest actresses, and after some time away, she’s coming back to the scene with a new movie Alter Ego.
One of the talking points was the movie’s sexuality, with Omotola involved in a particularly raunchy scene.
In a recent interview, she discussed why she chose to come back with this movie, her reaction to possible criticism and more.
Read the interview below.
You went off the scene for three years. Was this deliberate?
Omotola: Yes it was. I knew I was going to embark on a break so I starred in a few movies, which have not been released. I shot Blood on the Lagoon with Teco Benson, and another one in London called Amina, which are yet to be released. I got to that point when I felt like nothing was challenging me anymore and I began to feel like my standard was dropping. I went through that period and I knew I needed to stay away and wait for Nollywood to catch up with some of our ideas.
Your fans can’t stop talking about your sex scenes in Alter Ego. Was your husband comfortable with you playing the role?
Omotola: Some of the sex scenes in Alter Ego were downplayed because I’m married. But I won’t play the sex scenes if it wasn’t necessary to be included in the film. I know by starring in this movie that my fans would either hate me or love me forever. While shooting the film, I knew I was doing something quite risky.
There are several ways to shoot a sex scene tastefully. I’m all for playing a sex scene convincingly and my husband knows this. I tell my husband,
“You know what darling, you married an actor”; and secondly, he is my biggest fan. I tell him, “Do you want me to be great or do you just want me to be good?” He will say, “I want you to be great, sparklingly great”. Then I’ll say, “Ehen, we go love o” and he’s fine with it. He understands but just like every other human being and the professional that he is, he too wants to be convinced that I played a sex scene because it was necessary. I know when he watches movies sometimes he would say, “Did they have to kiss if they were not going to kiss well?”
You got pretty raunchy with your co-stars in your latest movie, Alter Ego. Are you ready for viewer’s criticisms?
Omotola: When I wasn’t even confident, I starred in a movie called a prostitute, which was released 22 years ago. If I didn’t die then, is it now? I’m ready.
Playing a believable sex scene would mean going extra lengths. Do you think Nigerians will embrace such films?
Omotola: You don’t even have to “chop” somebody’s mouth if you don’t want to. If the scene is not about you showing real mad crazy love then you can’t now be showing mouth to mouth kissing or removing of clothes.
In Nigerian movies, we have downplayed chemistry. I hope we can bring that back. Back in the day when I shot Mortal Inheritance in 1995, I had to spend time with my co-star, Fred Amata. He was already a renowned director and in those days, directors were revered. So imagine, my director who had directed me in a movie prior now acting as my lover.
I was really afraid but we broke the ice by spending time with each other. So, he demystified himself and we had chemistry and you could tell. So, I’m hoping all of this returns to Nigerian movies. So, as professionals, we need to ask ourselves if it is necessary for a movie to have a sex scene and when it is, it should be done well.
With regards to Alter Ego, how were you able to build some on-screen chemistry with your co-star, Wole Ojo?
Omotola: I was working with Wole Ojo for the first time, so we had to spend time together and we played very rough. I understand the power of being friends with your love interest in a movie so we became like a couple.
We ate together and basically just broke down the walls to make sure we were both comfortable with each other and have each other’s backs and interest at heart. So, it spilled into the movie without you even noticing.
Alter Ego appears to be the first Nollywood movie to truly address Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Do you think it would appeal to the Nigerian Nollywood audience?
Omotola: We don’t talk about PTS that much in Nigeria, so, when you see someone that is mentally traumatised, the first thing that comes to your mind is, “this person is crazy!”. We don’t talk about depression in Nigeria. We don’t talk about how it affects children, especially those that have been abused.
When you ask a lot of adults, you might find out that some people have been abused as children. And if we want to tell ourselves the truth, how many of us were actually able to tell our parents about this?
In Africa, it’s always a taboo to say, “uncle, somebody touched me”. They will practically ask you one million questions. “What did you say to him? How were you sitting? What were you wearing?” As if it’s your fault, you become the victim. Alter Ego sets out to address how sexual abuse affects victims as kids and as adults.
Sometimes, you see people as adults behave in a certain way, but because we have not diagnosed this problem – because in Africa, you are either just crazy and should go to Yaba Left; but we don’t think about the fact that people actually have psychological trauma and that PTSD actually affect Africans. We think it’s an Oyibo disease.
Why were you drawn to Alter Ego?
Omotola: It’s the soul of the movie. It must come quickly in a movie and must also be underlining throughout the film. Some come naturally while some don’t. The movie got me on time because I switch very quickly; so if I read through the first 10 pages of a movie script and I don’t get the story, I get bored. I loved the film from the beginning but it was a diamond in the rough. I knew what was lacking in it. So, I called the director and told him we will have to tear the script apart and rebuild it and he gave me his nod. It takes a big mind to shoot Alter Ego.