We’re excited to connect with Rita Dominic, who is the star of the period piece film “76”, which centers around the 1976 military coup and assassination of General Mortal Mohammed. Produced by Adonijah Owiriwa and Izu Ojukwu, and also directed by Izu Ojukwu, it’s turning out to be the biggest film of Rita’s legendary career. Through today’s connection, we talk with Rita about the film and what it means for Nigerian culture, and we all talk about the other projects she has in the works.
U.G. Digital Mag: This is such an amazing opportunity, and I appreciate you so much for it. I would love for you to begin by discussing how you first got into acting..
Rita Dominic: Yes, I started when I was very young. I was very much involved in school plays and television programs for children. I grew up acting, and then when I went to further my education, I studied Theater Arts. It didn’t come as a surprise to anyone who knew me. After school, I found myself in the industry. It’s been a journey so far, 18 years.
U.G. Digital Mag: Were you the first in your family to pursue entertainment?
Rita Dominic: Yes. I’m the only entertainer in the family, but thinking back, I believe I got my talent from my mom. She was a very funny woman. She would crack a lot of jokes, and laugh. She was a very dramatic woman (laughing).
U.G. Digital Mag: I think it’s so cool. Obviously, you’ve done a great deal. What is it like to know that you’re one of the biggest names from your area?
Rita Dominic: Honestly, it feels really good. It feels like the world is connecting with the quality of work we’re doing. What we do in our industry is tell stories. I think that what gives us edge is the fact that we tell simple stories that anyone can relate to. It feels good that the audience connects to it. Making that connection helps to get the industry to where it needs to be.
U.G. Digital Mag: I know that overall connectivity, and the ability to show Africa to the world was so important to you. Why is that?
Rita Dominic: The parts shown to the world are not necessarily the good parts. We have this tool, that being television, that can be used to show the Africa that no one sees. We want them to see how beautiful it is, and the beautiful cultures and landscapes we have. We have so many talented people in our country. In the world, there’s good and bad everywhere. It looks like the bad outweighs the good, but we can change that perception.
U.G. Digital Mag: What type of things are being done to ensure the better parts are seen?
Rita Dominic: We’re doing that through storytelling, and filmmaking. That’s were my strengths are, and that’s how I can pass on the message. I’m using television to show this.
U.G. Digital Mag: What has been your goal in regard to the roles you take on and overall perception?
Rita Dominic: I want to do more colorful roles. I like for the audience to see my vulnerability. As an actor, I want the audience to connect with me in that way. In being vulnerable, you’re bringing everything you have, and you connect better overall. I like to play very strong roles that are “out of the box”.
U.G. Digital Mag: “76” has gotten a lot of buzz. Talk about your character in the film?
Rita Dominic: It’s a story set against the backdrop of our history in Nigeria. It involves a young soldier who finds himself in the middle of it all. His pregnant fiánce finds herself trying to do all she can to extricate him from the lies. This is happening 6 years after the civil war. It’s like it’s taboo for them to be together. It’s basically a love story around that period.
U.G. Digital Mag: Was it hard to connect with this role?
Rita Dominic: It was very hard because the army wives are the unsung heroes. They go through a lot when their husbands are deployed. I had to see life through the eyes of the army wives. We filmed for 6 months, during which time I talked with them and shared the many emotions they were dealing with. It was very difficult and challenging emotionally, having to be in that space for 6 months. I’m glad I had the chance to see life this way, and be a voice for their stories to be told.
U.G. Digital Mag: Would you do another role such as this?
Rita Dominic: Why not? If I love the story and concept, definitely.
U.G. Digital Mag: I believe people are getting so much in regard to Nigerian culture, and the value system. Is that something that really connected you to the film?
Rita Dominic: Well, yes. This film shows our values as Africans, and what the values are for our families. We take our culture seriously.
U.G. Digital Mag: What was preparation like?
Rita Dominic: It was very challenging. We spent about 2 months rehearsing, and immersing into the roles. I had to gain weight for the role because she was pregnant. I wanted it to be believable, so I volunteered to gain weight (laughing). I did a lot of research about those days, and the way they spoke during that time. I had to learn to speak during that time, and stay that way during the entire time. It was a difficult process, but very much worth it.
U.G. Digital Mag: What was the most enjoyable part of it all?
Rita Dominic: The story, first of all. I’ve never done a period piece before. If anyone could do justice to the story, it was our director. I believe in his work, and it was a very compelling story.
U.G. Digital Mag: In terms of the overall goal and what you wanted to get out with the story, do you feel like you achieved that?
Rita Dominic: I think we did well, but I think the audience has to determine that.
U.G. Digital Mag: What other projects are you working on at the current time?
Rita Dominic: I’m a producer as well, so we’re currently working on a television series, titled The Bank. We’re hoping to start filming soon.
U.G. Digital Mag: How difficult is it to switch roles between acting and producing?
Rita Dominic: It’s very difficult. I won’t even lie (laughing). It’s very tasking. The first time I produced, I co-produced with someone else. I also played a very complex role. I didn’t want to touch it because I was producing for the first time. I didn’t want to play such a difficult role, and produce for the first time. My manager at the time talked me into it, and I’m glad she did. That film did very well. It has become a classic in Nigeria. I won a lot of awards and earned a lot of accolades for my work. It’s difficult to switch roles, but I would do it again, especially when it is widely accepted.
U.G. Digital Mag: Now that you’ve gotten good on both sides, which would you choose if you had to make a choice?
Rita Dominic: Acting, definitely.
U.G. Digital Mag: I love that you’re working to show Africa for the beauty that it has.
Rita Dominic: Television is such a strong tool, and I think people have to begin to understand that if we want to change the minds of the public.
U.G. Digital Mag: For everyone wanting to stay updated with you and the film, where can they go to online?
Rita Dominic: They can follow me on Twitter at @ritaudominic, and on Instagram at @ritadominic, and Facebook. They can follow the film on Instagram at @76themovieng … there’s a website as well, which is www.76movie.com, and my website of course.