Acting and loving it: 25-year-old Irene Milka Sobya acts as Monica in NTV drama Deception. Edgar R. Batte talks to the show’s main actress.
Where were you before we ever got to know you as a lead actress in Deception?
I was with Theatre Factory. I joined in 2009, and I was at campus.
What did you study?
I studied Procurement and Logistics Management at Kyambogo University.
Do you have a day job, since you studied logistics and procurement?
No, I am doing acting professionally. I pay my bills from acting. Generally I live off acting.
Does it pay that much?
Yes it does.
How much does it pay you?
I can’t tell you. But professionally that’s what I am doing, even though that is not what I studied at school.
So have you done a procurement job before?
Yes I have. I did internship when I was still in school. I can sit in an office and do some procurement.
If you got a procurement job, would you do it?
Right now I am still discovering myself and still embracing acting, but why not? You know in Uganda, most of the actors do not leave on acting only, because the opportunities are few. As an actress, I am supposed to have different projects on my table, but it doesn’t happen here in Uganda. So I am still having Deception, but I would love to have very many projects on my table. That is what I look forward to.
How did you end up at Theatre Factory?
I had gone there to watch comedy and they called for auditions. I went and auditioned before Phillip Luswata. He discovered me. He told me to ‘stay in acting,’ and I did so. That is why I am still acting.
What do you think he saw in you?
I don’t know. I am yet to discover it. May be he saw talent in me, but I took his word. By then he was doing a lot of things. He was in the Kenyan Production Makutano Junction. He called me when they were shooting some episodes here in Kampala and he got me a role. Sometimes, you have people that come into your life and tell you that you are good at something. If you are wise, you take their word.
On set, your character is largely emotional, what does it take to get into such a role?
It takes a lot. When I started out, I was still at campus and I was so naive about marriage. And you know how Ugandan sets are; a director will come and assume you know what to do, but we got this Kenyan director, George Kihumbah who looks at exactly who the character is and he wants you to bring that out.
What are your reactions sometimes when your in-law is extreme or scenes that involve ideals you did not believe in as a person?
Sometimes I go like, ‘you cannot talk back at me’, but the director puts me in line. There was a scene when I had to lie to Chris. I had to accept that I had slept with someone. I had refused to shoot it. I told the director we couldn’t solve a problem with a lie. He called me and told me that I was not married but he was. He said that sometimes you have to accept some defaults to make things better. I didn’t understand it but I acted it the way he wanted it. I was Milka not Monica. He tells me to accept that when I am on set, Milka becomes a ghost.
What kind of criticism have you received as an actress?
Ha ha ha… every time I get into character my fellow actors say I am being funny. Sometimes I say something in Luganda and don’t know what it means. Sometimes I say I will not act a certain scene because in my culture we can’t kiss but then it is part of the job.
How different has season five been from the previous ones?
This one has been tough. There has been development of new habits. Monica gave birth. She is now a strong woman. She has developed. I need to protect my child more than I protect Chris.
When shooting Deception, do you stay in camp or commute?
We camp most of the time.
Now that you live off acting, do you act in only Deception?
Apparently, my contract was with NTV first so I wouldn’t breach their contract. As time went on, I have been getting offers. Right now, I can’t say much but when the time is right, I will let you know.
You mean you been contacted to feature in other productions?
Yes, I have.
Are they movies, or series?
Movies, series and stage productions.
You are also on stage?
Yes I will be, but I can’t give you details yet.
Have you got endorsements?
Not yet. You know the Ugandan market, the industry is just growing. It is not like every celebrity in Uganda is an ambassador of something. If I got one, I would embrace it.
Have you got any Nigerian connections?
Yes, I have lots of friends. I do not have any offers yet but I’m in talks with some producers from Ghana.
Do you still live with your parents or you stay alone?
I stay alone. I left home after campus.
What is the opinion of the public about you?
There is a lot of respect when you walk into some offices.
Do you still go in public places like taxis?
What’s the reaction when you are in such places?
