Annabella Zwyndila, who was recently nominated for ZAFAA Awards as Best Upcoming Actress, opens up to The Entertainer on her journey to movie stardom. Excerpts:
Tell us about youself
I came from the northern part of Nigeria, Adamawa State to be precise. My father is a military officer while my mother is a lecturer. I came from a home where education and discipline is a necessity. I am a twin (laughs). I graduated from University of Jos where I studied Physics.
Where is your twin sister?
She works in Abuja; she is not an actress eventhough she studied Theatre Arts.
Back then in school, did you have the intention of going into acting?
No! Actually a lot of people have asked me this question before but do you know that my coming into acting was a surprise because I didn’t have plans of going into it even after some friends persuaded me.
When did you venture into acting?
Professionally, I would say a year ago, but I have done some minor roles while I was still in school.
Would you say you stumbled into acting?
It all started when a friend of mine got me into Amstel Malta Box Office reality television show. I am someone who has multiple personalites, so she was like I can make it in the competition and all that. I didn’t take it seriously but eventually I got picked. It was not as if I had it in mind that I was going to be an actress. It just happened like that. I attended a few auditions and got chosen for roles.
What was your experience in the AMBO house?
(Laughs) It was funny and memorable because we had a lot of people with different attitudes and ways of behaviour. So, you have the option of enduring people or going out of control. But one thing I understand is that acting is not that easy, there are some procedures you have to go through. So, I leanrt a lot in the house.
What challenges are you facing as an actress?
I have challenges as an actress and even as a human being. While I was growing up, I had challenges but now it is not all about challenges, it is how you are able to come out of what you see as challenges and how strong you can stand. My father taught us to always believe in ourselves, and to always to have a plan B. I have been able to manage challenges though I have a couple of friends who because of one thing or the other feel inadequate and begin to settle for failure and all that. No, it didn’t happen with me. I was taught how to manage challenges.
Did your parents object when you wanted to join the movie industry?
My mum didn’t buy the idea and when I told my dad, he was shocked. He looked at me in the eyes for like three to four minutes and he was like ‘well, it is your dream face it’ . With his expression, he was saying a whole lot. ‘I have done mine; I have achieved my dreams and I am successful. Let me see you succeed’. So, it wasn’t really cool, I have to struggle to make my mark.
Did you have a quarrel or argument with your parents about your decision?
No way, should I? I can’t argue with my father, I can’t argue with my mum either. My mum didn’t support it. They said actresses don’t have good stories to tell. They don’t have good ending. The women don’t get married, the men are very loose, I don’t know how to put it, but the truth is when I told my father, he was like ‘it’s your dream, live it’. So, this is why I desire to make them proud, but I am happy it’s coming out well.
A lot of things are happening in the movie industry, how do you think you can break into the A-list?
I believe there is enough room for everyone. Genevieve can be Genevieve in her own style, Stella Damasus can be Damascus in her own style. I will also create my own style and mannerism. I have my own way of delivering, my own way of expressing things.
As a military officer’s daughter, you must have grown up in the barrack, so what’s your growing up like?
It was memorable to start with. It was fair but I won’t say we were too rich or too poor; we were just in between. We had everything, we went anywhere we liked. I say ‘we’ and that includes me and my twin sister. I remember when I lost money belonging to my dad, you know, the old man locked me indoors for three days and I got to be given water and food. I had my bath indoors for three good days, no coming out. It was like a house arrest. My dad is so used to it when you do something wrong, he won’t just come out and say ‘kneel down there or raise up your hands’ as we were treated in school. He locked me up and said what I did was wrong, and that I should be more careful next time.
Can you say you’re born with a silver spoon?
I won’t say I was born with a silver spoon because there were tough times. Sometimes, we asked dad for something and he would say it was not the right time to have it. But then we enjoyed our childhood.
What inspired you into acting?
I won’t say something inspired me because as I stated earlier it is something I never saw coming. I am my own inspiration; I am my own strength. When the thought of acting came to my mind, I started looking out for some people.
Who is your role model?
I will mention only a few (laughs) because I don’t want some people to feel I love one person more than the other. I love all of them, but the one that comes to my mind right now is Joke Silva.
What is the most difficult role you have played in a movie?
I don’t think there is any difficult role I have played.
There must be a role or better still a script that was so difficult for you to interpret?
