BY CHUKS NWANNE
PREVIOUS efforts to have a one-on-one chat with her failed as the London-based actress was said to have returned home to complete her film training at the Rodhampton University, London. That was after she starred in Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen’s Home In Exile, the movie that brought her to limelight.
Recently, there were feelers that Beverly Naya had taken a bold step to relocate back home, having completed her studies in the United Kingdom.
According to sources, the delectable actress and model has always nursed the ambition of returning to fatherland, so, her stint on Imasuen’s set was actually a sort of testing the waters. Through a friend, who seems to have been keeping tabs with her, I nicked her for a chat.
As she wheeled in on a black Toyota Corolla into the Shopping Mall somewhere on Lagos Island, the Delta State-born actress wore a very simple dress, yet looking sophisticated. With light makeup and short silky gown that exposes her decent legs, Beverly was on the go. The usual noise from customers trooping in and out of the mall, coupled with the generator sound led to a change of venue. Left with no other options, we ended up in Beverly’s car. You don’t need to rack your brain to know Beverly’s belief; she’s got a black rosary hung on the centre mirror.
BORN in London to Nigerian parents, Beverly was six months old when the family relocated to the United States where she lived in Atlanta and Chicago. Just as she clocked eight, the family moved back to London where she spent a better part of her life.
“I’m the only child, so, I had a bit of a quiet childhood; but I have loads of cousins and they always made sure I was happy and kept me company. I have some beautiful memories from my childhood,” she enthused.
Though a Nigerian, her first visit to the country was at the age of 15. At that time, the music of American hip-hop star Sisquo was making waves and Beverly was a big fan.
“At that time of my life, I was obsessed with Sisquo, so, when he came to Nigeria, I had to go and watch him. My Mum knew how much I loved him and she arranged for me to go to Sisquo concert. I was fortunate to meet him backstage and I was speechless; I just kept staring at him and at one point he started looking at me like I was crazy,” she confessed.
Eventually, Beverly managed to utter the words, “can I take a picture with you?” And just as the camera flashed, “I kissed him on the lips! He was completely shocked by that. Only to get home, try to develop the picture and they were not there. All of them were gone, so, I lost that memory forever. But I’m over Sisquo now,” she smiled.
Right from her childhood, Beverly has always shown signs of playing big in the arts, though without a specific direction. Initially, she wanted to sing, then toyed with modeling, but finally settled for acting.
“I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do, but I’ve always been an arts oriented person and I knew I was going to do something in that direction. As a child, I just loved to enjoy life, but the older I grew, I started to set goals for myself and realising where my passion really is, especially when my parents told me I couldn’t sing to save my life.”
What does that mean?
“They said, ‘your voice is horrible, don’t sing.’ So, after that, I realised maybe that’s not where I needed to go. I’ve always known that I have the ability to act; my parents believe that’s the area I should go and they have supported me since then.”
Immediately she opted for acting, Beverly made efforts to formalise what started as a passion. She studied Drama in College for two years and got a distinction for the few plays she performed while in school. Later, she took a three-year break to the university, where she studied Filmmaking and Scriptwriting, and graduated with a second class upper in Filmmaking and a first class in Scriptwriting.
BEVERLY was only 20, when she featured in Home In Exile, alongside Desmond Elliot, Justus Esiri, Chiwetalu Agu, Francis Duru and others. The actress/model actually took a holiday to be part of the production. A lover and admirer of Nollywood, Beverly has always looked forward for an opportunity to return home to act, so, when the script came, she grabbed it with both hands.
“There was no way my parent would have allowed me to relocate to Nigeria to pursue acting because I needed my degree. So, I came during the summer holiday and did Home In Exile, directed by Lancelot.”
Featuring in the move was Beverly’s first direct exposure to the Nigerian movie industry, an experience she had always dreamt of.
“No doubt, I was very nervous. It was my first time shooting a feature length movie and working with Nigerians. It was a nervous experience like I said, but I did enjoy it, hence I’m doing more now.”
Coincidentally, her role in the movie was similar to what she was experiencing personally, as a young Nigerian, who had spent all her life abroad.
“It was a sort of culture shock for my character; coming from America to a country where I know very little about. In fact, there was a scene in the movie where my character, Julie, sat on the king’s throne, which is a taboo. It was kind of fun acting that part, especially because it could happen to anyone who has lived abroad for so long. In that sense, I will say it was cool.”
Though born and brought up in the western world, Beverly is a strong believer in the rich culture and tradition of Africa.
“I’ve always said that Africa as a continent has a very rich culture; I’ve always wanted to explore various parts of this continent. I think it’s a beautiful thing; I think it’s enviable in my opinion. This is something that we should cherish,” she harped.
Unfortunately, the western world erroneously labels some of these rich cultures fetish?
