Delectable screen goddess Kate Henshaw is an interviewer’s delight not any day but when you know your onions. A natural charmer with her infectious smile, Kate also exhibits strong charisma and imposing personality that stands her out amongst her ilks.In her 40s, she exudes a very vibrant gait and energetic look that takes a chunk out of her age and this is because asides acting, she has a fetish for workout and religiously spends an average of 2 hrs daily in the gym. She is not the regular entertainer who readily grants an interview at whim, except there is a special occasion.However, she gave City People Head Of Movie Desk VIVIAN ONUORAH the honour of spending the afternoon with her at a posh location in Lekki, where she took time off the set of Africa Magic sponsored hilarious comedy series Do Good to dissect the questions thrown at her. The renowned movie personality was her amiable and humorous self as she spoke extensively on acting for 22 years, the many sides of Kate you hardly talk about,marriage,her many pleasures and the recent fire incident that razed her Lekki Home, in a no holds barred interview.
What are some the projects you are working on right now?
Its the Do Good series and we started filming in May, 2015 and its really fantastic and gaining a lot of momentum, a lot of people love it especially those who watched Candle Light like about 20 years ago and for those who haven’t, it’s a new intro into lives of the characters of Do Good, Emem and of course all the people that come in and out of their lives.
Can you shed more light on the role you play in the series?
My character’s name is Emem Obong, over the years she has evolved. She was a house maid before but she earned her stripe and her employers gave her some money to start up a business so she opened a restaurant being from Calabar and having the best meals, and employed a lot of girls to work for her but she eagerly wanted to see Do Good who was her first love and only love. Then he comes after a few years and they are trying to rekindle their love. Of course with all the women after him and her constantly fighting for his attention. It’s a very a very interesting series.
For a star like you to play such comic character, how easy was it?
For me, am a very humorous person and I like to laugh a lot. I believe that laughter is a very good medicine so seeing a comedy series like this that is even in our local language. No person is speaking correct queens English, there is someone from Calabar, Igbo, Warri, Benin, Hausa, Yoruba and all the tribes in Nigeria represented so it’s fun and comfortable for any of us from those areas and those who are not but are very fluent with those languages. It is very interesting and I believe everybody should have a comedy side to themselves. For me it’s very interesting to speak in my local dialect and also have that inflection of the way my people speak when they are trying to speak English so it’s very lovely for me.
How did you clinch the role?
I played Emem 16 or 20 years ago so when Dstv decided to do it in conjunction with Ibokuku and Basorge, they naturally asked me first if I will be available and that time I was busy doing another stuff and they said Kate we really need you on this project, we can’t see any other person doing it and after a while talking back and forth, I took up the role.
You have been doing stage plays and some works in the last couple of years, tell us about them?
I have been doing stage for as long as I can remember ,maybe 10 or 12 years ago. I love the stage especially when it has to do with women issues .The last stage play was called Hear Word which was a contemporary monologue play where it speaks to women and men about their relationship with women. Sharp practises against women like female genital mutilation,VVF in the North, women being looked down as sex objects ,women who work hard and other women& men feel like you hard to sleep with someone to get there, women empowerment, it dealt with a myriad of subjects and for me anything that has to do with women am always ready to be part of it and also there was the Wives which I starred in, produced by Lala Akindoju.Then I stared in Iquo’s Journal produced by Blessing Egbe’s B concept and it talks about the journey of a woman who lived with HIV/AIDS because she was a prostitute but didn’t know that way of life would lead her to being in contact with the dreaded virus. She goes on to get married and pregnant. She stars feeling funny and realised she was positive. SO she ended up writing a journal with her life experience and gave it to her husband to use and help other women who have gone through the life she had been through. Her husband stayed with her and loved her all through even though he discovered she had HIV/AIDS, that’s the story we are trying to pass, it doesn’t mean that because you are HIV positive your are dead, its love, care and sticking to your medication that can give you that longetivity.and a few others.
