BN Saturday Celebrity Interview: After Over 30 Years in Acting, Veteran Nigerian Film & Theatre Star Joke Silva is Still Waxing Strong! Up Close & Personal with An Icon

Posted on Saturday, February 23rd, 2013 at 1:09 PM

By Adeola Adeyemo

Nigerian actress, director and producer Joke Silva stands proud as one of the icons in the entertainment industry for her remarkable contributions, especially in acting. Born in 1961, she started acting in 1981 on stage and television series. She obtained a Diploma in Performing Arts from the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London and later on a degree in English from the University of Lagos.
With over 50 movies to her credit, Joke has acted in far more stage plays. She has received several awards and nominations for her work as an actress including the awards for Best Actress in a Leading Role at the African Movie Academy Awards in 2006, and Best Actress in a Supporting Role at the African Movie Academy Awards in 2008. Some of her recent movies include “White Waters”, “Phone Swap” and “The Amazing Grace”. In this exclusive interview, she chats with BellaNaija’s Adeola Adeyemo about her career, family, marriage and more.

As one of the most loved actresses in Nigeria with an impressive reputation in her over three decade-long career, I was so pleased to make contact with Joke Silva a few weeks ago and she happily obliged to an interview. “She travels to Ilorin every week,” her Personal Assistant later told me when we were trying to fix a date, but despite her busy schedule, she found time for a chat. My interview with her is one that left me feeling like I had gone through some kind of life school in just one hour. She shared from her wealth of knowledge, experiences and advice. I learnt a lot from her and I hope you do too.

It’s such a pleasure to meet with you. Let’s start off from what you’ve been doing this year. What takes you to Ilorin every week?
I’ve been formally appointed by the Kwara State University to head a business that was set up by the University known as the Malete Film Village. I would be building a movie studio from scratch and making it viable. More importantly, it is supposed to be an underpinning for Nollywood where the skills that are necessary to sustain Nollywood will be taught. It is to train those who have decided to take a profession in the film industry and the various skills that are involved in the industry. I am the pioneer MD.

That’s interesting, congratulations. This is not the first time you’re heading a training institution. I understand you run a training school with your husband.
Probably one of the reasons why I was chosen to head the Film Village is because I run something on a smaller scale in Lagos, the LUFODO Academy of Performing Arts. It’s one of the companies under the LUFODO Group of Companies set up by myself and my husband, Olu Jacobs. We’ve been training people in various aspects of the Performing Arts, concentrating on Acting; but other skills like directing, script writing and producing are taught as well. We also train corporate organizations using Acting skills.

You have an interesting passion for training. Your biography on Wikipedia says you studied Performing Arts in the UK after obtaining your degree in English from the University. 
Actually it’s wrong. That was before I went to the University.

Oh, really?
Yes. I had always wanted to be an actress so once I had decided, I went for my acting training at the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Arts in London where I did a Diploma in Performing Arts, majoring in Acting. I was working with that for years until I got married, had two children and in 1988 I thought I might as well try and get a degree. And I did.

Why did you study English and not Theatre Arts?
Mass Communication was an alternative but I’ve always loved English, especially Literature. I went to University for the passion, to extend my knowledge of Literature.

The acting profession now comes with glitz and glam which has attracted a lot of young people, some of whom don’t really have the talent or necessary training in acting. How does this affect the industry?
Those of us who have had an opportunity of working with Yoruba filmmakers would always say that their discipline is second to none because they have a history of apprenticeship so everybody is schooled. It may not be formal acting training, but they have gone through apprenticeship. But in English movies, if a Director likes your face and you get into the scene, you have a part. Overnight you become a star. There are so many skills needed in our industry, it’s not an industry of fly by night. Like a friend used to say, the life of every actor is cyclical. You would always get the time when you’re the flavour of the month and everybody wants you. But when you’re not flavour of the month, what happens to you? If you do not have the skills or training, you will disappear.

Her Acting Journey
When exactly did you start acting?
In 1981. I started with stage and television.

How many movies have you featured in so far?
In all those years, I doubt if I’ve done more than 50.