“That’s one aspect of our culture; African culture is very broad, so we can’t limit it to being fetish,” she noted. “However, the western world tends to pick holes in our culture instead of looking at the beauty of Africa. To me, I don’t really see that as a major part of our culture.”
Even with the shortcomings in Nollywood productions, Beverly believes that things are gradually taking shape.
“Definitely, there’s a contrast with the way things are done elsewhere. For instance, in London, we have more time to shoot movies. Also, the time that we have to interpret our scripts is shorter here. Sometimes we get a script like a week or two before the movie commences and that could be a challenge too. But I think I’m getting used to it now and I really do enjoy it and I love challenges. I’m driven towards challenges, so, it works fine for me.”
While in the UK, Beverly was involved in few productions, mainly short films. On the other side, she also modeled. But when it was time to play in feature films, the Ibusa lady opted for Nollywood.
“It’s happening more now because I know a few people in England and America, who have taken the decision to come home. My mum used to tell me that charity begins at home, so, the initial movement was because of that. However, while in the university, I resolved to move back to Nigeria and work here after school. Officially, I decided to come home in May, 2010.”
Aside from the thirst for Nollywood, England seems not to have presented a healthy environment for black actors like Beverly, except playing prostitutes, drug addicts and criminals.
“We don’t work as often as we do here; we don’t get scripts that are as challenging as what we get here — in my opinion. I think I’m able to be more dynamic roles in this industry; I can play a character today and do a contrast of it in my next movie. I love work; I don’t like idleness. I love to always get the opportunity to work and Nollywood provides that platform for me. The scripts coming out here now, the quality and budget, show we have really advanced,” she enthused.
From all indications, the London-trained filmmaker is enjoying the Nollywood experience, playing lead role in a number of productions including Make Me a Heart, Dark Waters, Weekend Getaway and others.
“It’s been good; I’ve been on set lately. Since September last year, I’ve done three cinema movies — Weekend Getaway directed by Desmond Elliot and produced by Emem Isong; a week after that, I was on Charles Novia’s set for Alan Poser starring Ossy Ukaeje. After that, I was in Terrila Thompson’s Up Creek Without A Paddle. The movie is about the Niger Delta crises and the budget is really high.”
Of all her works, Beverly seems to have fallen in love with her role in Stripped, a yet to be released movie shot in Lagos.
“My favourite would have to be the character from Stripped which is the movie I just finished shooting with Ramsey Nouah and Joseph Benjamin. That character is the best I’ve played so far and it was amazing; she experienced a huge variety of emotions. The character was very challenging; she lives in the village and also a prostitute, which is far away from who I’m; I can’t wait for everybody to see that movie.”
How did you cope?
“It’s all about research; I do a lot of research whenever I’m working. The more research I do, the more I get used to the character.”
Barely a year after she return, Beverly has featured in a number of productions; a feat some of her fellow returnees are yet to achieve. One wonders how she got these roles in such a short period of time?
“Well, for Weekend Getaway, I was fortunate enough that Emem Isong got in touch with me for that role. As for Alan Poser, I’ve had that script for over a year; he literarily wanted me for that character. Up Crick Without A Paddle, they had someone in mind for that character, but I told them I could handle it; they believed in me and gave the role to me. If you meet Tarrila Thomson today, he will tell you how impressed he is with my role. As for Stripped, they had auditioned over 200 females for that role, but the time I came, the director was like, ‘this is the person for this job.’
She continued: “Maybe it’s a sort of payback for taking that decision to work in my fatherland. Again, when you believe in something and you voice it, it happens. That’s how it has always been with me; I trust in God a lot to see me through in anything I do.”
HAVING found her rhythm as an actress in Nollywood, Beverly is now eyeing the big picture.
“Definitely in the near future, I’m going to get involved in directing films and music videos; I also model in my spare time.”
Have you done any modeling in the country?
“Yes, I’m working with Etisalat right now; I have a contract to do some billboards adverts for them.”
As for the challenges involved in being a star, “I’m aware, but I just feel that God would never give me something I can’t handle. I never let anything affect me; I’ve got such a strong family support with amazing friends. Most importantly, I have God on my side. So far, I have all these things, I believe there’s no single challenge I cannot handle.”
To Beverly, looking good is something that should be taken very serious.
“I love to be different, I love to be unique; I love to walk into the room and everybody looks at me. Sorry, that’s how I love it,” she said amidst laughter.
That means you are ready to do some crazy stuff?
“No, I’m not wild,” she quipped, laughing aloud. “I love to look like a lady, no matter what. I just love to have an aura of confidence; I’m a confident person; not arrogant, but just confident.”
What’s your kind of man?
“I like an ambitious man; a man that knows how to treat a lady and make her look special. I love a confident and intellectual man. I need a handsome man that dresses well and has to believe in God too.”
Any plans to return to London soon?
“I’m based in Nigeria now, but obviously, London is still home; I would go there from time to time to see my family members, friends and to shop.”