On His Pas­sion, Pres­tige and Phi­los­o­phy


His ex­quis­ite, sky blue tai­lor-made suit ac­cen­tu­ates his good looks. With square shoul­ders fit for a male model, his grace, gait and gump­tion are un­mis­tak­able. A smile flick­ers on his face as his lis­som lips move mo­men­tary. His arched eye­brows pro­vide slight shade for his glis­ten­ing eye­balls – sharp in fo­cus and en­thralling in fix­a­tion. His oval face – dark­ened by an iso­lated rash of beard be­neath his chin – glis­tens as he flashes a smile to the ad­mi­ra­tion of his fans. As an ac­tor, Gideon Okeke has played dy­namic roles both on stage and the screen. He is be­lieved to have found fame and for­tune in his M-Net TV drama se­ries, Tin­sel, char­ac­ter. Yet, there is more to Okeke than meets the eye as Vanessa Obioha writes in her en­counter with the hand­some acto

Some ac­tors have mem­o­rable char­ac­ters that cling to them like a sec­ond skin, such that whether they are in char­ac­ter or not the widely held opin­ion of them is re­tained as top-of-the-mind. Take for in­stance Pete Edochie’s char­ac­ter, Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart or Sola Sobowale’s Toyin Tomato in the Su­per Story se­ries ‘Oh Fa­ther! Oh Daugh­ter!’ Nol­ly­wood ac­tor Gideon Okeke suf­fers sim­i­lar fate. Though he was first beamed to the Nige­rian au­di­ence as a con­tes­tant on the first edi­tion of re­al­ity show Big Brother Nige­ria, it was his char­ac­ter in the award­win­ning long run­ning M-Net’s TV drama se­ries Tin­sel that reg­is­tered his name in the minds of many.

Okeke played the role of Philip AdeWil­liams, the spoilt, haughty son of me­dia mogul, Fred Ade-Wil­liams, (played by Vic­tor Olaotan) in the se­ries.

Due to his peer­less in­ter­pre­ta­tion of that char­ac­ter, the pop­u­lar view about Okeke is that he is cocky. His fea­tures in other pro­duc­tions such as Steve Gukas’ award-win­ning movie ‘93 Days’ or in ‘Cross­roads’ which re­cently fetched him an Africa Movie Academy Award (AMAA) have in no way di­min­ished the mem­ory of his Tin­sel char­ac­ter.

This in no way un­der­mines his act­ing skills. As an ac­tor, Okeke has played dy­namic roles both on stage and screen. Whether he is on stage play­ing the late Afrobeat leg­end, Fela Aniku­lapo-Kuti in the mu­si­cal, ‘Fela: Ar­rest the Mu­sic’, or the love in­ter­est of a suc­cess­ful events plan­ner in ‘When Love Hap­pens’, he al­ways throws all in the ring to de­liver a be­liev­able per­for­mance.

In real life how­ever, Okeke shows a hum­ble side of him that is rarely cap­tured on screen. He of­fered this re­porter a ride to his home — which is nes­tled in a serene neigh­bour­hood away from the bub­bling noise of the city — where the in­ter­view was sched­uled. As he drove through the tarred road lead­ing to his abode, he pointed at the trees dot­ting both sides of the road.

“You see this. Can you breathe the air here, it is dense. This is what I en­joy. It is away from the noise in the city. I don’t want all of that. I like it here. This means a lot to me.”

Per­haps, grow­ing up in a place like Aje­gunle where bois­ter­ous en­coun­ters are a daily oc­cur­rence in­flu­enced his de­ci­sion to seek a re­served en­vi­ron­ment.

“Maybe, that’s the brain work­ing by it­self. Per­haps that’s what it un­der­stands. What you grow up see­ing ev­ery­day be­comes what you want to change. Ac­tu­ally you can live any­where and con­trol your busi­ness. You can have a condo in the city but keep your fam­ily away from all that. But it’s all about choices. Take away the traf­fic, I’m com­fort­able here.”

And the er­ratic power sup­ply and cor­rup­tion too which he de­scribed as the two com­mon prob­lems that bound ev­ery Nige­rian. This he said makes it dif­fi­cult to have a def­i­nite class sys­tem in Nige­ria.

“The rich can­not re­ally in­tim­i­date the poor be­cause we all ply the bad roads, ex­pe­ri­ence un­sta­ble power sup­ply and are led by cor­rupt lead­ers. The only dif­fer­ence is the phys­i­cal coins.”

Okeke and his wife paint the pic­ture of a young cou­ple in love. It is ev­i­dent in the way they call each other ‘babe’,

At home, Okeke looked so out of his Philips Ade-Wil­liams char­ac­ter — a role he played for 10 years. He was dressed in black knee-length shorts and or­ange t-shirt which ac­cen­tu­ates his boy­ish physique. His de­meanour some­times is very calm and unas­sum­ing, and at other times, lively and de­ter­mined

share a pri­vate joke and stare at each other with lovey-dovey eyes. They had met through a friend. Since they tied the knots ear­lier this year, Dera has be­come Okeke’s muse. Like her hus­band, she ex­udes a charm­ing and hum­ble dis­po­si­tion.

At home, Okeke looked so out of his Philips Ade-Wil­liams char­ac­ter — a role he played for 10 years. He was dressed in black knee-length shorts and or­ange t-shirt which ac­cen­tu­ates his boy­ish physique. His de­meanour some­times is very calm and unas­sum­ing, and at other times, lively and de­ter­mined.

What is more in­ter­est­ing about Okeke is his un­wa­ver­ing Chris­tian faith. Through­out the in­ter­view, he hardly an­swered a ques­tion with­out mak­ing ref­er­ence to the Supreme One and the Holy Bi­ble. He be­lieves ev­ery op­por­tu­nity is part of a big­ger plan such as his long stay in Tin­sel.

“I’ve done Tin­sel for 10 years – left the show last year. Play­ing that char­ac­ter for that long is all about fac­ing what’s in front of you be­cause it all adds to the big­ger plan. There is no time lost. It’s per­fect. Ev­ery­thing is per­fect un­der the sun, un­der the will of God. When I think about it, when I write it out there, it’s just fol­low­ing its nat­u­ral course.”

How­ever, there are times when Okeke steps into his Philips AdeWil­liams char­ac­ter, par­tic­u­larly when asked if he is as cocky as his on-screen per­son­al­ity.

“Peo­ple say that about me and in a cocky way, I re­spond to them. It is out of logic. In all sense of hu­mil­ity still, I am not try­ing to feign modesty, but have you heard God in­tro­duce him­self? He is I am that I am... go and find out. He has never in­tro­duced him­self as ‘please bear with me, it is I.’ He boldly tells you to go and Google it... I am that I am. And I have been made to un­der­stand that I am joint heirs with his son, I am his kid, and of whom shall I be afraid of? That he who is in­side of me is plen­ti­ful more than whomever you bring forth to my face. If I have that in­for­ma­tion as a child of a king, do you know how I am go­ing to act out­side of my gate? If you saw a prince, do you know how they will talk to him? You can’t ap­proach him any­how be­cause they have many hands that are on the job. We are an ex­ten­sion of his ex­pres­sion. He said: ‘Go in my name.’

Gideon Okeke with the cast and crew of Cross­roads

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