I Don’t Travel Without My Husband – Stephanie Okereke-Linus

Nollywood actress and producer, Stephanie Okereke-Linus, talks about her marriage, her career and some interesting projects she has been involved in lately.
It’s taken some time for your new movie to make its debut. When will it be released?
My new movie, Dry, is going to be released in August; that’s the official release date. We are planning a premiere and hopefully, we will invite people to see the movie.
Why did you include Liz Benson in the cast?
Why not include her? Is she not an actress? I had Liz Benson in mind when I was writing the script for the movie and I knew that she had been out of the movie scene for a couple of years. I felt my story would be the movie that would bring her out again and it did. She read the script, fell in love with it and agreed to take part in the movie.
Did she see the need to partake in the movie or you had to convince her?
Well, she had to be convinced; and I think her husband really likes me and the movie script. He said he didn’t have a problem with Liz featuring in my movie. They are a wonderful couple. The main thing was that the project was worth it. As an actor, one is always waiting to find a project that is worth the while; something challenging and interesting –that is what moved her when she read the script.
It appears you now pay more attention to film production and directing.
Yes. Actually, for this particular movie, Dry, I wrote, produced and directed it –I also acted in it. That’s like playing four divergent roles in one movie which was actually very tedious but it was fun. I loved doing it and I had enough energy for it. Admittedly too, an actor will want to expand her scope, try new things and want to be in control of some of the contents from the beginning to the end. This is not the first time I have done something like that. It’s the second time I have attempted going beyond just acting in a movie. I really want to be versatile and push myself to do more –do something different and not limit myself to just being an actress. Nevertheless, I love being an actress. It is my first love.
Do you miss being a regular face in Nollywood movies?
It is not about missing the Nigerian movie industry because I get projects all the time –it’s if I want to be involved in them. I am not missing it; in a way we are trying to build the industry. At the level we are, we are looking for how we can build Nollywood to the level that everyone will be completely proud of the industry. That is the stage I am right now. Therefore, it is not about doing or acting in many movies. Movies that I need to do have to be important and strategic –the movies have to be of top-notch quality. I am still a regular face in Nollywood because I am still needed in the industry. People still approach me for various jobs. It all depends on if I want to do the jobs all the time.
Why did you make marriage the theme of your reality show?
My focus is on doing something that can move the society forward. In doing this particular project, we want to make marriages strong. These days, I get a lot of young people who say they are scared of falling in love and don’t want to get married. There are a lot of things going on in the society and I wanted a manner I could present these issues in a fun-loving way that would send the right message to couples that in life no matter how hard we work, we are working for our families. But again, we have to create time for our loved ones. We need people to remember that the first reason they got married is for companionship –to have someone who can hold your back while you are still struggling. There are times we all go through certain things in life and our families are usually the people we fall back on. Hence, it’s good to keep the family unit going.
Did you have your marriage in mind while planning this show?
I had all kinds of marriages in mind.
What do you do to keep romance in your marriage alive as you preach through the reality TV show?
If I haven’t been practising it I wouldn’t be preaching it. I think my husband and I are good. We know where the foundation of our marriage is and we value each other. We also respect and truly love each other. He’s my friend and a great pal at that. We got it right from the very first time by agreeing to be married. He’s the right person for me and I am the right person for him. We are on a journey and I think we’re trying. We strive for perfection. Marriage is about making sure you and the other person have the right chemistry before going into a marriage.
What lessons have marriage taught you?
Marriage is a long journey; therefore, the lessons are continuous. The fact is that we are communal as a people and we love to have companions. Knowing that you have someone who is your friend and you wake up every morning to do things together is a wonderful feeling. It teaches one to be where one has to compromise and recognise the fact that there are two different individuals coming together to form a marriage. You have to be sensitive to each other’s feelings and aspirations. There must be mutual respect between the couple. Marriage has taught me that being a loving wife produces a happy husband and vice versa.
During times you are on locations or doing some projects that take you away from home, do you miss your husband?
We always travel together.
You are helping women and girls overcome Vesico-vaginal fistula. What impact have you been able to make?
We have many wonderful laws in our country but they are not being enforced –those are the major challenges. We also need to improve our health care system especially maternal health care because a lot of women still die during childbirth. VVF is a huge health challenge in Nigeria; people used to think that it’s something that happens only in the North. It can happen to anybody living anywhere in the country. We have been helping a lot of girls and women suffering from VVF with surgeries. That’s why I did the movie to create awareness and let people understand the effect of their female children engaging in early marriage.
What’s your role in the Queen’s Young Leaders Initiative?
I am lending my voice to this wonderful cause. Organisers of the Queen’ Young Leaders approached us on how to support the Queen’s Young Leaders promotion campaign. We assisted in promoting the search for the first ever QYL in 2014 and this has resulted in four Nigerians being the QYL award winners this year.
Culled from Punch

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