One of the pioneer actors of the Nigerian motion picture industry, Ene Oloja, held sway in the 1980’s and 90’s for her compelling performance in the now-rested soap opera, ‘Cock-Crow At Dawn’. The actress, who is based in the United States, has just featured in her first Nollywood movie, ‘Zero Hour’. She speaks with VICTOR AKANDE on how it feels to be on the home screen again, and connecting to her fans after 28 years.

WHAT unique experience has ‘Zero Hour’ brought to you as an actor?

For me, the most unique experience was the opportunity not only to participate in my very first Nollywood project, but to work with the younger crop of actors.

How has this experience impacted you personally as an actor?

It was lovely to work in the field again in Nigeria.  My participation in this project was personally uplifting.  Having been out of the loop for over 28 years, coming back home to work on this project was pretty much very sentimental for me. Home is always HOME and working with my own kith and kin was exhilarating and a thing of pride and joy to me.

On the other hand, how is it likely going to be a refresher to your fans?

That’s the best part of it! My fans worldwide are overjoyed at the prospect of seeing me work on the screen again. They have not forgotten and can’t wait to see the movie. Many of my fans as far as England, Australia, and here in the United States are anxious to get their hands on the movie. The Producer, Rogers Ofime, sent me a personal promo poster which I sent out to my contacts and posted on Facebook. The response from my lovely fans has been truly overwhelming.

How would you describe your chemistry with other actors on set?

I think my chemistry with my Co-actors, and the crew, was pretty good. I knew only RMD in the entire production as we were the only two old-school actors on set. In fact, I am even more old-school than RMD! (Laughs) Go figure! It was really nice though to get to meet and work with our newer, outstanding talent like Rahama, Alex, Nuhu, etc. And the young crew members were so hard-working! It was impressive to observe their work ethics. Minimal drama on set!

Nollywood seeks more productions that will break boundaries, what elements in ‘Zero Hour’ do you think will make such standards?

The directing, I think, deserves kudos. Having worked on various Hollywood sets here in the US, the professional standards of Director Robert Peters were really competitive and commendable. Casting was also inclusive and diverse which tapped into preexisting and current talent that gave the production an added depth and credibility. Way to go!

What lessons, moral and otherwise, are there to learn from ‘Zero Hour’?

The storyline itself buttresses the vanity of life. To sacrifice so many lives to one’s personal ambitions is not just always futile but personally counter-productive and self-destructive as the ending portrays – A real lesson of life and the affairs of man.

Coming from his new diaspora background, how is the director, Robert Peters able to sustain the ‘Nollywood Vibes’ that have made us unique?

Like I stated earlier, Robert Peters is professionally competitive with the best in the industry worldwide. Being a Nigerian himself, he was able to use his knowledge of our culture to apply a uniquely suitable ambiance to the ‘Nollywood vibes’. He was able to make critical choices aimed at elevating his ingrained skills set and the quality of the production. Kudos to him. I loved working with him indeed.

What about the producer’s effort in the light of a film project of this standard?

The Producer of Zero Hour, Rogers Ofime, is an amazing young man! I have no idea how he does it all! As a family man, a PhD student, in addition to all this, his dogged efforts have floored me and I truly doff my hat to him! He hunted me down and maintained constant communication with me during the pre-production phase – a feat I have no idea how he achieved in between family obligations and PhD pursuits. Communication is so key! He rarely slept, to my abysmal chagrin! He chatted or called and talked to me at all kinds of odd hours and inclement weather in Canada! I was totally amazed he did not end up having a deadly breakdown, the dogged way he stayed on top of things and coordinated everyone and everything! Kai! Great kudos to this young man who gathered an outstanding cast and crew from all over the world, was on his feet and in the air 24/7 to actualize this project. I mean, he even called me in transit to Nigeria as he awaited his connecting flight to Lagos. What a feat indeed! I know what it takes to accomplish even a small studio production, let alone a production of this magnitude.

Your final thoughts on the movie and Nollywood in general…

Overall, it was an honor to work with an outstanding set of people, cast and crew alike.  I was so full of pride to see and feel how far we have come from my days in the field when we used one camera to achieve all the telemovies, Cock-Crow At Dawn, Behind The Clouds, and all the other documentaries we did in those yesteryear. Proud to have left building blocks that the younger generation is taking higher and raising us to the next level. That is how it should be. I pray we replicate what Nollywood has accomplished in our political life in Nigeria. Nigeria and Nigerians need our politicians to think like true citizens of our nation to move us forward, to move us to the next level so that our children can become more competitive in today’s world of great technological bounds. We can achieve so much more in, and for, our nation and our people if we put our own interests FIRST in any decisions we take. Let that MINDSET be our focus and guide, moving forward.

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