Mercy Aigbe-Gentry is a household name. Not because she’s a versatile actress who has acted in several Yoruba movies, but also because of her unique sense of style as well as her ambition and drive. Just like fine wine, Mercy has gotten better with time and she has become a force to reckon with. The actress is also a producer; fresh off set from one of her productions, ‘Victims’ that balances Yoruba and English genre of Nollywood and tells a story about an issue that has affected society.
One thing is for sure about Mercy is her attention to detail, her love to have the best things and her relentless hard working spirit. Getting to know her was a delight.
What inspired you to become an actor
I’ve always wanted to act, right from when I was in primary school. I joined the drama group in school, knowing that I have the talent and passion for it. However, I didn’t know I was going to do it professionally. I just felt it was more like a hobby. Growing up, I saw the likes of Taiwo Ajayi-Lycett and I loved her. She was one of the people who also inspired me to act. When I got into the polytechnic where I was studying financial studies, I joined a drama group and that was when I actually started taking acting seriously.
Did you always want to be an actor for Yoruba films, or was it something that just happened?
It was something that just happened, to be honest. I’m a professional – having studied theatre in University of Lagos – so it’s not like I set out to star specifically in that genre of Nollywood. When I first started out in the industry, it was with English-speaking movies. During that time, I got the script for a Yoruba film and decided to do it. The film came out and turned out to be a success. That then caused a ripple effect and I started to get more and more scripts for Yoruba movies. As someone new to the industry, I couldn’t turn down scripts. I was thrilled to be getting roles and, before I knew it, I became more prominent in the Yoruba genre of Nollywood.
Over the years, you’ve gotten bigger and better, and even started producing your own films. What has the experience been like?
It’s been a lot of hard work. You know, when you’re established as an actor and want to delve into producing you have to be very careful. You don’t want to do something substandard, so you put in your best. As a producer I have about some films to my credit, the latest of which is Victims which will be out on DVD soon. What actually inspired me to start producing is the fact that I have my own stories I want to tell and I don’t want to just give it to someone else to interpret their own way. Producing is the best way to tell my own stories, the way I envision them. I believe movies can be a tool for changing people, inspiring people and trying to correct ills in society.
Tell us a little more about the movie ‘Victims’ and what inspired it.
Well, ‘Victims’ is actually a bi-lingual film. It’s about 60% Yoruba and 40% English. Like I said, I’m a professional and I really don’t think there’s much of a difference between Yoruba films and English ones. Besides the language, everything else is the same. I thought it was a great opportunity to expand my fan base because I realize there are a lot of people who don’t watch Yoruba films. They love Mercy because of her sense of style and will maybe watch one movie for me. So, since I speak the language, there’s actually nothing stopping me from doing English-speaking movies. Even if it’s not English, if all it takes to do a part in a movie is to learn a language, I’ll do it. ‘Victims’ is bi-lingual because I had to use some actors who don’t speak Yoruba and I didn’t want them to struggle.
Besides your movies, your style has made Mercy Aigbe-Gentry a household name. What inspires your style?
I’m just someone who likes to look good. I really like people paying me compliments. I like it when I walk past people and they say, “Wow, she looks great”, and I love taking pictures. I always tell people I’m a photoholic. If you notice, the only social network I’m really active on is Instagram. So, my style is basically comfortable. I love being comfortable. But I understand that fashion isn’t always comfortable so I can get dressed up too. My style is also chic, and the event I’m attending also inspires what I wear.
What’s your favorite thing about being an actress in your genre?
The ability to play different characters. Today, I can be a nurse, tomorrow, I might be an armed robber. I get to explore different characters and it’s very exciting.
What challenges do you face producing movies?
Ah, a lot oh! Some that you don’t even foresee. Sometimes, it’s location problems. The day of shoot will come and you’ll go to location and the owner of the house will tell you can’t use it again because her husband is back early from a trip and she didn’t tell him about it. This is why we keep advocating for our own film village. Because if we have this we won’t have all these unnecessary location issues and it will help with the ambience. Then the cast might be a problem sometimes, regarding what time they show up to set.
What do you foresee in Nollywood as regards both the Yoruba and English genres?
I see all of us eventually merging into one. If you look at where we are now, there used to be a wide gap between both genres, but there isn’t anymore. You have actors crossing over to either side every now and then. For instance, Juliet Ibrahim is starring in ‘Victims’, and you also have Yoruba actors starring in English-speaking films. So, I see us all coming together under one umbrella.
Source: Guardian Life