Nigeria’s Eclectic, Extraordinary and Ecclesiastic Actor
Acting is serious business for the graduate of Applied Bio-Chemistry from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Anambra state. His passion was stirred at a young age. He recalled watching a lot of TV as a young boy which was encouraged by his father
Why do you need other people’s opinion to be legit? You have already been made. You are already an extension; you carry the DNA of the Most High.”
He rolled his sleeves to display a tattoo of his name ‘Echezonachukwu’ on his right arm.
“It means don’t forget God. It is a guiding principle. It is beyond this art work, the acrylic, it is in the power of what I see here whenever I say it. It is in the power behind it, that’s what leads one.”
Acting is serious business for the graduate of Applied Bio-Chemistry from Nnamdi Azikiwe University, Anambra state. His passion was stirred at a young age. He recalled watching a lot of TV as a young boy which was encouraged by his father.
“My dad made me watch a lot of TV. TV is different information to me, bingeing and watching stuffs is different to me. I detest that label couch potato. There are some people who are on that couch, that’s their job to just stay there and tell you about films and TV shows. You can’t throw a blanket on everybody.”
That habit is yet to die. Watching films is part of his lifestyle as an actor. His favourite actors are from Hollywood. They include Hollywood action movie buffs like Tom Hanks and Denzel Washington. He however has a soft spot for ‘The Revenant’ actor, Leonardo DiCaprio.
“When they say a guy has ears for music, DiCaprio has ears for music of life; understanding and conveying a story. There is a lot the script doesn’t say, but you watch some actors and you know this is him and not the script. He understands what it means to get there for the script sake; where the script stops, you complete. Understanding all those things, the timing and its art, it’s a gift.”
He again used a biblical reference to buttress his point: “I believe that when people are making film; cinema that is meant to change a life, even if it is comedy or satire, for as long as it is meant to communicate something, you are that place in Genesis when he said, ‘let there be light’. You see what the Bible said about God seeing that it was good? Do you know that he freaked out too at his creation, but he couldn’t tell anybody? He told himself... and for that he said ‘come guys, let’s make man in our own image.’ For these things, whatever you know how to do; if you are a writer, it is not your power that your brain functions the way it does; that your brain can capture vocabulary and conveys meaning and emotion. It is not your power. You didn’t read it in school. You hone your craft according to what you see. Your brain and my brain are like this laptop,” he said pointing to his laptop on the table.
”For it to be more, it has to connect to a Wi-Fi, a bigger UPS for it to show it has more potential. Whenever you think of something, you have connected to the bigger UPS – God. It is his thoughts and plans for you.”
To further hone his craft, he acquired knowledge from the Strasberg Institute in New York, where he got his professional training in acting. He also attributed much of his success to the African International Film Festival which he said has provided a great platform for local talents to collaborate with experts in other film industries.
Lately, he’s been getting offers to act on international productions, though to him that is not a validation of his prowess. He however believed that Nollywood actors should challenge themselves to align to global best practice in the craft. But more importantly, he believes that Nigerian filmmakers should make films for humanity.
“It just feels like we are making films for aliens because you know what films should make you do? It should make you think, inspire you to change something. Even a comedy should make you flip.”
Like most actors, Okeke plans to work behind the cameras. In fact, it is already happening without his approval. He hinted that one or two productions are on the pipeline and would kick off once the right collaborators come on board.
Apart from acting, the actor once tried his hands on music. He released a single after he left the Big Brother Nigeria house but didn’t faithfully pursue the talents. However, the big piano that occupies a space in his living room suggested that the dream is very much alive. For now, he only plays for ‘special people’. He is also a model and a TV host.
Being in the spotlight has not robbed Okeke of his private life. He still enjoys going to the market and bargaining with the sellers. He loves the privacy of his home. It is his safe haven.
“You see how I live? Somebody will look from the outside and call it lonely; do you know I’m having a ball? It is not lonely. I go where I chose to go. When the invites come to my email, I select where I want to go. I don’t have to be everywhere. If I didn’t show you this,” he said, revealing another tattoo on his left arm, “You won’t know I have another one there. That’s how you should come out. The masquerades, they are performers. You don’t see masquerades every Sunday. You go to the market square and you sit and wait for hours. The masquerade will come and perform for 15 minutes and leave. You will carry the memory of the dust he raised for another market cycle before he comes back again. That’s how you should present yourself to the world, you are a masquerade. You shouldn’t be everywhere all the time.”
With the way Okeke expresses his Christian faith, one wonders if he would ditch the screen for the pulpit one day.
“Not yet. I know I carry a vision. T.D. Jakes puts it this way: ‘I’m too creative I can’t build a house.’ I’m too bubbly to create one thing and say this is the end. You see why God said go and procreate. He is too creative to have made Adam and say this is the end. So, he made an extension through Adam and said, ‘go and continue my work for me,” he said.