For movie buffs in Ghana and Nigeria, Yvonne Nelson needs no introduction. The star actress is a household name in both countries as she has featured in several flicks that have endeared her to her numerous fans. The Entertainer recently caught up with the Ghanaian screen diva in Accra and she opened up on her career and sundry issues. Enjoy it.
I learnt you are veering into production? Yes, I am actually the General Manager of a financial company called, Media GH and they would be launching soon. They will manage musicians; do movie and music at the same time so I represent the movie arm of the company. So far, this is the second movie we are shooting. I won’t say I am now into production, they needed my help and I am giving them. I will say yes it is a full time job. If I am not on anyone’s set and there is something to do, I will go there. Though, it’s not as if I have left everything to work for them.
Do you take salary or commission? I take salary, and from the movie I take my fee as well. I am a big girl? Oh, I work hard. I really work hard. I don’t know about the big girl part.
You are one of the most daring actresses, why do you push to the finish line? I don’t know about that but as an actor, you have to get into the character you are playing. If you are playing a mad woman, make sure you play it well, that is what I always have in mind when doing a movie. I make sure I nail it. So, that is Yvonne Nelson for you.
Even, if you have to kiss passionately in the movie? Yes, if I have to do so. That is the way the job is. Africans pretend a lot. If you are watching an American movie, you won’t see it as a big deal but when it is your people then you will go like ‘why are they doing it?’ We are only trying to tell stories; we are trying to educate people with our movies. Kissing is not a bad thing. I have seen a Christian movie where a couple kissed and all that, so there is nothing wrong with kissing as long as you are telling a story, and you are making sense. I don’t see anything in it.
Somebody said Yvonne would have kissed the good, the bad and the ugly? What do you term as the ‘bad and the ugly?’ I haven’t kissed a lot of people, I’ve only kissed John Dumelo, Majid Michel and some others, I wouldn’t say I have kissed a lot of people, just a handful. How many people are you talking about? I don’t kiss in every movie I shoot, so why is this about kissing?
Tell me about the movie you are producing? This movie is produced by Media GH and directed by… It’s an everyday story, it’s about single and married people, the title is actually, Single and Married. It casts me, Nadia Buari, Koffi… so, it’s like an all-star thing. We are trying to do something different, as you can see everything is just on point. We are going all out in this particular project so, people should watch out for it.
But there is a movie entitled, Single and Married in Nigeria? Really? A movie of such title?
Yes, Joseph Benjamin and Funke Akindele star in it. I have not heard of it, but this is Ghana.
When will it be released? We are actually planning on a premiere before thinking of releasing it so the premiere will be end of next month. Also, there is the first one, The Price that has me, Majid, and … I don’t know if that is going to come out before this one.
So what are you roles in Media GH? I do many things from contracting of actors to acting, and to selecting script. I control everything on the movie side of the company.
What else do you do other than acting? I have a shop called, YN Closet. I actually opened that shop because everywhere I go, people are always like ‘I like the way you dress, where can I get what you are wearing?’ Aside that, I have Yvonne Nelson Glaucoma Foundation but it’s on a low line now. I launched it last two years. I shot a musical video, everybody was there but it’s on the low line now because of money. Now, we are trying to organize an essay competition for schools, most especially for JSS students in Ghana. That is what we are working on now.
Glaucoma? That’s about eyes? Yes, my grandma had glaucoma. She ended up blind so, I thought I should do something on it, create awareness on it. All we are doing is to create awareness because I don’t own a hospital. I am not an Ophthalmologist.
We don’t see much of you in Nigeria, why? Really? We get a lot of calls from Asaba. And for me, shooting in Asaba is too stressful. You have to fly twice, first to Benin then you will drive down. Before you get there, you are tired. I have been there a couple of times and I was not happy with some of the movies I did there.
Yes, I have been there. I have shot two movies for Kingsley Okereke. I have shot one for Halima Abubakar. I am sure they are not out. I will be coming to Nigeria but if it is like flying twice and driving again, it is too stressful for me. And then the next minute you are on set, how do you do anything good if you are stressed like that? That’s the main reason I have been avoiding it. If it is Lagos or Abuja where we have a direct flight to, it’s just the flying that I have a problem with but if it is just one flight, why not, I will always come over. It’s not like I am condemning Asaba or anything, it’s just the stress.
Are you still close to Mercy Johnson? Yes, we are very close. We spoke five days ago.
What made you to be her bridesmaid? Okay, I love Mercy. Aside our friendship, she is a wonderful actress. It is an honour for me to be her bridesmaid. At the beginning, I thought she was actually playing pranks on me. But she was like it is real. I was very excited, I was very happy for her, and it was an honour for me too, I will do it at anytime. I will do anything for her; she is a wonderful friend.
When is your turn? Very soon.
Is there a lucky guy in the picture already? I am lonely and still searching.
But you said very soon? Well, you can meet a guy now that will tell you ‘let us marry’. You never know, I am very single.
What is your impression of the Ghanaian movie industry? We are doing pretty well now. We have companies investing in the industry now. The only problem we are having is that we are not seeing new faces. I don’t want to compare it to Nigeria but people get tired of seeing old faces all the time. So, we have to bring out new talents in the movies. Someone discovered me, the same way I should discover other people and make sure that the industry grows. Aside that, the industry is doing well.
Who is your favourite actor? I have a lot. I love Majid Michel. I also love John Dumelo…
Why do people think you are wild? Simple, because of the roles I play in the movies but come on, if I don’t play it, another person will play it and you are going to hate that other person, it is just my job.
So, are you saying you are not wild? No, I am not. I am your everyday girl, down to earth, very funny.