I like my role in Samantha, it is not just because it’s a lead role for I have done three lead roles in movies that would soon hit the market. But it is about uniqueness.
Are you married?
Northern girls marry early, is it your educational background that made you not to follow the trend?
(Laughs) I am not a Muslim. But it doesn’t really have to do with religion. It has to do with what the parents feel is good for their children. I went through the four walls of the university and marriage is something that will happen naturally. It is not as if it’s something that is going to be imposed on someone. S, I am still waiting.
What would you say about young girls that are being forced into marriage?
I would say it’s not proper because you have to give the person involved an opportunity to express herself, to know whom she wants to marry, whom she loves and all that. If you force someone to marry a person definitely problems will come.
Did someone come for your hand in marriage at a tender age?
Yes, several times. I remember when I was 13-years-old, a man wanted to get married to me. And when I turned 15, someone in the church also wanted to marry me but it didn’t really work because my parents felt that I was too young. But now, I have to find someone or rather someone must find me.
Have you been sexually abused?
Have you been sexually harrassed by any producer?
Of course, sometimes it happens (laughs). A role that is supposed to be yours is taken from you because of one or two requests that you can’t meet. So, sexual harrassment is not only in the movie industry. It is everywhere.
Can you act nude?
It depends on what I am going nude for and what part of my body I am going to expose. But I want to say that acting is not necessarily about going nude to prove a point. There are several ways that one can actually prove a point. Any role given to me as long as it is about going naked, I won`t do it.
If you’re given a script to act a lesbian, can you do it?
(Laughs) As an actress, I have to be all round. I have to be flexible. So, every script given to an actress must be interpreted to bring a true reflection of the character to the audience. I am not a lesbian in a real sense. I am not. But the character one plays in a movie doesn’t relate to the person’s real life.
Have you been heartbroken before?
Heartbreak is something that has to do with an individual, if you think your heart can be broken then it can be broken.
When did you start dating?
I started dating when I was 23-years-old, but it was a queen relationship. It`s not something based on mundane things and all that, it was just a matured relationship but I am not going to say much about it.
Did the relationship last for so long?
Not really long.
Did you have sex during the relationship?
I am still a virgin. I lost my guy to the cold hands of death but recently I found someone else and we are getting married soon.
How were you able to overcome sexual urge while in the university?
(Laughs) Listen, my dad taught us good morals. My father is an army officer, so I fear him a lot. In fact, I respect him a lot. He is not everywhere but he keeps his eyes on us. Even when I went abroad, he was not there but I didn’t misbehave. While I was in the hostel he was not there with me but the good morals he taught us have kept me till date.
As a virgin, how were you able to cope with temptations here and there?
Actually, that side of me is dead until I get married. Aside avoiding pre-marital sex, I am also a born again Christian and I fear God a lot. I can remember while we were growing up we had that lesson about sexually transmitted diseases and the fear of all those things really kept me away from sex. So, if I must have a relationship we must enter into agreement of no sex. It has to be a smooth relationship but if you feel you can’t wait and you’re so much in a hurry or your body is inching you, then propose. I have all those things in mind but thank God I have found someone who proposed. So, as a married woman, I’ll be free to do it and know I am not committing any sin.
What is your ideal man?
My ideal man doesn’t have anything to do with what and where he is coming from or how deep his pocket is. This person I am dating has a beautiful side of him, he is very hospitable and very caring. He is understanding and God fearing. These are the kind of people I like around me.
If your husband says he is not comfortable with your acting, what will you do?
I love movies so much it has now become part of me, it’s my baby, my first born child. I nurture it with all jealousy so if you come into my life, you have to understand me, you have to embrace my concept and support it. And these are the things I found in this particular guy, he loves everything I do even though he has reservation about acting. He thinks I can make a difference so he believes in me. I am not just going to disappoint him, but if the time comes for me to choose between movies and my love, I prefer to choose my love because he is my future.
Aside acting what else do you do?
I am a writer. I write a lot and have a whole lot of scripts at my disposal. Very soon some of them would see the light of day.
Is it true that you are related to former Vice President Atiku Abubakar?
He is my uncle; he is a very nice man and a father. He is always there for people. I remember when we were little kids, he and my dad had these nicknames they used to call each other. All that the people portray him to be is not true. He is a nice person, he is caring, he is ever willing to support and help people. He is a nice father, and a nice uncle that everyone wishes to have.