You took a break a few years ago,
No I don’t think I ever took a break.
But you weren’t everywhere like you are right now?
; Laughs am I everywhere? I won’t say I took a break, I have been doing different things. I did a stage play and there is another one so for me those are the three areas stage, film and TV and it so happens that am doing all at the same time at the moment .Maybe 3 years ago I was very picky. For me I had to be very picky about what I do it has to be good if not people are going to abuse me and it’s not everything that is out there that you join yourself to .
How many years have you been in the industry?
1993,that is going to be 22 years now.
Wow that’s a long time…
(Laughs)it is actually a long journey even when I think about it, am always like wow.
Can you take us down the memory lane?
It’s a long journey, how do I even start, the story has been told over and over again. The late J.T Tom West took me to my first audition, May His Soul Rest in Peace. Bob Manuel was a great help and inspiration to me ,the late Funmi Martins, and my first film When The Sun Sets, everybody knows this story. From then on I worked with Opa Williams Virgin Organization and got to meet a whole lot more people, helped him with his programming and all that and then films just started coming one after the other. But it took me a while to understand that when you get to a certain level, you have to be able to want to put your foot down .When I started it was always the crying roles and playing the victim.
You used to sing back then?
(laughs)yes we tried all sorts of things so anyone that works is fine ,we have all done some funny things even in Hollywood they did that too. I have tried my hands on different stuff because I wanted people to know I could do a varied number of roles, not just the victim all the time so am glad I have been able to do that. Now there is the comic side of me so it’s good to explore who you are as an actor ,if you are put in a box you are gone.
What were some of the challenges you faced back then?
I think for me I didn’t see a lot of challenges because my first movie was a lead role then after that it was always playing the lead, maybe sub lead but I didn’t have any challenge per say but we did have some actors who were misbehaving on set and get away with it, then you have those who would work hard and still it took them a long while to be recognised and get where they are but I never saw a challenge because for me what I had was a gift, I never studied Theatre Art am a medical Micro Biologist so I just found myself here and I found out I love it, here I am.
What about the challenges right now as a celebrated star?
There are challenges but I have decided not to see them as such, its part if the bane of my existence as an actor in Nigeria I know other actors abroad feel the same way. People have an assumption of who you are just by watching your films or maybe one or two interactions ,they want you to be a certain way and expect so much from, forgetting that you are human like they are, you have good days and bad days, you have days when you don’t even want to see anyone .you have days when you get really angry because someone has been rude to you, especially with the advent of social media, where there is lots of indiscipline and disrespect from the younger generation. Sometimes you keep your cool but sometimes you lose it ,they expect you to be a certain way but no, I have reached that stage where nobody is going to dictate to me how am going to look .if I want to carry corn row from till December it’s my hair if you don’t like it leave it. As long as the quality of my work which is what to be in front of is not really affected then let me be.
You are the face of many brands but Onga seems to be another name for Kate, can you tell us how you got that particular endorsement?
They approached me 8 years ago ,a great company promasidor and basically we are like a family ,being with a particular brand for 8 years, you form a bond with them, The chairman Mr Keith Richards is just an amazing man and very supportive. We have so many good people ,Mr Kachi Onubogu,and others. They are all very fantastic and I can’t fault the brand at all and I have grown to love it. When they first approached me I didn’t know what it was but now I live and breathe Onga.
Asides Onga, make mention some of the other brands you are endorsed on?
I just got appointed as the ambassador of pointmart.com which is a subsidiary of space point, they are a new online mall that offers huge and great discounts to entrepreneurs, small businesses can also put their stuff there. Whatever it is you want to sell,you approach them and they put it up so people can buy .
You vigorously took up work out recently, flooding your instagram with daily work out videos, what spurred that side of you?
Not recently, I have been working out for like 5 yrs,I produced my first workout video 2 years ago and it sold out .I was having the pressure to do another one because so many people were asking what they could for some specific parts of their bodies , because I have come to love exercise. It gives me so much energy and makes me feel fit. With exercise I don’t feel the years are going by. I exercise everyday for 2 or 3 hours and whenever I do my workouts I post it for people who need to know what the right exercise to do is .
