Haillie Sumney is a Ghanaian actress who has come into Nollywood to stake her claim in the multi-billion Naira business. She was nurse in the United States but returned home to break big in movies. Talking to Tosin Clegg, she recalls her journey back to Africa, nursing, building a brand as an actor and a lot more
Just breaking into the Nigerian market
I have been acting for two years and just breaking into the Nigerian market. I will describe myself as very comprehending and I have had a passion for acting for a long time. I studied Medicine in the US and when I got back to Africa, I followed my dream because I thought it was a better and easier way to break into Africa’s market. So far, it has been really good.
My heart was never in America
And that’s because my parents stay here in Africa, so I always wanted to come back home. At first, they weren’t supportive of my passion but now they are more encouraging. Funny enough, they just launched a TV station just last month and they actually want me to have my own programme on it.
My first time acting
I was a bit shy during my first film because I am more like a background person, but facing the camera was a nice experience. Acting in movies is not what it seems; people see a movie and think it’s all glitters and gold but it is not like that, as you have to start early in the morning and finish late. It is really a lot of work, and I commend actors because it is not easy. Seeing the finished part is always beautiful but behind the scene is crazy, as there are a lot of sleepless nights, drama on the set and all that. My first time acting was on TV series, Hills and Sneakers which was produced by Yvonne Nelson.
I also have a movie coming out, called A Way Back Home which is with Alex Okubo, IK Ogbonna and a couple of other stars.
And I acted in a movie in the cinema now, Lagos Fake Life produced by Mike Ezerounye.
Crossing over to Nollywood
Even though we have Jollof war going on, we are still brothers and sisters. Ghana and Nigeria go hand in hand when it comes to music, movies and other stuffs. And Nollywood is definitely a large market and well recognised internationally, so that’s why I wanted to break into it and I love Nigerians. What makes me exceptional is as simple as being myself and be unique. Not trying too hard and that hopefully I would be accepted. So far, so good, let’s see how it goes.
I would love to work with Geneveive Nnaji
She is a legend and a classic person. Obviously, she’s a very good actress and she’s on NETFLIX now, she is breaking barriers. And I love RMD too, especially the way he carries himself.
So, I would love to act with these two. He is a very handsome man; I am not going to lie. Maybe, I have an inch crush on him but I will confirm that when I see him in person. But, yes, he is a handsome man and a good actor.
As I mentioned earlier, at first my parents weren’t accepting my decision for acting but when they saw I was excelling and climbing the ladder they showed their support. I guess, they just have the old school idea of my child must be a doctor, lawyer or engineer. So, as devoted Christians, they felt like entertainment is not good for me, especially when it comes to kissing and the romantic aspect of acting. So people will be seeing my child kissing another man on a TV, they say. But now, they have embraced it and are supportive. Also, I’ve challenges getting payment from producers and, to be honest, I have done a couple of movies for free. So success is not built overnight.
Kissing on set for the first time
Deyemi, the actor, was the first person I kissed in a Ghana-Nigeria movie. Though, we make it quick and comfortable as possible, because I was kind of shy and nervous and there were so many people around, so it was weird for me.
My mother is from Ghana and my father from France
I was born in Canada. I moved to America when I was two years old to stay with my family. My mother is from Ghana and my father from France. I came to Ghana for my secondary school and moved back to America to study Medicine at Riverside University in California and came back to Africa and stayed in Nigeria for a year before moving back to Ghana. Nigerians are very vibrant, aggressive in a good way, they are fun people and they are very accepting. Nigerian men are very interesting, if they want something they will fight for it. If they want a lady they’ll fight for it, they are ready to do anything to get what they want.
Difference between Ghanaian and Nigerian men
It depends on what I am looking for, if I want wahala I will choose a Nigerian man. If I want headache and no rest of mind, and if I am looking out for someone to take care of me, I will choose a Nigerian man. Ghana men are very relaxed, very calm and sometimes they can be lazy, so it all depends on what I am looking for.
I wasn’t born with a silver spoon
Not at all. I wasn’t. You see that is the mentality many people have with people living abroad. You need to see the way people are struggling abroad. I mean, for me to leave Medicine and comeback to Africa. If it was so good why would I have left? Even though, you are making money, your money goes to bills; the system there is all about bills. So, anybody who wants to move abroad should just go to school and come back because it is easier to make it here and it is very difficult there. I call abroad like Canadian and American system, a zombie system where you just work like a robot and pay bills.