50? Compared to some other Nigerian actors who have been acting for a much shorter period, that figure seems a bit small.
If you notice the way our films are being done, they are almost like TV series. They are just being churned out almost on a weekly basis. But I also do quite a lot of Theatre so even if I’m not acting in a stage play or a film, I’m producing. Until recently my new appointment came up so I’m going to take a break for a while.

I remember seeing you in recent movies like “Phone Swap” and “White Waters” which are the kind of movies in the new generation of Nollywood. How do you remain relevant in the industry even after all these years?
I think for everyone, you have to reinvent yourself to stay relevant in any industry. For a lot of people, at a time when a lot of these new movies were coming in, people looked at them as sub standard and expected the change to come from outside. But my husband and I were from the school of thought that if any change was going to happen, we had to be involved in that change. It meant getting our hands dirty, getting castigated but it’s something I’m very used to. I came into the profession when people had virtually no respect for it. So even when some of my colleagues at the time felt we were doing sub standard work and would not be involved in it, I didn’t agree and I felt we could do constant critiquing of what we were doing and I guess that’s why I’m still relevant.

Having spent over 30 years in the industry, tell me about some of the new generation of actors whose work you’re impressed with.
It would be interesting to know what you mean by new generation because for me, someone like Kate Henshaw is several generations after me. I like her work. Recently Rita Dominic produced and starred in “The Meeting” and her work in it was super. And so was Kate. Even though it was a cameo part, you could see the growth of Kate as an actress. I was like “wow, very nice”. Ramsey Nouah played my son in “Silent Night” and he is a really amazing actor. When you’re looking at people younger than them, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde and Genevieve Nnaji have put themselves into that super stardom niche and it’s brilliant because that helps to bring more focus to the industry. Much younger people like Kemi ‘Lala’ Akindoju have concentrated more on stage and her work has been amazing. I can’t mention all the names because there are so many people but you’ve noticed that all the ones I’ve mentioned are very serious about their work and have grown.Growth in Nollywood
Nollywood has grown from the time when movies were being recorded on Cassettes to being shown in Cinemas across the world. How do you feel about this growth?
Nigeria has always had big screen and I guess that is one of my quarrels with Nollywood because it tends to make out as if it came from nothing. Kunle Afolayan’s father was a junior colleague to filmmakers like Ogunde in the West and Halilu in the North who were making films on celluloids and showing these films in Cinemas. We have blacked out that history that is why someone who is young like you would not know of that era.

Pardon me, I’d rephrase my question. What do you think about the return of our movies into the Cinemas?
Now, there is a resurgence because the market is there, there is a need for our films in cinemas. There are several people building cinemas around the country. The more cinemas we have, the better for the film producers.

Project Fame & UN Ambassadorial Position
You play a prominent role as the Principal of the Project Fame Academy which you do so well. Why is this mentorship important to the contestants of the show?
You’re taking young people out of their comfort zone, keeping them in an enclosed area where they cannot go out without being chaperoned for almost 3 months. These are people who are used to their freedom. It’s almost like being on a desert Island, but after being on this Island, you’re going back into the real world. There must be a connection, there must be a way of making you realize that what you’re in there for is training. The other aspect is to help them focus on the profession. Just as they are getting the skills from their tutors, there are also life skills to being an entertainer. Entertainment in anywhere in the world is hard, so what are the skills that you need to survive in it? That is where my role comes in. And also to give them a shoulder to lean on.

You were recently appointed as a UN ODC Goodwill Ambassador for Trafficking in Persons. What are some of the new discoveries you’ve made about Human Trafficking since you assumed this role?
Trafficking in persons has become an enormous challenge for the entire world. It’s modern day slavery. It is a billion dollar business done under false pretenses  A lot of times people lie to parents of young people in the rural areas saying they are bringing them to the city to do domestic work but rather, they send them to brothels. People tend to think it’s just young women, no, it’s both women and men. Sometimes, they are killed and harvested for their organs. In some parts of the world, people are trafficked because of their hair especially in Spain and South America. People are screaming that they are being trafficked for their hair and it is packaged and sold all around the world as human hair. Ever since I learnt about it, I’ve gone back to using only synthetic hair.

