Ramsey Nouah: Day I slept under Lagos bridge

In this exclusive chat with The Entertainer, Ramsey Tokunbo Nouah recalls the unforgettable, tormenting experiences of his life when he was humbled by poverty. Here, he remembers the dark days when he slept under the bridge in Lagos without food. His story is quite touching. Excerpts: You are no longer constant in movies. What is happening to you? I am still on the screen; I pray for better industry than what we have. We don’t have a proper structure and it is affecting us. It is affecting so many of us because we don’t have a secured future. For instance, some veteran actors passed on and people had to gather just to try and give them a befitting burial. That shouldn’t be the case. We have an industry that just paid you one off. It is not in any way protective of the interest of the practitioners, it is not really helping us. I believe strongly that we need to do a more integrated production, quality production that will last, like when we started at the beginning. All the stories are not encouraging and technicality we are not growing, all these help to slow down the growth of the industry. And without growth there are can never be a future, without dynamics you can’t see the frontier. Basically, that’s what we are suffering right now and there must be changes. The concern of most people shooting now is about making their money back. They don’t have passion or love for the industry like we do. So, that’s the reason why I am not acting. I love doing a good job, something that will benefit the industry, a movie that whenever you pick it up, if it is five or 20 years you can still watch and be happy. I want a situation whereby I will do a job and my great grandchildren will know me by my work. ‘Oh my great grandfather did this, yes he is the one’. That is what I want to do to leave a mark, a legacy, no just a passing face. A lot of your colleagues have gone into producing their own movies. Is that the reason you don’t want to join the trend? I am working towards producing mine at the moment, but the reason why it is taking me this long is because I wanted to get it right. I don’t just want to come out with something little or something that wouldn’t be of standard. I am one of the pioneers saying that we should have a better industry. Definitely, I should come out with something really nice. And that’s why it is taking me so long but I will be coming out with something this year. You are a recipient of many awards here in Nigeria and Africa. What can you attribute that to and how does it make you feel? It makes feel like an achiever. I really feel good about it. It is like you are appraising me for my work and my input, and that is not a legacy for me. I love the fact that people love my work and they appreciate it and rewarding me for my work. It is the same thing for any person whatever profession it may be; doctor, pilot, journalist and even market woman, as long as you are passionate about your industry and people can see it and they believe that you have given so much and deserve an award. So, if a person deserves it then they should give it to such person. I love being appreciated, but I will love it more when I do leave a legacy behind. How do you define success? (Smiling) A whole lot of people define success as being rich and having it all. I define success as peace of mind. To me, I am successful; I do not owe anybody and I have a clean heart and clean spirit. I am a happy man from the inside; that makes me very successful. What is your greatest achievement as an actor? It is yet to come, my brother. I cannot yet boast of greatest achievement in the industry. It is not by my work, input as an actor, no! Like I said, it will be by my legacy. Most actors refer to you as their role model. Who is a good actor? images8LQQFNXUI don’t know how to put this without going by definition. If I can go by what I know, I think like I said you have to be passion driven; that is you are not acting because of the money, you are not acting because of fame. You are just acting because you love the work. I think that will totally see you through. Also, I don’t know how I can actually say it; people will actually want to debate it. Whether good acting is God given, natural talent or is acquired. I do not know how to define that now but because I know definitely that it can swing both ways. You could have a natural talent or God given talent as an actor and you could still acquire it and still be extremely good. To me, they swing in both directions. I can’t say you must be a natural or born actor to be a fantastic or brilliant actor. I know some other very good actors who weren’t born with it, but they are also extremely good because they love what they are doing. Like I said, it is the passion, whether it is natural or acquired once your passion drives you, you will achieve it. Most actors try to act like you. Did you go for any formal training when you were coming up? No, I didn’t. I didn’t go for any formal training to be an actor. It was more like an inborn. There are so many things I know to deliver certain lines, certain behaviour. I believe strongly that if you have a character who is going through certain pains, emotions, joy, success or whatever, there has to be a way to actually bring out that character to the best of your ability, which of course will be to drill yourself in that character at that moment and feel it deeply. For instance, if a person is emotionally broken, how do I deliver an emotionally broken character? I will personalize it; then I will ask different kinds of people who have broken down emotionally which one do I take? Which one do you think would be a market success if I apply it? That’s what I do. Who were the people that influenced your career at the beginning? It is really hard to say because the time we started, film wasn’t palpable. It was more of foreign movies like Schwarzenegger, Rambo, and all sorts of action movies. I didn’t really have access to television because I didn’t have television at home. I didn’t have access to movies. I mean you go to see movies like ‘Sound of Music’ at your friend’s house. I couldn’t say I have role models from Indian movies; no there wasn’t anything like. When I started, I remember my love for Al Pacino and I used him as a yardstick in acting. If you want to show that you are a good actor, you shouldn’t be stereotype. You should be versatile; you should possess the ability to play different roles. I use the Al Pacino`s role in Scarface, Godfather and Sense of a Woman to show people how