Franca Obianuju Brown, actress, lawyer and interior decorator needs no introduction. Especially, if you were really in the know years back when she dominated the television scene as Mama Nosa in the defunct popular soap, Behind The Clouds. Today, she is still waxing strong in the home video sector. Uju, as our publisher, AZUH ARINZE, prefers to address her, in this interview, recounted how she was discovered, what has kept her going, why she is still single, her childhood, etc. Enjoy…
What can you tell us about yourself?
I’m Franca Obianuju Brown as you already know. I was born in the year my age mates were born. I started off at St. Mary’s Primary School, Onitsha, St. Maria’s Primary School, Aba, Federal Government Girls College, New Bussa, now in Niger State. Then, I went to Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria where I read Law and from there I went to UNIJOS where I read Theatre Arts and also my Masters in Law.
Where are you from? Your surname sounds foreign?
I’m from Onitsha in Anambra State.
How did you get into acting?
Obviously, I read Theatre Arts and in the course of doing that, one of my stage plays (Swam Karagbe – written by Dr. Iyorchia Ayu) exposed me to acting on the tube. On that fateful day that the play was staged, as I was doing my thing on stage, I did not know that Matt Dadzie, Peter Igho and Ene Oloja were among the audience watching and at the same time auditioning some of us. Immediately I finished, I was called out for a proper auditioning for Behind The Clouds. But prior to that, I had acted in another soap called Behind The Buka and River Between. The latter won an award at NIFEST in the 80s. I acted Ngozi, a police officer’s wife who always prompted her husband to indulge in the act of bribe taking.
You said you read Law, right? So, why are you not practicing?
Because I’m into full time acting. I call it full time acting because for now, one third of my income comes through acting and producing films. Although, I do some other businesses on the side. Contracts, buying and selling and interior decoration because I know that you are going to ask me that.
How did your parents feel when you dumped your Law degrees for acting?
Em…they had no choice because it is my life. But somehow, I satisfied their own desire in the earlier stage of my life too by going in to read Law. That doesn’t mean that I detest Law. In fact, I’m in love with Law. It is a knowledge I will always want to have. Thank God, I have it. I do my legal draftings myself. That is, if I have a contract with you, Azuh, for you not to cheat me, I make sure I do my legal draftings myself and I wouldn’t need a lawyer to do that for me. So, you see, one of the benefits of the knowledge of law. It save me money too.
What was your childhood like?
I grew up like most normal children, but that was short-lived because I lost my father at a very tender age and my custody was taken over by my uncle, Eddy Brown and his wife. Both lawyers. You can now see that I was brought up under the tutelage of the legal profession, and you can now also see what informed my decision at that early stage to read Law.
How was it like growing up under an uncle? Was there any time you were maltreated by them?
No! I was never maltreated rather I was treated like any other member of the family. In fact, I even sort of took the birthright of the first daughter and my elder brother, Charlie, that of the first son. Why I said this is that somehow, when we moved into the house after our father’s death, everybody gave us a warm embrace. And I believe it was because everybody was trying to comfort us because we had just lost our father. And somehow, along the line, it now became the order of the day. It followed that way that sometimes when decisions were being taken in the house, I was often called in as if I was the first daughter. I must give kudos to my uncle and his wife because they never left us out of most of the things that they were doing. This could even be seen when my uncle was eating. He usually called me first to give me meat before any other person.
What killed your dad?
Nothing! I guess he died of heart attack because I was really very young then to determine what killed him, but I know that it was in the course of a discussion because he was getting ready to travel from Lagos to Onitsha. It was during Christmas and when the other people that were travelling with him waited for sometime, and felt it was taking him long to come out, they went in and found he had slumped on the bed. Then, we were already in Onitsha because we travelled first. They rushed him to the hospital and he died there.
Let’s talk about your favourite things. Which food do you enjoy eating most?
My favourite food is fried rice served with plantain and fish.
What about your favourite drink?