What steps are being taken to curb this sad practice?
Our campaign is to let everybody know, especially the vulnerable ones, that they need to imbibe the slogan “I Am Priceless”. We are hoping that the more people think of themselves as priceless, there is nothing anyone can offer you that will make you do certain things that are demeaning because that sense of self esteem would be there.Love & Marriage
At BellaNaija, we love to celebrate marriages that have stood the test of time and yours is an inspiration to us. How long have you been married?
I’ve been married for 28 years.

Wow, that’s amazing! How has the journey been?
It’s been very interesting. It’s good to go for marriage counseling, but no amount of counseling prepares you for the journey you’re going to face. It’s a journey in which life will throw all kinds of curves at you and as two individuals from two different families and views, you would have to react as a team to these curves. Sometimes a couple survives these curves and sometimes they don’t. We’ve been very blessed to have survived the various curves that life has thrown at us. It’s been God’s wonderful grace.

How have you both handled the challenges of marriage even when as actors, you’re in the limelight almost all the time?
We both learned how to be private even though we are in the public. People see us in public all the time but there is a lot about us that they don’t know and we try to keep it that way. We have our privacy even within the public sphere and that has been very helpful.

In the spirit of Valentine, do take us back to the beginning of your relationship. What attracted you to your husband?
Oh, so many things. He had an incredible sense of fun which he lost at some point in the marriage but he’s gotten it back (laughs). He has this amazing laugh that is so rich and an amazing body with incredible shoulders which my sons have inherited. He can also be very proper about a lot of things and of course, the fact that we were both in the same industry was an attraction.

You both renewed your marriage vows during your 50th birthday which was very sweet. What prompted it and how has your marriage been since then?
It’s been amazing since then and I think it was something that the Lord engineered himself. It wasn’t something that we both planned. There was a committee planning my 50th birthday and the idea came up. Another thing that prompted it was that there were rumours circulating around that time that we had separated. I will not say the marriage hasn’t experienced its challenges. There were serious ones; challenges that for most marriages would have led to the end but God in His usual faithful way, no matter how broken you bring it to Him, He will bring it out as brand new. My husband liked the idea and they wanted it to be a surprise but my Pastor did not agree to keeping it away from me. I’m glad I was let into it.

What has been the most challenging period of your marriage and how were you able to pass through that period?
We lost our first child in 1996. She had what was known as Blount’s disease in which her bones did not absorb calcium. She had an operation when she was three years to straighten her leg but by the time she was ten, it had started bending again. We were advised to take her for another operation so that she wouldn’t have difficulty with child birth later in life. She had the operation and came out of anesthesia but then went into a coma and she never came out of it. It was tough, really tough. There are just some fields that carelessness should not be allowed, but hey, it happened. It can be really tough for the family that has to endure such an experience but God so good, three years later, we had another child who looks exactly like our late daughter but he came as a boy. One of the amazing things about God is that you go through some things and realize that He is the only one who has the power to heal and He helps you live with it. He turns my mourning into dancing again.

I’m sorry you had to recall that difficult period but thank you for sharing it with us and encouraging us. On a closing note, do you have any advice for young married couples just starting out their journey together?
You must understand that neither party is perfect and you have to forgive each other, always. Life just throws some curves which you never expect but in spite of that, I have to say that marriage is fun and so if it’s not, you need to find out why and do something about it. My advice to young couples is to enjoy their marriage. It is important to understand that your husband or wife is your focus now. The best for him or her is all you need to think about before you think of others, but you two first and foremost.

It was great chatting with Joke Silva and from BellaNaija, we wish her the very best!

Joke Silva in ‘Phone Swap’

Joke Silva in ‘White Waters’

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  • 45 Comments on “BN Saturday Celebrity Interview: After Over 30 Years in Acting, Veteran Nigerian Film & Theatre Star Joke Silva is Still Waxing Strong! Up Close & Personal with An Icon”

    Comments
    • God rocks February 23, 2013 at 1:17 PM

      Love love love this very eloquent and beautiful woman.

    • Partyrider February 23, 2013 at 1:49 PM

      Wow…the best BN interview..I smiled throughout.
      You can tell she’s a well read and knowledgable woman.i love her and I’ve always been a fan.
      Indeed this interview was like taking a crash course on the lessons of life.
      Great interview.. :D
      I like how she gave God the glory for everything.i prayed God continues to strengthen your marriage and fill your home with joy.
      Lou Jacobs is another outstanding actor..God bless you both.