It is crazy. You get in and everyone keeps whispering, ‘that’s Monica of Deception.’
Do you pretend you are not the one?
It is not easy because everyone sees the dimple, and then my voice is deep, so they can tell it’s me when I speak. But these guys are my fans. They sometimes offer to pay for my taxi fare and some even ask me out to lunch.
So do you sometimes accept the lunch offers?
Ha ha ha …
How do you deal with such people, especially if they are guys?
Some just want to tell me that I have done a lot that has changed their marriage and I respect them because I like listening to people.
What about those that want to take it far?
I cannot allow them to take it far because I still want to stay focused. I am focused on what I do. I am married to acting.
So there is no serious guy?
You are still single?
Yes, I am single and not complaining. But in two years, I want to be married because the industry is crazy.
How are you going to get married in two years if you are single? I guess you need time to learn about each other before taking the big step …
I have people I am seeing, but I can’t expose them.
Him or them?
It’s him, but before he puts a ring on my finger, I am still considered single.
You have done a number of intimate scenes with Charles Kabogoza, have you connected as a result?
We are now a family. We have been together for long, so we are one. He is the one person I would love to be with on another set. I want to do more and more work with him.
Would you date an actor?
If he is what I want, then why not.
What does your boyfriend do?
I am not discussing that.
How long have you been dating?
For a year now.
How did you two meet?
We met at the beach. I was with my friends and we needed a ride. A friend knew a friend who gave us a lift and he turned out to be the one.
Was he interested in you because you were a star?
I do not have to call myself a star because I am not yet there.
Do you stay with him?
Yes I do.
I have seen you moving with Zuena and Bebe Cool? Are you a Gagamel member?
I love them. I am a friend. Zuena is my friend. We met because she was doing Life Stories on NTV, and for Bebe Cool, I am a fan.
How many are you in the family?
We are nine; seven boys and two girls.
What is your position in the family?
From my mum, we are two girls. The others are my step brothers but we are one.
Which, part of the country do you hail from.
I am a Musoga and a proud one. It’s not true what people say that Basoga understand at 40 years of age. I am proud because I am a bright girl.
What is your social life like?
I am so boring if I go out. I go out because friends want to go out, but I prefer sitting home, watching movies.
What is the last good series you watched?
The Thunder Man, it is an animation. I also love Nikita, I watch it over and over again.
Do you cook?
Big time. I love ensujju, (pumpkin) and scrambled eggs. Some people call it ekitoobelo or envuluga. I can also cook meat or cabbage. I love it.
Walk me through your education journey…
I went to Mbogo High for four years and then to Mariam High for my A-Level. I used to do drama and I would mime songs. I went to Muslim schools but I am saved. I later went to Kyambogo University.
Tell me about your parents…
Both my parents are soldiers. My dad, Samuel Ngobi is a Major and my mother is Agnes Mbuga. They hardly stay together. You know how UPDF people be. They are never home. One is in Somalia and another here or somewhere out.
What did they feel or say when they found out you were an actress?
It just beats their understanding that I ended up an actress. The first time they found out, they were bitter. My dad would walk into his office and people are talking about some girl on TV. He would come out of his office only to see that it was his daughter they were talking about. Later, he became proud and started telling them that the actress they were seeing on TV was his daughter. They doubted him, so one day, during campus holidays, he brought a whole group of his UPDF colleagues at home, they were about 35 people who came to see me and confirm that I am really his daughter.
WHO I AM
I am a God-fearing person and when I love, I truly love. I have a short temper. When something pisses me off, I don’t talk. I am learning to outgrow it because people say it’s bad. I’m not proud of that. I also fear people. I don’t like being around too many people.
When Deception shows:Every Monday and Tuesday at 8pm. There are repeats the follwoing day at 2.30pm.
The plot: The story revolves around Nalweyiso (Sara Kisauzi) a mother-in-law who moves in with her son Chris (Charles Kaboggoza) and his wife Monica Irene Milka), turning their lives upside down.