My favourite drink is water and any fruit juice.
Well, my favourite colours are red, blue and white.
Music? Country music and Christian music.
Why are you always on trousers?
(Smiles) – Nothing. I just feel more comfortable in them.
Why you are not married?
Em…(stammers) I’m waiting for the fullness of God’s time. I believe that at the fullness of His time, He will establish my thoughts which will manifest into holy matrimony.
Haven’t you been getting proposals or is it that your choice has not come along?
Azuh, I have a right to my privacy, but if you must know, I don’t think there is any woman on the face of the earth that does not get proposals and at any level or status. Your kind of partner is always around, but at God’s fullness of time, it will materialise into a husband.
So, what’s the problem with those that have been coming your way?
Azuh, I just told you something and I guess you want me to keep repeating myself. My husband will come at the fullness of God’s time.
What qualities do you look forward to seeing or having in this your “husband”?
(Silence) – Azuh, you have come again o! I think you are talking about me now. Why don’t you leave that to me and find out when I get married.
Lately, there’s been rumours of lesbians taking over the industry, would you…?
(Cuts in) – I want to comment on that. It is a psycho case. I don’t really know why anybody will leave the normal way of co-habitation and begin to use all kinds of gadgets to stimulate the blessed region where God has created for the fruits of the womb to pass through.
Are you saying that you cannot practice it?
I can never psyche myself up to doing it when there are real guys out there. If you must do it, do it the right way. I believe in the adage that says if you must eat frog, eat the fat and juicy one. I wonder what will make me to start loving a fellow woman. Not even in my wildest dream will I think of doing that. Those who practice it, I think need their heads examined.
What do you think about those who do that?
Azuh, I don’t know. I did not read Psychology. Go and ask a psychologist. I think they should refer them to the people with the right discipline to counsel them.
What’s your phobia?
I have learnt to believe in the Bible that even if I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
Do you have any regret?
No! Regrets naturally are not part of my nature because that means looking back and the Bible has taught me to always look forward. Anything that has gone wrong in my life, I see as mistakes, correct them and then move forward. I don’t like dwelling on the past or looking back because, for example, Lot’s wife looked back and turned into a pillar of salt.
Tell us about your happiest and saddest days…
My saddest was the day I lost my father. I looked up and said, what will happen? So, I will never have a father again? My happiest was as a child too, the day I saw my call up letter to attend a Federal interview for an admission.
Tell us about the highest and lowest fees that you have collected as an artiste?
Azuh, do you want to send thieves to my house? Anyway, I will tell you about the lowest. That was in Behind The Clouds in 1987. I collected N150 per episode.
What about your best and worst roles?
I’ve never really had worse roles because I’ve always been in control. When the producer brings the script, I read it first to see if I would like to be part of it. And when I decide to act in it, I give it my best.
What role are you playing in The Price?
Sister Rebecca; she is a woman who does not really understand what it takes to be born again. She has forgotten the word tolerance. I don’t even think it exists in her dictionary. And she is so quick to condemning that my prayer for her is: May God help her because she needs deliverance. Sister Rebecca goes a long way to portraying a lot of people in our modern day churches who believe in the heavenly race and will go out of their way to push down everybody, all in their quest to make heaven. But my belief as Franca is that if you are on the heavenly race, you should carry everybody along with you. It’s not so with Sister Rebecca. She believes that she must make heaven alone and that should not be so.
What’s your impression of the movie, The Price?
It’s a wonderful movie. It is going to be an eye opener to every integral part of the body of Christ. That is, the church and it has a great message because sometimes what we do is become God rather than play our own parts and leave the rest for God. A good example is when the case of Pastor Ken came up, Sister Rebecca condemned him for no just cause and without even allowing God a second to give it a thought. It is wise for us to play our own parts on earth and leave the rest to God, for the word of God says in Isaiah that any tongue that has risen against you in judgement, I shall condemn.
NB: This interview had earlier been published