What other things do you have in the pipe line for your brand, like 2 years ago, you came up with your book, do you intend going into production as well?
I don’t know yet,I take it one at a time. There are many things in my head but when it comes you will know about it.
You are very stylish, what informs what you step out in?
Right now am wearing a design from the Do good set, the tailors are there sowing 24 hrs a week and they are very fantastic and creative.
How do you feel winning the City People Face of Nollywood awards?
Wow oh my God, to tell you the truth, after so many years of getting so many accolades, sometimes you feel like you have had enough, what more can they give you but it feels nice to be appreciated, it feels nice for the industry to be appreciated ,and to know that young people are interested. Many years ago, nobody even looked at film making and acting as a viable source of income but now everybody wants to act or sing ,so am really honoured. I really don’t know what to say and for the first time am speechless. Thank you and God bless City People.
Your Lekki house recently got razed, can you share the story of what actually happened on that fateful day?
It was very true, the house got burnt and I lost everything .I really don’t know what happened because I was here on the Do Good set, I was filming ,and was about to have lunch when my nanny called me and was like “ madam fire “I told her to get people to throw water on it and didn’t even know it was like a big fire. I immediately got up and by the time I turned into the street before mine, I could see the sky was black, I got there and there were people everywhere and nobody could get in. Because the first thing about fire is the smoke ,its going to make it totally impossible to get in and it could kill you. And my next door neighbour was having his daughter’s birthday and there were children there, that was Ik Osakioduwa,he happens to be my next door neighbour and he had sent a message to all radio stations about the fire. I called the fire service for over 2hrs and there was no response ,by the time they came, everything had gone, the house was razed completely. But am talking to you now and am glad to be alive ,winning this award further goes to show that as long as there is life, you can hope for tomorrow, There are two choices, either you stand up or you stay down. There are many people who have gone through such fire experience and lost their lives but there is no scratch on me ,the will power is what matters. I was at that point where I said what’s the use, where am I going to start from but I thank God. And the people on this set, they are the best crew and cast I have ever worked with, everybody came they scooped water from the gutter, some cut their hands trying to get in, they came the next day and helped me move. It was totally unexpected,I don’t want to cry but they were awesome.
You seem to have a very thick skin about negativity, how do you cope with controversies and still stand tall?
What’s the option? the option is to let what people say affect you or change who you are but that’s not me ,I always say this saying and people will laugh, “sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt you. Someone calls you names it’s when you answer then it will become you, words have no effect unless you get into your mind, we have leaders in the world who had gone through adversity but they stand strong and proved critics wrong. For me it’s about doing what I love doing best, being who I want I am and forget about critics, nobody has a final say except God and that’s where I hitch all my hope on. You have to develop a thick skin especially in this job .
After your marriage ended, you pulled strong and continued, how did you get over that phase of your life?
After the breakup of the marriage, I have learnt to love me ,myself and who I am as a woman. First if you don’t love yourself you are always going to have somebody else fulfil or complete you, make you somebody. I won’t let any man define who I am. Firstly you have to stand as an individual before any man will want to see you as somebody they want to get attached to because if you are needy or the helpless female, you won’t last long. You just have to shake off and stand tall and move on when the tough times come. There are so many women who are in marriages but they are not happy, some are going through violence psychological, emotional ,financial etc.I have no feelings towards my ex he is a great father to our daughter, fantastic father he is taking very good care of her. And he was there to support me during the fire incident ,so there is no bad blood. My own is if it’s not working,agree to part amicably let there not be any acrimony.dont hold any grudges no matter how long it lasted. You just have to move on. As long as you are alive there will be trials and travails,only the dead rest.
And your daughter, do you get to spend time with her?
Yes definitelty, I will be going to see her in few weeks time.