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