Veteran Nollywood actor, Bob-Manuel Udokwu, has been married to Cassandra, an educationist, for 16 years. They share their love story with JAYNE AUGOYE.
How did you meet your husband?
Cassandra: Our paths crossed at the University of Lagos. I was an undergraduate while he was studying for a master’s degree. He was a regular caller at my hostel because his classmate, whom I used to refer to as his girlfriend, resided there. However, anytime I saw him around, I always greeted him.
Was it a case of love at first sight?
Bob-Manuel: It wasn’t a case of storybook love at first sight. I was struck by her height and the fact that she walked like a model. I had to ask her if she was one. I was already a movie star when our paths crossed.
So, who made the first move?
Cassandra: My husband did. We ran into each other on several occasions and then one day, he saw me walking towards UNILAG gate and gave me a lift to Alaba, where I resided with my sister.
He was on his way to FESTAC, but he didn’t ask me out on that day. We met yet again at the same spot and offered me a ride home. We got talking and became friends.
Were you single and searching at the time?
Bob-Manuel: I wasn’t single and searching. I was more interested in getting another degree. However, somewhere at the back of my mind, I was open to finding love or going into a relationship.
Were you comfortable dating an actor?
Cassandra: The fact that he was and still a celebrity didn’t pose any threat to me.
How did the relationship progress?
Cassandra: He paid me a surprise visit at my sister’s church. After the service, he asked if he could take me somewhere. It turned out to be his brother’s place and his family welcomed me in a warm manner.
At what point did he propose?
Cassandra: He proposed on the same day he took me to his brother’s house. He told me that he asked God for certain qualities in a woman and he had found them in me. He then asked me to be the mother of his children and I cried. He was shocked at my reaction but unknown to him, I cried because my parents had just passed on. I asked for some time to think about it and consult with God.
When did you realise that she was going to be your wife?
Bob-Manuel: It had to do with my instincts especially as I had realized that it was time I took our relationship to the next level. It didn’t take time for me to make up my mind. From our small talks, her mannerisms and of course through prayers, I knew in no time that she was the right woman for me.
What is the most memorable moment in your union?
Cassandra: My traditional marriage remains a very significant event in my life. Having lost four members of my family in a day to poisoning, I thought I wasn’t going to get married. Then my husband came, along and we wedded in less than one year. I thought my family would be stigmatised but God had better plans for me. Another memorable moment was when I had my first daughter. I wanted my husband to be by my side and God granted my wish. When my husband came inside the theatre, our daughter was delivered into his arms.
Bob-Manuel: It was my first experience and it changed my life in a big way.
Your wife is conservative while you are in the spotlight…
Bob-Manuel: My wife and I have similar traits so we are like a match made in heaven. Our home is very quiet and devoid of any distractions.
How do you handle all the attention that comes with being the wife of a celebrity?
Cassandra: Being married to a spouse who is not always around or a celebrity is not easy. However, our foundation has been made easy for both of us. Being an educationist has afforded me ample time for our children, my husband and myself.
How do you handle attention from the opposite sex?
Bob-Manuel: I have absolutely no problem with my female fans. Some people ask me how I cope with female fans and I tell them that ‘cope’ is a wrong word. When you cope with something it means you struggle that particular thing. I have no problem with my female fans. As an actor, my fan base comprises females and children. Without my female fans and children, I won’t be the star that I am.
Cassandra: Over the years, I have handled my husband’s female fans in a civil and mature manner. I always tell him that he is lucky to have female fans.
Yours is a long distance marriage. How do you keep the romance in your marriage alive since you both live in different countries?
Bob-Manuel: It’s also about understanding, when partners are made for each other there are certain sacrifices they both have to make in their marriage. We talk to each other not less than twice in a day even when I travel abroad. Sometimes, a text message can suffice. Whenever I am not recording, when I wake up in the morning, I talk to my family and review the day’s activity. We also catch up during the day and when I am home, I try to make up for not being around by bonding with my family.
Cassandra: I will support him wherever his job takes him to. Distance is not an issue as he calls me more than six times a day and I also pay him regular visits.
Who is stricter between the two of you?
Bob-Manuel: We both do our bit as parents but I think my wife is stricter since she spends more time with the kids. I don’t believe in spanking especially as the kids are growing. Sometimes, a good talk does the job
Cassandra: I am stricter.
How do you handle disagreements?
Cassandra: I was once temperamental but Bob has made me a more patient and calmer person. We trash out any misunderstanding as it occurs and never go to bed angry.
Do you have access to each other’s phone?
Cassandra: Yes we do and we answer each other’s phone calls when the need arises. Women tend to develop a lot of anxiety as a result of going through their spouse’s phone. It is totally uncalled for so couples must learn to trust each other.
Do you own a joint account?
Bob-Manuel: No we don’t and it is not an issue for us. Moreover, I think the foundation of a marriage matters a lot. My wife and I listen in to some radio programmes and hear people making a mountain out of a molehill over trivial issues like owning a joint account. I, for instance, taught my wife how to drive and she drives like man and also helped her open her bank account. Owning a joint account is not proof of love. My wife knows when I am down financially because I tell her.
Do you also disclose your acting fees to your wife?
Bob-Manuel: There is no film I shoot or project I am involved in that I don’t tell her how much I’m being paid or offered. That is why I can confidently give her my ATM card and ask her to withdraw a certain amount without nursing any reservations. I am only able to do this because I trust my wife.
How have you been able to stay away from scandals?
Bob-Manuel: I carry myself with dignity, self-respect and professionalism. As my career progressed, I learnt from the experiences of others, which may be unfortunate. I also had to determine not to go down that route. So, I deliberately walk away from situations that will bring out certain unpleasant results.
Are you comfortable taking up romantic roles?
Bob-Manuel: In playing such roles, I’m very conscious. When I have to play steamy scenes, I discuss it with the director and we work it out in how the screenwriter wants it portrayed without being obnoxious. I also remove my wedding band whenever I am about to go to bed.
Why do you take off your ring every night?
Bob-Manuel: I do so simple because I don’t want to have that mark which comes about as a result of wearing a wedding ring especially when I have to play certain roles. It makes me uncomfortable sometimes when I have to play the role of a bachelor and the ring has left an impression on my ring finger. It kills the picture I am trying to create. I also feel uncomfortable having any jewellery on when I am supposed to be resting.
What would you love to change about your spouse?
Cassandra: I love him just the way he is.
Bob-Manuel: If I could, I would ask her to tone down the way she criticises me when I am getting out of shape. But I don’t think I would love her to stop critiquing me because it keeps me in check. Anytime I gain weight, my wife would tease me and ask if I want to play ‘old peoples roles.’ My wife is one of the reasons why I have remained on top of my game as an actor.