Why I’m ageless–Kate Henshaw
At the height she has attained, she is a bundle of humility. She's not given to riotous living which is the lot of many of her ilk who couldn't handle stardom. She's married to a husband who practically dotes on her notwithstanding the fact that they come from different parts of the world. Kate Henshaw is a consummate actress who has won the hearts of many with her masterful mien.
Due to her busy lifestyle, Kate misses her peers who also are responsible and busy people. Stardom hasn't gotten into her head and reciprocating her husband's disposition, she cares a lot about her family.In this interview with Samuel Olatunji she sheds some light on how she won the Globacom deal, why she may reject scripts and how successful she has been in the last 17 years. Excerpts:
Everybody is getting older, but you seem to be getting younger
Someone said my own is akin to The curious case of Benjamin Burton. I don't know if you watched that film. He was aging backwards. He started-off as an old man and as he was getting older, he was getting younger .That's what someone told me, but I don't believe it. You people are just pulling my legs.
It's the truth
I don't know, it's God.
What's the secret
I work out and I do a lot of hard work. When I can, I do my exercises, I do my facials, everything I can do to relax my body. This work, especially the stage is hard work. It's really hard work.
But did you have to memorize all those lines?
Yes! This is not film o. The whole book, each character has to know when to come in. You learn all your lines because it's live. There is no cut, no join join, no anything each cue is affecting the next person. The stage is hard work and for me, it's the true test. If you say you are an actor, come and do stage.
Why do you have to do all that when you have the television?
I think I'm sort of a bit saturated with film making. I am not saying that I am tired but there isn't anything new for me. For seventeen years, I have gone through the whole thing. I want to do something else, something more challenging, something that will really take a whole lot of me. Something that is not lazy, so stage for me, is it. I used to admire those who do the stage , but being in it fully now, I truly appreciate stage actors, truly.
Last week, I learnt you were in Ghana, is that true?
Yes! Oh my goodness! Week before, we left for Ghana to stage the V vs Tarzan monologue, which had been running since the first week of September. It just ended on the 31st of October. We went to Ghana on the 22nd, performed on the 23rd, came back on the 24th. . So ultimately we did four shows in two days, we finished the last show on the 31st of October. It was fantastic. We performed for eight weeks and every Sunday we were on stage.
So what is driving Kate towards the stage now?
The challenge. Not the money, there is no money on stage. If you talk to anybody, they will tell you the stage doesn't pay. The rehearsals take a lot of work and time. I have come to that stage where, I am not saying I have a lot of money and I'm not saying I don't want more money, I do but I want to do good work. I want to do something meaty, something much more challenging, something that will challenge the whole of me. I don't want to get to that stage where I will say o I have done everything.
No, there is always something new in the art world especially for actors, there is always something new. You couldn't have done everything. You cannot afford to be complacent, you have to always reinvent yourself. Learn something new, to charge yourself up, and take yourself to the next level. Surprise people. “Oh you can do this?” Like I did a Yoruba film, I want to be able to say that I have done a lot of things not just films.
Let's talk about Eti Keta, why did you do it when you can barely speak the language?
Did you watch it? I can speak Yoruba a little and of course if I can't speak, they will teach me. I mean I want to learn. I want to be able to speak French, speak German. I mean Hollywood actors that do films, like the Americans, they do British films and learn the accent. Something to challenge me; show me something new, and people will say oh, you think you are good, because you have done this? And they throw more at me, I want to try, I want to do it. That's why.
So how was Eti Keta on set?
Splendid. Everyone was fantastic. Aunty Bukki Ajayi was on set with us and Saheed (Balogun) the producer was fantastic. He's quite good. Everyone on the set was lovely. They didn't treat me anyhow. Saheed treated me specially, but when I got on set I put myself on the scene with everyone, because I didn't want a situation where they will say, “this Nollywood actor, she has come again let's see what she is going to do. If you come with that attitude, you'll not get any help especially when you don't really speak the language 100%. You need help. Everyone needs help. I'm not too big, they are not too small. We are all the same.
What's the title of this play you are acting?
It's Ahmed Yerima's Little drops and it's about Niger Delta militants, government, , oil workers, people that lost their lives, innocent women and children, rape and everything that happened as a result of war and conflict in their region.