      • Partyrider February 23, 2013 at 1:49 PM

        *pray
        *Olu :)

    • nnenne February 23, 2013 at 1:54 PM

      brilliant interview. such a talented, graceful, beautiful and modest woman. may God continually bless you and your ma.Amen. i like her views on marriage

    • iba February 23, 2013 at 2:23 PM

      I must commend bella naija guys and in particular the person who handled this interview. I can see professionalism all the way through in this interview. Sensitivity displayed when she spoke about the demise of her first child and obviously no direct questions about that or anything embarassing. Kudos to you guys. It reminds me of the interview with Denrele as well. It was that candid interview that strengthened my respect for that young man. Joke Silver is an icon. I am happy with this. Well done guys

    • BlackMagic Babe February 23, 2013 at 2:39 PM

      I love Olu Jacob,a huge fan…some of the few nollywood actors I respect…among the likes of (Pete Edochie,Alex osifo, late Justus Esiri,Enebeli,sam loco Efe,)Kai,but he is ageing ooooo.BN I’m dying for you to interview other sphere,great writers,like Chinua Achebe(Rolling eyez),Chimanda Adechie etc…

    • Tessa February 23, 2013 at 2:59 PM

      She loves what she does and it shows.
      You can check my blog at http://www.awomanofsubstanceandcharacter.blogspot.com
      Cheers!

    • Anne February 23, 2013 at 3:03 PM

      I hardly watch Nigerian movies but the rare times I’m tempted to watch it must have one or two of the following starring: Joke Silva, Olu Jacobs, late J.Esiri, Pete Edochie, Zack Orji, Liz Benson, Nse Ekpe Etim (all for their acting) and Genevieve Nnaji (for her style). This woman is a legend!

    • femmelounge February 23, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      she is an amazing woman! the interview is engaging from the beginning to the end. Kudos to Adeola Adeyemo too.

    • kikelomo February 23, 2013 at 4:14 PM

      A very intelligent woman…she is one person i have always loved in the industry.You can see the qualities of a good wife,mother,aunty and all in her at all time..A very faithful woman, an interllectual, a Star among her peers, i luv her faithfulness in God during her trial times….She.. said “One of the amazing things about God is that you go through somethings and realize that He is the only one who has the power to heal andHe helps to live with”

    • kikelomo February 23, 2013 at 4:18 PM

      He “God” turns her mourning into dancing again…..May God in his infinite mercies have mercy on us and turn all our mourning and sorrow into joy …Amen….I luv Joke!!!

    • Em February 23, 2013 at 4:34 PM

      Really nice…. She’s one of the few in Nollywood that can speak perfectly good English… God Bless her and her family

    • Lulu February 23, 2013 at 4:34 PM

      LOVE HER :)

    • kikelomo February 23, 2013 at 4:38 PM

      There is a Mexican proverb that says “The home does not rest on the ground, but on a mother.Everything depends on mother”……..So if joke is not patient, strong, faithful, and knowledgeable,….what wud her home be resting on today….I pray to God Almighty to continue giving her more wisdom and knowledge to keep her home forever and ever Amen..

    • Chyke February 23, 2013 at 4:39 PM

      I admire dis lady so much. She is a great embodiment of talent and knowledge. So long as am concerned, mummy Joke Silva and anty Onyeka Onwenu are d best old actresses nollywood can boast of. They have managed their reputations well, stayed away from shoddy movies as they select their scripts. Mummy Joke Silva God be with u, Mummy Onyeka Onwenu God be with u. I love u big anties.

    • aisha February 23, 2013 at 4:49 PM

      Very eloquent woman indeed, I simply admire her…her interview moved me to tears

    • NNENNE February 23, 2013 at 5:02 PM

      For maintaining your AFRICAN. SKIN COLOR, I adore you.
      You and your husband are brilliant actors and role models.
      Remain blessed, always.

    • anike February 23, 2013 at 5:15 PM

      I LOVE HER. Nice interview

    • Myne Whitman February 23, 2013 at 5:19 PM

      I love the new pictures of her, especially the one in which she’s in a white shirt and laughing. Lovely!

