Nollywood actress, Sandra Okunzuwa is a lover of the good life and positive with all good vibes. Also a producer, Sandra is currently working on a project so dear to her which she believes is going to be one of, if not, the biggest coming out of Nollywood. Though stardom may be relative, to the law graduate, her aim is to make a mark in the entertainment industry while she aspires to the peak of her career. She tells
Ferdinand Ekechukwu more…
What set are you on at the moment and which was your last?
Currently I just finished a project called ‘Ruthless’. ‘Ruthless’ has to do with female MMA fighters – Mixed Martial Art fighters. It’s a first of its kind. It’s a beautiful movie. It’s like a limited series for Netflix, directed by Dimeji Ajibola. It’s a good movie, good storyline. And with good cast. So that’s the last project I was on.
Take us through a bit of your journey into acting. What attracted you?
If I should cast my mind back, this thing came to me while I was a child. During my childhood when I will get to watch Nigerian movies a lot of them starring the likes of Genevieve Nnaji, Stephanie Okereke, Patience Ozokwor. So, you know they kind of like appeal to me and I would mimic them you know just acting it out with my peers. It was quite an interesting one. And from my childhood I knew that I want to get into the entertainment business and not just being an actor but also becoming a producer as well. So, so far it wasn’t really easy. I graduated as a lawyer. I was called to the Nigerian Bar and from there getting into an industry that you don’t have any family background on it or have anybody in the industry you have to strive, try… I attended Royal Arts Academy. I wanted like a foundation for my acting; I wanted to start from somewhere. I needed like a platform that’s why I started from film school. That was where I got to meet Emem Isong (renowned movie producer). From disturbing her every now and then with my monologues, going for auditions the ones they will pick me and the ones they wouldn’t pick me to the ones I will have to sit down and cry bitterly why wasn’t I chosen (laughs). Dealing with the whole disappointment wasn’t easy. But so far, I’m thankful, I’m grateful.
Were there criticisms from friends and family at first?
Of course! Okay so from family, family gave their full support. When I say family, I’m talking about my mum and my siblings. But from my extended family they were always like ‘what are you doing in the movie industry you are a lawyer for God’s sake. You should actually focus on that and make money and make the family proud.’ But for my mum she was so supportive, my siblings were supportive as well. Then friends, well I think friends did not have a choice. It’s whatever you are doing they will just support you. I don’t think they have control over what I do and the choice of career I have chosen for myself.
What fond memory do you hold growing up with regards to your background/family?
Okay so the fond memory that I can remember now while growing up, family background and all of that was when my father will sit all of us in the sitting room and we crack jokes… it was really funny my father will crack us up with jokes. He will say so many things back then. It was really an interesting one; simple family, funny, loving and we are just together. Another one was when my dad told all of us that we weren’t going to get Christmas clothes only for us to get back to the house Christmas eve we saw different clothes on the couch in the sitting room and then for me my own problem was the fact that I’m already older, and my father wouldn’t listen. He will keep buying me, wearing me those clothes we call it ‘mama tie me belt…’ despite how grown I was already at that time. But you know, parents will always be parents. And then my mum, my mum was a funny one like you know African mums. If she wakes up before you, she will pour water on your body, she will send you on errand and she will put spit on the floor and said before this spit dry you should be back. It was really funny.
You have within a space of time-shared set with some of the big names in the industry. How would you describe the experience?
I have been opportune to work with big names the likes of Chidi Mokeme, Kate henshaw, Iyabo Ojo, Zubby Michael, and a lot of other big talented artists. So far, I just got to understand that they are really disciplined and well trained. They are disciplined actors in the sense that when they get on set, they are not with their phones, unlike the recent day actors or actresses that we are always on our phones 24/7. It kind of makes me know that ‘okay it’s a serious business you know’. So, you have to come all or go home. I got to learn from them, they were super supportive. It was a great experience from been star struck when I saw them like ‘these are the people I used to watch on TV’ you know . . . and then getting to work with them it was a dream come true for me. It was an interesting one an interesting experience and I would want to do it again over, over and over again.
Are there any projects you are working on right now?
Yes, I do. I have my own personal project because apart from being actor I am also a producer. I have produced couple of films. Like Vida, Enitan the movie that premiered at AFRIFF 2022, I have the ‘Switch’ for African Magic, I have ‘Serious Mind’ and also I’m about launching my own YouTube Channel called Sandra Okunzuwa TV. It’s going to be one of, in fact if not, the biggest YouTube Channel for Nollywood movies and all of that. So, that is the project that I’m currently working on because I’m creating content for the YouTube channel at the moment. It will be launched in March.
What’s the one movie you featured in that easily comes to mind and why?