Who is your friend in the industry? Before, I used to have friends but now I don’t.
Why? I will be very straightforward. When I had issues, that was when I realized I had no friends. I only have colleagues in the industry. Because people are afraid to say things the way things are, though you don’t need to be rude, when a woman is like that they will say you are arrogant, you are this, and you are that.
Very simple, when I had issues, there was no one to say ‘oh, Yvonne, let’s get together and get through it, let’s do this, let’s do that’. That was when I realized that I am in this all alone. It was only Majid and Frank Raja that made the move and say, ‘Yvonne, lets go and do this, let’s go and do that’. Aside Majid and Frank, no one else. So, I don’t have friends in the Ghanaian movie industry. I love everybody, I can work with everybody, they are all my colleagues. It’s as simple as that.
Someone told me Jackie Appiah was behind your problem? Whatever happened that day was her fault because we were on set waiting to shoot and the Production Manager said ‘Jackie has gone to do something, so what do we do?’ And I said ‘why did you call her to come on set if she was not ready?’ Most people don’t know the true story. So, I asked the production manager that ‘if I also tell you tomorrow that I have something to do, are you going to allow me? You know something like that and the production manager just snapped. We waited for over six hours.
There were people on the set like Yvonne Okoro, Majid Mitchel and you can ask from them. Jackie never turned up. I was like why should you waste some other people’s time because we were all there to shoot. The next day, I also had something to do, and that became an issue. Around that time, I was launching my Foundation and I was the person doing everything. Even the film producer knew I had something to do so, why should Jackie have issues with me? Was it because I did not come the next day?
Didn’t you explain your part of the story? They already knew what they wanted to do so, explaining will not make much difference. Look, I have a degree; I didn’t beg anybody to get into the industry. The same man who did that was the same guy who actually convinced me to act. I didn’t come to you begging to act so; it wasn’t a big deal for me at all. I had so many other things to do, I even want to do my Masters so, if you want to do anything, go ahead and do it.
Do you still work with…? (Cuts in) I do. We are cool, you see it’s a small industry; we all need each other. They can’t say they don’t need me and I can’t say I don’t need them.
What of Jackie? I can work with Jackie any day.
I heard both of you don’t talk? How? If a producer calls me and says, ‘Jackie is in the movie’, why not?
Didn’t you carry it on and say ‘Jackie did this or that?’ Really? Why should we do that?
But people said you were not respectful enough? Really? Respectful because somebody started before me? Is that how it is? I don’t believe in all that, respect yourself and people will respect you. You don’t have to bow to anybody, just be in your lane, just mind your own business. Do your job and go, I respect whoever was here before me but if people want you to come and bow to them, it’s an African thing, you didn’t employ me. A producer calls me to come on set, I come, I do my job and go. I won’t stay on your lane. If you don’t disrespect anybody, nobody will disrespect you but if you want somebody to come first thing in the morning to bow to you, sorry, it won’t happen with me.
I was actually told that if somebody slaps you, you would fight. Is that true? Why will I do that? I am a lady.
You mean ladies don’t fight? If somebody slaps you on the right cheek, turn the other one. Let me say something, it’s not only in the movie industry, when you go to the bank, any work environment, you will find out that someone just comes out of the university, even though there are older people there, they want you to come and report to them. Or they are jealous or afraid that you will come and take their positions. It’s a normal thing but it’s something that people should stop.
As long as you are good in whatever you do, you are not stepping on other people’s toes. I don’t expect anybody to come and bow to me because I am Yvonne Nelson and she is new and I have been there, no, come and do your job and go. You are hot today, you may not be hot tomorrow so, don’t expect people to bow to you, I don’t believe in that. As long as the person is not disrespecting, you shouldn’t have a problem with that person. I believe that’s her problem – the problem we have.
Do you feel she is a little bit intimidated? I don’t even understand why somebody should be intimidated. Number one, we are all created differently, why envy anyone? You know, Jackie can nail a role and I may not be close to nailing that role. Also, there might be a role that I can nail that Jackie may not nail. I believe everyone is created differently so, don’t feel intimidated.
Unless there is someone like Yvonne Nelson in the industry that is when I will be like ‘wow’ but we are all different. It’s like having two different commodities in the market, nobody is competing with anyone, I can’t take her roles from her and she can’t take my roles from me, so we should stop all that. It’s not only in the Ghanaian movie industry, it is everywhere. I don’t believe in all that, just relax, don’t worry, what is yours will be yours.
Can you say categorically that Jackie is intimidated? I don’t know. I can never tell but I don’t even believe in all that. I know there is a lot of envy and jealousy in our industry and it’s so bad.
Have you fallen in love before? Yes I have.
People say it’s only once that a woman falls in love in her lifetime. Is it true? I don’t know about that but I sure have fallen in love before.
How many times? Three times.
How old are you? You are asking my age? I’m old o.
How come none of your relationships has led to marriage? I am not God, you can’t tell, even those who are married, do you know the kind of issues they are having in their marriages? Marriage is not a rush job; you have to take your time. It’s not as if somebody has not proposed marriage to me, I have had a lot of that but you just have to take your time and make sure you are doing the right thing and then you go for it.
Are you happy being an actor? I am very, very happy. I am very happy with the job I do. I love it. When I started, I was like ‘am I really sure about this?’ But it got to a point when I was like ‘this is it, this is what I want to do’.
People have the impression that actors are wild. Has someone ever called you to say he wants to have sex with you? No, the funny thing is I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I am not a night crawler. If you go out with me to see a movie, I will fall asleep while watching, that’s how bad it is. Don’t judge people by their occupation.
It’s difficult to believe that Yvonne does not drink? I don’t. I have never. Everybody knows that I am very boring.