    • Choice February 23, 2013 at 6:05 PM

      I love this woman! Educating ,Great interview ,May God strengthen her and family.

    • Joyce February 23, 2013 at 6:32 PM

      Wooow nice one

    • wunmi February 23, 2013 at 6:41 PM

      I had the pleasure of meeting her. Such à lovely lady you can tell she loves what she does.

    • Kenny February 23, 2013 at 6:52 PM

      What a lovely woman, i witched a movie she stirred on with RMD (VIOLATED) that was a good movie. Stay blessed ma’am and may God continue to give the grace to carry on. This are role model not Kim Kardashian or kada gbogbo whatsoever she called herself. Why can’t the organizers who paid KK $500.000, give a lady like Mrs Joke Silver $50.000 and she will deliver super. I guess the answer is bc Africans don’t learn to appreciate their own, what a shame.

    • moi February 23, 2013 at 6:57 PM

      Absolutely love her!!!

    • gistyinka February 23, 2013 at 7:00 PM

      great woman.. real role model to other woman outside their.. http://www.gistyinka.com

    • Oluandjokestanforlife February 23, 2013 at 8:16 PM

      Aunty joke and uncle olu! I have been a huge fan since you starred in third eye on wednesdays. Aunty joke you can also claim that you have worked with an oscar winner.
      May God bless and keep you both and you are correct God is faithful.

      Huge stan

    • Dlapikin February 23, 2013 at 8:24 PM

      One of the most gracious woman in every way out of nigeria! I love her so much!

    • mabel February 23, 2013 at 8:37 PM

      Super great mother I luv ha soooooooooooo! Much

    • Lola February 23, 2013 at 8:42 PM

      My best actress followed by nse ikpe- time..but silva comes first!

    • Creamy_Amie February 23, 2013 at 9:00 PM

      Just love her! Highly read. GOD Bless you….

    • Adedayo February 23, 2013 at 9:14 PM

      I Love how well spoken she is..and her Hubby too…..Aging gracefully I see….

    • Duvy February 24, 2013 at 12:12 AM

      awwwww such lovely comments. Nice interview bella! Keep it up.

    • Lol February 24, 2013 at 12:38 AM

      I love her…I love the interviewer.kudos to bellanaija

    • abimboladare February 24, 2013 at 2:15 AM

      Sigh. I love this woman. I love this interview. I love BN.

    • x factor February 24, 2013 at 12:48 PM

      Nice Interview….

    • ola February 24, 2013 at 4:49 PM

      A woman of substance. A real professional. Wen I see nse ikpe etim I see a younger version of joke silva. Real African women. May God bless yah.

      • tito February 25, 2013 at 10:44 AM

        Ola, You are absolutely right. I also see Ikpe in same light.

    • shanday February 24, 2013 at 6:41 PM

      Lovely interview. I loved the wisdom she imparted particularly about marriage. Her answers were very honest.

    • Ibe February 24, 2013 at 11:50 PM

      Joke and Olu are Nollywood’s longest loving couple! I so much love them both!

      nigeriamovienetwork.com/

    • Away February 25, 2013 at 5:45 AM

      Maturity talking…….woman of substance

    • Omolade Remilekun February 25, 2013 at 9:13 AM

      Wonderful & Inspiring. I have always loved her. God bless you and your family. You are a Gem.

    • Traditionalbay February 25, 2013 at 10:55 AM

      I just love this woman. . . for all that she is! plus her marriage is very intact – not common in the industry.

    • Anonymous February 25, 2013 at 2:11 PM

      God bless Aunty Joke Silvia.

    • Gracie February 25, 2013 at 2:13 PM

      This caught my eyes “My advice to young couples is to enjoy their marriage. It is important to understand that your husband or wife is your focus now. The best for him or her is all you need to think about before you think of others, but you two first and foremost.”

    • PeeTaa February 25, 2013 at 7:34 PM

      Joke Silva is one of those actresses in Nollywood that I look at and see hope despite the rubbish going on among the so-called young genertion. She has built a class of decency and respect that commands a stand still. Her eloquency and good command of english stands out. Kudos Joke……U are my icon