Sultry actress and video vixen, Mary Asakomhe popularly known as Mary Jane Benson has always had big dreams. At the age of 16, the Lagos- born beauty started exploring her chances of becoming the movie star she was born to be and have since succeeded in caving a niche for herself in the highly competitive Nigerian movie industry. In this interview she talks about her career, growth and personal life among other things…
How did your journey into acting begin?
I started acting in church at the age of 16. On a particular Sunday, I took part in a drama in my church and after the service, a friend of mine came to tell me how well I acted. She later promised to introduce me to a movie producer. I met with the producer and he auditioned me for a short film he was about to shoot. I was given a minor role in the film. That was how it all started for me. I started acting professionally in 2011.
Which movie gave you your big break?
I would say ‘Magic Queen’ is my break through movie. It was released in 2016, and I acted alongside Regina Daniels and other stars. My role in the family series, ‘The Johnsons’ also brought me into prominence.
What was your father’s reaction when you told him you wanted to become an actress?
While I was with my family, we attended the Deeper Life Church. Obviously, my dad was not in support of my acting career. Even when I told him, I wanted to study Mass Communication in the University, he did not like the idea. It was very difficult to convince him, I had to fight with him and leave our house in order to pursue my career. But now, he has seen some of my movies and he is very proud of me.
How has the journey been so far?
It has been very crazy, like they say, no good thing comes easily. Anything that has a successful end must also have a rough beginning. I thank God for where I am today. Producers always invite me to take part in their productions. Although I haven’t reached the peak of my career yet, I’m working very hard to get to where I want to be.
How do you combine schooling with acting?
The Nigerian Open University is an online school . I don’t have to go to school all the time except when we have tests and examinations. I do everything online including submission of assignment. So, combining my education and acting career has been ‘stress free.’
How lucrative is acting for you?
For now, acting pays my bills to an extent. But I’m into other things that put food on my table. I sell clothes, shoes, hair and other accessories.
You are also a video vixen, would you choose video modeling over acting?
I would choose acting over anything. Acting is what I love to do, it is my passion. I do video modeling to get extra money although it pays me more than acting for now.
People always see video vixens as prostitutes, is it true?
That is a big lie, video vixens are not prostitutes or irresponsible in any way. It is a personal thing, it has to do with who you are. But then video vixens are not wayward, they are focused people because they put in so much work to be at their best at every gig. For someone like myself that is always on the move, I don’t have time to indulge in illicit acts.
Can you name some of the music videos you modelled in?
My first job was in 2015. It was a song by LKT and Davido, ‘Alaye.’ I also worked on ‘Na You’ by Ma Mario and Oritsefemi.
What are some of the challenges you have faced as a actress?
It was when I started my acting career. I was always in Asaba most of the time and it was quite difficult to get a movie role. Most of the jobs I got at the time were minor roles. There were times I would travel to Asaba, I would realized that I was there to shoot just one scene. There would be no provision for accommodation and I would spend all my money on location and would have to beg for money in order to return to Lagos. Also, one would be at the mercy of movie directors who would want to sleep with you before giving you a role and all that. If you are an unknown face on set your scene would be shot last, they would only focus on the big stars.
Are you saying if one is not a big name he or she wouldn’t receive a special treatment?
All these things happened in Asaba. Though in Lagos I go to set from my house most of the time, except if I’m shooting for a long period of time then they will lodge me in hotel. In Asaba, you have to take care of yourself.
What was your experience with directors who wanted you in their beds in exchange for roles like?
Most of them would not come directly but their body language would tell you that there is a problem. A director once said to me, other girls are doing it, why can’t you do the same? I rejected his offer and up till date, I have not worked with that director. He never called me back for a job because of that. This doesn’t happen anymore because I have gotten to a stage where nobody can ask me for such a thing.
How would you describe your growth in the industry?
My growth in the industry has been good and encouraging. I’m not doing badly. I have worked on major movie projects. I was also nominated for best upcoming actress (English) at the 2016 City People Award. I’m also a brand ambassador for a Bet company, Awoofbet.com. I have not gotten to where I want to be yet. But in years from now, I see myself in greater heights. I would love to be a producer in future.
How do you get into character on set?
Getting into character is one of the easiest things for me. Once I read the script, I just throw myself into the character I’m to play and that is it. In fact, I don’t take shots twice. I have been through a lot in my journey so I connect easily to different situations.
What is that one thing that you would like to change about Nollywood?
I will like to change the fact that actors don’t get paid well,. Actors should be paid for jobs well done as this will give them the drive to forge ahead. I will also like to change the way the less popular actors are treated, these people are treated like nobodies and that is very bad.
What is your relationship status?
I’m not married but I’m in a relationship and it is a serious one. But I’m not ready for marriage now because I have a lot ahead of me. I’m just going with the flow in my relationship for now.
Can you propose to a man?
I cannot ask a man to marry me. I believe it is not proper for a woman to ask that question. There is no way a man will respect me if I ask him to marry me. I wouldn’t even know if he really wants to marry me, I can discuss marriage with my man but I cannot propose to him.
What are your hobbies?
I love going to the cinema, cleaning and cooking. I also take singing classes because I’m a very good singer, but as much as I love to sing I won’t be considering music as a career.
Can you briefly tell us about your background?
I’m from Etsako central, Auchi in Edo state but I was born and brought up in Lagos. I’m the the only child of my mother although I lost her when I was very young.