News Column

I Dumped Banking for Acting - Stephanie Wilson

August 4, 2014

Samuel Abolude

A year ago, she was just another obscure actress, but after playing the lead role in Living Funeral,Stephanie Wilson was propelled to stardom. Playing a breast cancer victim in the movie produced by Pink Pearl Foundation earned her a nomination at the AMVCA 2014 for Best Actress In A Leading Role. Simple and down-to-earth, the Port Harcourt-born starlet spoke to SAMUEL ABOLUDE on her experience on set and her aspirations.

Is Living Funeral your first movie appearance?

Not really. I was in another short film before Living Funeral; however it is yet to be released. The name of the movie is Man And Woman. It's just an in-house thing, with a couple of actor friends and movie producers. I learnt they are still in production. Living Funeral is my first big break. Being my first professional movie, it really brought me out.

Prior to Living Funeral, what were you doing?

I was a banker. When shooting for Living Funeral started, I had to quit banking. Interpreting my role in the movie was tasking. Yes, Living Funeral was a big big break for me! Apart from acting in churches and non-professional dramas here and there, Living Funeral is my first professional work. I'm also into fashion designing.

You played the lead role in the movie, how did you get the part?

I was told about the movie by a friend. I did not even audition for the role. The roles for the dad and mum were already taken and they needed someone to play the daughter's role, which is the lead role. After I was told about it, the director said okay, try it out. I gave it a try and my director, Mr Oyeka liked my delivery. So I joined the cast.

So how challenging was it for you?

(Smiles) It was my first time in front of the camera; it was fun and it was hard-unlike what I did in church. I had to adjust to a lot of things. In church you just do your thing, whether you do it well or not, nobody really cares. But in this case, I was before the cameras and before people I don't even know. The director, the D.O.P and others on set; I was jittery.

The role I was asked to play was very challenging in that I had to lose weight during shooting and put on the appearance of someone battling with cancer. I did not eat for a day or two so that I could shrink to a size that fits my character, because of the people we were trying to reach out to. I thank God that the message was properly passed on for people to see what the Pink Pearl Foundation is doing.

Being my first big movie, it wasn't easy for me at all, but the director and also seeing veteran actress, Liz Benson and her words of comforted made it easier for me. In all it's an experience I won't forget. My role was a lead character and on set, we had the likes of Aunty Liz Benson-Ameye, Nobert Young and other actors.

You were on set with Liz Benson, how was that like?

Hmm... It was wonderful. Aunt Liz bonded with me easily on set and her acting taught me a lot. When I heard that Liz Benson was going to play my mum, I said, "this woman has not been in the industry for a while, I wonder how we would connect." It was so nice working with her. She's a very fantastic person. She's a mother, a teacher. I learnt so much from her. She was my mother in the movie and had to care for a cancer patient, her emotions, strong heart and my battle with her really lit up the set and we had a nice time. I hope I get another opportunity to act alongside such a talented actress.

What other memories do you have of your period on set?

Well, I have so many memories of my performance there. There were times I had to shave my hair and it was not funny. Then there were scenes I was asked to retake and I didn't want to because I was drained emotionally. There was one I had to do coming out from the bathroom early in the morning and it was very cold on location. I wasn't ready for that. I had to retake the scene at such a cold temperature at 5am. Also, I played two characters, myself and my twin, Yvonne. The director, Udoka Oyeka did a lot; he was patient and encouraging. He put me through a lot of things. Things he wanted me to do, he taught me how to do it in a very short time. I was able to switch in between characters. We had our code-that is, what I was supposed to do as I switch from me to my twin character. It was an opportunity for me and also for the producer because no one knew Living Funeral would be this big.

The director, Udoka Oyeka has been praised for fine-tuning every little detail in the movie, what's your take?

Yes, the director is a talented person; he pays good attention to details. These are some things other movie makers overlook as we see in some of our movies. The sound quality can be terrible and other technicalities and these are the little things that matter in the world of film making.

Living Funeral garnered 8 nominations at the AMVCA and one in the AMAA awards, but won no awards, your thoughts.

Yes, but that is left to the jury of the award organisations. That we were nominated more than once is even a testimony that Living Funeral- a short film was a huge success. We didn't even envisage this. The movie has been screened in so many festivals and you know that the story is about cancer and its level of awareness in different societies. We've screened it in Durban Film Festival; we've screened it in Los Angeles International film festival and also in Kent Film Festival. There is another one coming up in Bahamas in December.

What has the movie done for you as a person and your career?

I'm still who I am. I'm not cut out for "celebrity status". I've learnt more about movie-making. I've met people at the premier of the movie that I would never have seen this way, and also at the pre-award dinner, I met movie makers and chatted with them. All this wouldn't have been possible if the movie did not get the attention it deserved. That is God and hardwork.

I'm not ready for Nollywood yet. I'm focussing on my fashion designing. Definitely, I will be working on a project next year. For me, I just wanted to portray the victim. I didn't even think it would be nominated for awards. As regards the money I got for the role (smiles), the money is okay, though I didn't look at that.

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Source: AllAfrica

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