Why did you go through all this hard work when you could have gone the easy way of going to a location to shoot a movie?
It's too easy. I told someone last week, there is something in it for me. I'm not talking about anybody else. I'm at liberty to move from one end of a place to the other . I'm not confined at all. You can jump up, you can shout, and you can scream. There is some kind of adrenaline that pumps through me when I'm doing a play. Especially when it is an exciting film too. It's amazing. For me this feeling is second to none . It's just that feeling of floating in the air or something .
Does that mean you're no longer comfortable with the Nollywood setting?
I am. I'm okay but I need to see a good script where they do good movie. It's very important. Good scripts, good English, attention to details.
Do you still get scripts?
I have two. One is on my computer and one is in the room. I've not been able to read, but I think I've read one. I don't understand, I don't know what they are talking about .Really I won't lie, I don't understand it.
What do you think of those doing it?
They have to do it now. They should do anything to keep their heads above water. I'm just saying let it be good, we have reached that stage where quality and not just anyhow films should come out of Nollywood. I'm tired of people condemning our English films. I know we can do so much more. I know that talents abound in Nollywood .
We just need to spend that little extra time , we need to spend that little bit of extra money, make our sound effects excellent and pay attention to details. You cannot be in a house without your picture hanging on the wall. In oyinbo films, you see pictures of families, some of babies, when they grow up, when they went on holidays, you know… think, make it nice, make it believable.
A couple of you people now reject scripts. Why?
Why not, who will do them ? If there's unrest, everybody will ask for change but if you are settled, everybody is happy. They will not change. Everybody is complaining that they are not seeing the old faces. It's because we are not satisfied with the quality of the scripts. Majority of them (the writers) are still deceiving themselves. Kunle is one person .We take him as our own; we are all proud of his films. We are all saying so somebody can do this? That's an example; so more of that, plenty, plenty much more of that.
Aren't you scared that you guys are losing out?
(Laughs) That is very funny. I' m not scared at all. There is no way one person can dominate forever or say they will push you out of somewhere. Will you say Aunty Joke has been pushed out? She is still very relevant. People still want to work with her. You cannot say a Kate Henshaw or a Rita Dominic are useless people. No, our people are still out there, but still need to do good work. They still fight to do the things that are important .Can you live your life doing films only? I dare anybody and I'm saying it openly, forget the money, come and do the work we do on stage. They will run.
You are not scared of losing out?
I'm not losing out on anything; my hands are very full.
What are you doing now?
I've just finished the run of a monologue. I' m doing a job with Aunty Joke too. I've just shot a new commercial for Promasidor, makers of Onga. In short from the 10th of this month till December I'm doing a lot with Onga in the market. In the east, north, and south. So many places.
How did you come about Onga. In fact the first day I saw you in the Onga commercial, I asked why Kate
Henshaw? So how did it happen?
We did it together. My husband facilitated it too. The firm promoted its products with only cartoon characters be it Cowbell, Onga or Top Tea . Now they want to make the brand more recognisable . They want to attach their products to a known face or a human being. An opinion leader of sorts. I'm very proud to work with the firm. They relate to me on a very personal level. We talk about everything concerning the brand. They give me their services, I give them mine. We have reached a compromise. I've been to a lot of NYSC camps. I've been to universities in the north, south, and the east to anchor cooking competitions. We teach the young students about to graduate about healthy living, and eating right.
Now, at home do you use Onga?
I use Onga, God is my witness. I don't pretend, I say my mind. I can't be identified with a brand and not use it. That's so fake, that is not me at all. I don't use any other seasoning.
Your name was not among the first set of Glo ambassadors and you seem to be the oldest. How come it's easier for you at this stage, when the younger ones are looking for ways to sweep you all out of the scene?
(laughs) It's not possible, I'm not going anywhere. I'm a brand. It's like using a celebrity abroad to sell your perfume. Calvin Klein is using David Beckham, somebody is using another person.
Firms are trying to get their brands tied to a known face. Somebody they believe has a mass appeal, that people love. So, that also helps the brand, helps who is advertising the brand and for both of them it's like a synergy. So you shouldn't cage yourself, because if you cage yourself, you are caging the brand as well. The Glo deal was a wonderful development and I thank Chief Mike Adenuga. He did a great thing with that.