I would say ‘Pure’ because it’s one movie that I filmed at my lowest point in my life and it was a challenging role. I have to play the role of a mentally and disabled person. And it was an emotional one for me. So, I felt it and I was glad that when it came out, a lot of people really liked it. It was a movie that starred Stan Nze and Alex Osifo. It was the first time working with Veterans like that. It was a good movie it was number one RockTv for 2021….yeah. It was a great one and it also opened more doors for me in terms of people saying that I can be able to pull off a challenging role. Then another movie too that comes to my mind is called ‘Osas’. It’s different because I have to play like a cab driver. It comes to my mind every time and even the recent one I’m producing called ‘Something like Gold’. Those are the movies that come to mind.
Would you say you have hit stardom looking at your status in the industry at the moment?
About hitting stardom, to be honest, I feel like I am still trying to make a mark in the industry. This 2023 is going to be like my fifth year in the industry and the journey so far has been good but quite challenging and demanding. But I will say I am trying, I am doing my best every day. I’m taking one step at a time. And gone are those days you play like a lead role and you are already blown. But these days you have to keep pushing you have to keep being on several movies until the big break comes. I feel like every year there’s an improvement for me. I do better every year than the current year and the previous year. So the stardom, stardom you are talking about for my level I think I have but there’s still room for improvement till I get to that point that I don’t need to introduce myself and everyone just knows that this is Sandra Okunzuwa and a firebrand to be reckoned with so yeah…
What do you keep up with when you are not on set?
Well when I am not on set (laughs) I love dancing yea. I think maybe you must have come across my funny videos dancing. I love dancing, l love swimming, I love traveling, you know just hang out and chill…’omo you have to just be enjoying yourself o’ (laughing). I’m a lover of life; I’m a lover of nature, arts, people, and good things. Other than acting its either you are seeing me on the red carpet or I’m dancing in one video or tiktoking or just hanging out with my friends just to chill, eat or drink some wine. Yeah and those things keep me going. At least it’s good for my mental health, not every time trying to be in the personalities of another person like for an actor it’s quite draining because you have to play different roles; you have to fill into the shoes of different people, you have to feel what it feels like to be that character so yeah when I’m not on set it’s a good time for me to unwind.
What’s the most expensive gift item you have ever received or let’s say most expensive material possession?
My most expensive gift I have ever received I would say a car. And the most expensive material thing that I have…I would just say a property, it’s a London property. So a car and a property those are the most expensive possessions that I have.
How has the celebrity world affected your lifestyle?
I have always known that I wanted to get into the entertainment industry…. it has been a journey. At some point I had to start my own production. I produced like several movies Greenwealth Production. So, acting has affected my lifestyle especially in terms of my relationship. You have partners who are scared to be with an actress. They would be like ‘oh I don’t like the whole drama that comes with it…I can’t stand the whole someone kissing you on screen or having a bedroom scene, sexual scenes and all of that. These things are not really real. It’s just a make believe. It’s a job, its entertainment. Someone has to do it anyway. It has been like a struggle especially in terms of my relationship. But if you really love the person to care about how the person feels you just have to reduce the way you take up such roles if you really love the person enough to care about how the person feels. And for my lifestyle, am I happy that I’m an actor? Yeah… And with the whole people recognizing you and all of that, sometimes I get shy because I miss those times that I can actually go to Balogun Market, buy things, and do anything that I want, jump buses and all of that.
But now when some of them just see you, especially with the last incident that happened that made me stop going to Balogun market was I went to Balogun market to go buy like my undies and I was just there picking some other stuff and then the next thing a fan just came ‘ah I know you Sandra nice, nice’…and the next thing just turned facing the bra and pant and took a picture of the both of us (laughs out loud) it was really funny right but at least I’m grateful for people to recognize my craft and compliment me shows that I’m on the right path and I’m doing something good.
What are some intimate things about you; say your hubby, favourite food, favourite colour, favourite genre of music…your favourite car and things like that?
Hmmm I’m a lover girl; I love to love even if sometimes especially as an actress it can be hard even when you are trying to show love to people they will be like ‘oh are you acting?’ ‘Is this really you?’ But I’m a lover. I’m kind, I’m generous, and I’m a free spirit person. I love to dance. I love good company. I love good great energy; I give good energy as well. I love swimming. I love just being me. Okay for food, omo this is the sweetest part…food, food, food okay so I love banga soup and starch a lot. I love seafood okro and poundo yam…I love plantain and rice. Yes, give me like a very sweet rice and plantain I’m very good. And for my genre of music I love afrobeats especially… I just love music! And for my favourite car, (laughs) I love Range Rover! Range Rover is basically like my dream car.
Fans are often interested to know the man in the life of their favourite celebrity. What kind of man interests you? Is he in the industry?
He’s not in the industry. He’s not in the industry let’s keep it like that (laughs). And then I like a man who is kind, who loves God, who is quite generous, and also takes me as a priority. Someone who is a lover, someone who is a good company, good vibes, and quite understanding.