versatile he can be. In Scarface, he has a strict gangster attitude. In Godfather, he has a mafia attitude. In Sense of a Woman it was also different. So, three different characters and they are all distinct. It was like he has the same gesture here and he has the same mannerism there or he has the same line here or there. That’s the way you can actually know someone who is a fantastic actor. He is one of my role models. How do you wear those characters and display different behaviours. What is your source of inspiration? It is from the society. You look around you and see a lot of people. People wearing different kinds of faces, you realize you are going to interact with these people; everybody has a way of thinking, a way of life. They are all not the same. You can actually be adaptive of all these people. For instance, if you are meant to act like a madman, it will be very professional to actually go around and find the one you think would suit the character you are meant to play in a movie. And you follow the person and study him for a little while so you can adopt the character and you can perfect the character while you are delivering. A lot of people think you’re a snub, arrogant and Casanova. Who exactly is Ramsey Noah? I am a regular easy-going kind of guy. I am not a snub and I am not arrogant. Most times a lot of people had criticized me, but as an actor that is the cross I need to carry. And it is easy for you to say because you are not wearing my shoe. Nigerians are very quick in judging because they are good in throwing words before thinking about them. But the truth of the matter is that we are normal human beings like you. I am not Jesus and I am not here to save the world. I am just an actor. Some people are making my life miserable. At some point when you think that I am arrogant or proud, it might be due to circumstances. I might be having a bad day. That I am an actor does not mean I have it all good and smooth. For all you know, my daughter or my son might be sick in the hospital and you probably came at the wrong time. This could make people think that you are arrogant. What is your most embarrassing moment? I can’t actually pencil down any, but I have quite a few. I have had a woman stone me with pure water sachet because she felt that I was mean to some girls in a movie. A woman was sucking an orange and she threw it at me because she didn’t like my behaviour in the movies. Would you say that was the craziest thing a fan has done to you? I wouldn’t say that, I don’t want to go explicit. (Laughing) How do you handle your female fans? It is just being nice and diplomatic. You can’t be nasty to them, you can’t be mean to them; they are only doing what they are supposed to do because they are showing love. Do you have any project you are working on right now? Yes, I just did a fantastic movie with AY. It is like a comedy, totally different from the lover boy thing, but I still have a little of lover boy stuff in it anyway. It is a whole lot of comedy and shot in the United States. We are going to complete the rest in Nigeria. That’s the work I have pending and there are a few to come. Tell us about your growing up? My growing up was like tasting the two sides of a coin. When I said tasting the two sides of a coin; I mean tasting being a rich man and a poor man. I grew up with my mother, and with a silver spoon, I had it all. When I began to realize that I had good things to show off, everything disappeared. We started from grace to grass; that has helped me a lot because it totally balanced the equation of life. It gives me confidence in all spheres. For instance, I can hang out with the enlightened or the rich. I can mingle with them very easily without any complication or complex whatsoever. Also, if it is the low class or poor people, I can mingle very easily with them. I can eat a fantastic dinner in a huge, expensive restaurant and I can go eat amala at a buka and I would not feel anything. I don’t care being a popular actor or a role model. I am a role model to everybody. Are you saying that fame has not denied you anything in life? It has denied me a few, but it has not denied me being as natural as I want to be. I won’t let that happen. It has happened to some of my colleagues. Fame has taken them away from what they wanted to do or be. There was a time I went to a bank to pay my NEPA bill and I was wearing a short and T-shirt, because it was on Monday morning somebody came down and said ‘Ramsey Noah, you are a role model, you shouldn’t have been wearing this’. I didn’t take it likely with him. For you, what was the worst scenario when life was so cruel? Those were the times when things got really bad for my mother and I and we had nothing. It was so bad that we didn’t have a home or shelter to live in. We had to stay in a store, a small store that could take only one mat. My mother and I squeezed ourselves in that mat. We didn’t even have a cup to drink water not to talk of a stove to cook. And my mother had to borrow, beg and stuff like that. These were moments when I was young I didn’t realize the gravity of poverty we were in, I couldn’t tell. But it was a good orientation for me. It was moments that I thank God for making me past through, because that has sustained and helped me even as an actor. The ability to deliver all the roles they give me because I have tasted both sides of the coin. With all these experiences, what has life taught you? Life has taught me never to look down on anybody because the person you disregard might just be your saviour tomorrow. I realized that all my mother’s property was washed away by rain. We couldn’t sleep all through the night because of the flood. It was really terrible. Like I said, it is a life lesson. Is there anything that can make you cry or shed tears after all you passed through? Yeah, those moments; those terrible moments when we had nothing and we were living off people. People were just helping us out. There were times we didn’t have food to eat three or four days. You haven’t eaten and your stomach is rumbling but you don’t have any place to go. There was a time I lived on the street, in shops. There was a time I slept under the bridge. It was unfortunate that there were no records so that we can have memories we could play back now. To me, I am so extremely grateful that I went through it. At that time I hated everybody around me. In fact, I used to question why God was doing this to me. But I think God knew that I needed this for my future. *Source The Sun]]>

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