Sometimes I sit back here alone, you know I am a widow, and I sit alone here and watch 'tele' and tune in to the radio for interesting stories and then I remember old days and say to myself, if I were to be what I was, I would be on set by now”.
Grace Nortey, widely complimented as one of the greatest Ghanaian actresses of all time and rivaled by no one in her field, because of her monopoly over roles that characterize a dramatic and difficult persona found mostly in a ‘troublesome’, strong willed women, has missed the buzz of showbiz.
Nortey, celebrated in the 90s for her excellence and exceptional competence in her acting career has revealed to StarrFMonline.com’s #GhanaVeterans project, she has reached a point in her life where she constantly has to battle with loneliness and the fear of rejection from the current crop of persons running the Creative Arts scene in Ghana.
“Sometimes I sit back here alone, you know I am a widow, and I sit alone here and watch 'tele' and tune in to the radio for interesting stories and then I remember old days and say to myself, if I were to be what I was, I would be on set by now”.
As she is fondly called by her colleagues and fans, Auntie Grace, sat in what she intimated is her favourite sofa at her living room, wearing a ‘Neck Brace’, watching a TV series on one of the local Channels and lamented about old age and idleness.
“Old age is something else ooo … the difference is very, very great. At the moment I tend to forget things. And my lines, the most important thing you have to remember is your lines and even that I find a bit challenging.
“Sometimes you are able to do, other times you tend to forget. The camera will say action and then you don’t even know what to say. But we do manage to do it. So I wonder why they don’t come for us at all,” she enquires about current producers.
The 75-year-old mother of five, who is currently struggling with a severe condition of the heart, said at her age, she barely considers acting as just a source of income but a great source of social life as well.
“It’s no longer about the money, but at least it’s interesting to meet your colleagues on set, you chat about whatever is happening in the country and then you act as well, but then as we have been denied roles, what can you do. Will take it like that”.
As she recounts what life was when she was famous, madam Nortey who starred in movies such as Lost Hope, Expectations, Jewels and Juju, confessed life in the limelight was unpredictable but the thrill was fulfilling at most.
“I remember there was a time I went to Accra, and I was looking for a taxi, and then a taxi driver just stood in front of me, and I said 'ooo, driver can you take me to…' and before I could say jack he said I know your house … I said 'my God'… and all sorts of things, people would be calling you …
“You have to be very careful, you are a role model to some people. So your behaviour outside of your house. To have your privacy…doesn’t happen. Sometimes you enjoy it and sometimes too you just want your privacy”.
The pain of loss
She now lives in her Haatso house at Accra with a niece whom she says is not usually home because she has to work.
She also has a caretaker who is often around to ensure the house is kept and protected at all times but that does not provide all the company she would have preferred.
“Like I said, this time I don’t go out. I told you I only go to church, and the hospital. Because I don’t have a car. Sometimes I wish I could go out and watch films at Accra Mall but well…so I’m always stack in this my hall as you can see. I’ll sit in this chair, next time I’ll sit in the other and next time the other and I’ll be sitting watching TV alone. And so sometimes I feel lonely and I miss my husband,” she shared mournfully.
Her husband, Daniel Nortey who fathered her five girls died 10 years ago.
“He was my brother, my father, my boyfriend, my husband, my everything, yes my everything.”
When asked if she ever considered re-marrying to fill the void, she was vehement in her response.
“No way, no way, no way. Nobody can replace him. I sometimes remember how he would stand at this door when we are going out and reminds me, Grace, have you taken everything? What about your phone, what about your this and that...and the way he will get up early in the morning, iron my dresses for me and it’s only a good husband who will do that for you though he has his other side."
In all, she said she would gladly trade her current state off for a more active life.
“Because the loneliness is tormentous once the buzz and fame fade out. I am not saying I want to be out there with all the noise around me, but a little activity is important.”
A word for the younger Generation
Meanwhile, all the time she has had with solitude has given her the opportunity to closely observe the younger generation and their ways.
As the African proverb says “The elders of a community are the voice of God”, Auntie Grace wishes to play that role effectively even from afar as she expresses concern about the current crop of actors.
“Sometimes I look at them and say hmmmm, there would be a time you too would come and sit by your TV and watch other people also displaying. One day one day.
I sometimes watch them and the way they dress is a problem to me, but they are not my children so what can I say. The only thing I can is to advise them generally as I am doing now,” she remarked.
And sometimes too when they come on the ‘Tele’ they want to speak in a way to brofulise their English and that’s one thing that doesn’t sound good to me. You can’t say because someone sounds like that you should also. Everybody has a way of speaking. Speak in your own way,” she advised.
She also seemed puzzled about the rise in allegations against producers and directors who are offering roles in exchange of sex.
It annoys me when I hear such things. It annoys me. Maybe this time they are doing it but not in my days. For me I don’t think it is advisable for a director or a producer to sleep with you before you get a role. Why force yourself for a role? Why? Wait, your time will come…It's bad. I’m sad to hear such things.”
What the present and future hold
For now, she is keeping her fingers crossed as her new management, works really hard at getting her some movie roles.
As to surviving financially, Grace Nortey is well taken care of by her children and younger siblings.