But some people alleged that you came in through backdoor. Is that true?
Backdoor? Really, I didn't hear anything like that. The truth is that I didn't know anybody at Globacom, before they called me. Though I knew their offices, I didn't know anyone there. They just called me up.
But some said they had chosen everyone before you went to meet somebody backdoor?
I just believe it's God doing, because I'm sure when they were compiling the names, God said, you have not put my daughter's name o, and they all remembered Kate Henshaw. You know how they do in the ministry when some set of people are travelling and everyone is signing, then the oga will come out and say, reduce the list, then he gives the final list.
So, are you saying you never go through the backdoor?
No, I only do front doors. The front door is a very big door for me. I don't think I need backdoors.
Why did you marry a white man?
I married a good man. White, black, or green is inconsequential.
But why in the world did you leave all the good black men we have?
Why in the world would he also leave all the good white women and come and marry a black woman? We found each other and I don't think it has anything to do with colour. My husband is a Nigerian, he was in this country five, six years before we met. Forget the colour.
Does he speak broken English?
Well well, don't try him o, he's a Naija man to the core.
How supportive is your husband to your career?
My husband is 110% supportive. He pushes me for my work and anywhere he feels that there is something I can do, he'll tell them that my wife can do it. He's just totally supportive. He gives me that boost that I need.
But weren't you scared of getting married to him because of the racial thing?
Racial? Yes, I was a bit scared, but at the end of the day I came to understand that we have someone in the family that married a white man, so it doesn't make me the first. So, I decided to follow my ancestors and continue the way we started. (Both Laugh)
But are you enjoying your relationship?
Definitely. You can see the evidence.
Was it he who wanted just a child or was it you?
We are both happy, even with this economic climate. One thing I have realized is that, it is not how many children you have that matters, it is the quality of life that you give to them. How do they look? Are they healthy? Are they going to the right schools? Are you giving them love, care and attention? Do they have all they need to make them who they want to be?
Are they the kind of people that will boost our economy or they are just mere people? You have to be able to find a balance when you bring a child to the world, because it is only God that can really help look after them.
I thought you may want to have another child
Why? Wetin I wan take am do? Dem they collect award for having plenty children? We are okay. I don't know. If God says have more, we will.
With your 17 years in the industry what has changed?
Plenty. I believe in the brand Kate Henshaw. I believe that there is a level I have attained . I shouldn't deliver less, I shouldn't just be associated with just anything. It should only be about good works, charities, good causes, doing the right thing in general so that when people see me, they'll say, if it's Kate, don't worry, she only does good things.
When I first started, I was looking out for myself, but now the story has changed. I am looking out for others and trying to be an inspiration to everyone I come across. I always tell people that they should try their possible best to go to school. I am glad I went to school. If something adverse happens today, which I don't even pray for, I have something to fall back on . I know such wouldn't happen because I have diversified. I now do MC, commercials and so many other things. When I started, I never knew I could be able to do these things. When I started acting, I thought It'll just be films all the way, but I found out that I can actually make myself more relevant by putting my best in whatever I do.
Do you still cook?
Why I no go cook? Wetin happen? I don't know any woman who doesn't cook o. You have to cook, you have to cook something. When I go on holidays, there's no nanny there, there's no cook. I and my husband cook.
What do you cook for your husband? Does he eat edikangikong and other local dishes?
He loves eating beans and plantain.
As a celebrity do you feel different?
I don't know what to say, but I want to add that I'm human. It's just the grace of God that has put me in this position. I don't see why that should make me any different. It was just an opportunity I utilised to boost my life. When I go home, I am no star. It's just me, Kate Henshaw. I cannot be carrying the “star” thing in my head. I'm not even comfortable that way at all. This is me.
What happened with you and your colleagues?
Well, nothing happened. I am busy and every other person is busy. I don't even get to see as many people as I want to see now, because everybody is busy doing their own thing. Travelling and all of that and before you know it, the whole year has passed and you haven't seen anybody. I don't have anything against anyone, I've just been busy.
Seven years to this time, what should we expect?
You will know when that time comes.