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

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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.

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