Yul Edochie, son of Nollywood star actor, Pete Edochie who joined the movie industry after his training in Theatre Arts in University of Port Harcourt, is fast gaining some grounds in the sector. The actor, also a movie director tells REPORTER Ifeoma Meze his success story in the industry and the burden of his father's image. Excerpts:
Was your joining Nollywood as an actor more like following your father's footsteps?
I joined Nollywood to become a professional in the course I studied in school, Theatre Arts and not necessarily because my father was already there. I graduated in 2003, did my youth service in 2004 and joined Nollywood in 2005.
How has your career in acting been?
It's been wonderful. It's been great. I did not really expect to be where I am today this soon, I must say. I started with acting and at a time, I branched into directing then somewhere along the line, I don't know how God brought me back into acting and I started featuring in a lot of movies.
On the directing part, what movies did you handle?
I did three movies then. The first one was The Laptop, while the second movie's title always skips my mind because the title was changed severally. The third on is still in the studio.
Would you say you are really getting it right acting?
Honestly I cannot say. For me I just do what I am supposed to do and what I know that works with the career that I am into. I feel I am blessed to do what I am doing. I have a lot of people that appreciate what I do. I can't tell if I am doing it well or not. I feel it is not for me to rate myself. I judge from what the people say and they say I am doing it well, so I go with them but I don't just stop where I am. I try to improve. By improving I mean upgrading, gaining more knowledge in the field so I would be better than the last job. In life you are supposed to be progressing, stepping higher and not remaining stagnant.
Many people deviate from what they studied in school, but you didn't. Did your dad being in the industry have any influence on your career?
Yes, he influenced me, but not that he helped me get there. I always say that he didn't really do anything for me in the career. I got where I am today because God loves me and he gave me the talent to be there. It was just that I always saw him as that big figure and wanted to be like him or better. He is a role model to me in acting. I always wanted to be like him, but I started from the scratch just like everyone else in the industry. I started with auditions. I went through the lowest role in movie that people popularly called 'Waka Pass'. I did minor roles, I did two scenes, three scenes and from there, I began to grow and learn how to do it. So it is not like I just woke up one day and he put me there without any work.
But you know he could influence your moving to a higher level fast enough, how come you did not want what everybody else who had a godfather would do?
I just decided to start from the scratch, because like that you learn more and not just be a product of influence without understanding what you are into. You become stronger when you struggle it out on your own. Right now I know I am stronger, I know acting, directing and a whole lot of things about filmmaking. I had waited for my dad to put me through, I would not have learnt. When you rush into things, you don't learn. It pays me better to have started from the scratch.
So invariably you are saying that it is not everything that you learn from the classroom?
Of course! The thing about acting is a talent thing. If it's not in you, it's not in you. It's just like football, nobody teaches you how to play football, it's inborn. The only thing a coach can do is give guidelines. He either makes you a winger, a striker or a midfielder, depending on the kind of talent you have. That is how it is with acting; studying Theatre Arts just gives you guidelines, you learn some principles. That is what I learnt from school, but being in the field is a different ball game. It is like the exhibition field and that is where I learnt everything. I learnt from people like Jim Iyke, Ramsey Noah, and Mike Ezuruonye. These are people I was also looking up to.
Do people link your success to your dad also being in the industry?
Yes they do. It happens all the time. That is what most people say. 'Oh his father's influence helped him,' I hear that all the time.
Does it bother you?
Not that I have a problem with that. Of course, I am not going to fight them, but when I have the opportunity to talk to the press, I always say that he did not do anything for me. I am trying to let young people know that you can make it on your own. It is not about having a big name or having a small name, but believing in yourself. If you want to do something, don't let anybody run you down, do it, you are going to make it. My father did not help me in acting in anywhere. He was just there like a big figure for me to look up to.
What are the qualities you admire in your father since he is your number one role model?
One thing I really love about him is his presence. He has this presence, he has carriage, and he has the charisma. That is the first thing you are taught in school, to always have presence in a scene. Always try to be in control, Even when you don't know what you are doing be calm. That is what I learnt from him.
Have you encountered any challenge in the career so far?
Every role is a challenge, because each comes with its own unique task. Some are more challenging than the others. Basically I meet challenges everyday in the kind of roles I play. because I try to do things better than the previous jobs that I had done.
Have you had any challenging role that was very tasking?
Yes. In the movie My Loving Heart that I did with Stella Damascus, I acted the role of a very rich guy that had a heart problem and was about to die if he did not have a heart transplant. Along the line, he met a lady that donated the late husband's heart to save him. After she gave the heart, there was this attraction between them. Somehow the heart started drawing them together as if the late husband's heart was trying to find the lady. It was directed by TChidi Chikere. It was very challenging for me.
What was the tasking thing about the role, was it you trying to pretend and having features of someone that was sick?
I had to be deep. The role was deeper than just coming on set to deliver lines. I just came from a set in Jos where I played a role of an unserious guy that played around with girls. I came out from doing a lighter job to a very serious and deep role and it was not easy to get the picture needed. The director told me that I had to go deep to feel what it was like for two hearts to feel each other. There was this part in the movie that I was coming to see the lady after the surgery and immediately I got to her gate without seeing her, my heart started beating very fast signalling that she was close by. I could feel her presence even without seeing her. It was not the same with a boy going after girls' kind of roles. It was very touching and deep. That role was tasking and same with other roles in movies that are yet to hit the market.
As a director, do you think there are things that need to be corrected since many say that Nollywood is not at the level it is supposed to be yet?
Well there is, though I have not directed for a while now, I only act. Sometimes you look at the storylines. Some of the stories are not well told. You see a few flaws like technical problems. Sometimes the sound may not be so good, sometimes the music is louder than the voice. Some scenes look rushed. I think they should take their time to do movies. I understand that everybody wants money and they want it fast, but if they take their time, we would have better movies. I remember directing a movie and the producer at a point started rushing me that we were wasting a lot of time. At a scene where I required a gun to make it look real because the producer was in a hurry and could not get one said I should use a knife. And it destroyed the storyline and the concept you had already created. Sometimes I insist that I must do things the way a professional director should, at the end of the day, I could not get it and I ended up doing things their way. A lot of them don't approach these things as professionals. That is part of the problems we are having in the movie making.
To those people that say Nigerian movies are trash, I will tell them to try to see our movies and make suggestions to the directors, because some of the people that say these do not even see our movies. If they keep condemning them, how do we get there? America that we all are looking up to started somewhere and they do not condemn their movies, people stood by them and they progressed.
Do you think we are going to get there?
Yes we are definitely going to get there. We started shooting movies in the 90's. Hollywood started since God knows when and we do movies here and we get complements from abroad. So I will say we are moving fast. I get calls from America to say the movie I did was good.
Speaking about calls from America, are you looking at going into Hollywood or international?
No, of course everybody wants to go international but going international for me is not going into Hollywood. I can go international without going into Hollywood. I am not looking at Hollywood because it is already an established industry. Nollywood has miles to go and there are a lot of opportunities. I am a Nigerian, I should be focusing on making Nollywood looks like Hollywood not getting out of Nollywood for Hollywood. There are so many opportunities to tap into in Nollywood.
About the fame that comes with what you do, do you have any problem with the recognition on the street?
If I say I have a problem with it would look like I am not grateful to God that made me popular, but it could be crazy sometimes because a lot of people out there do not know that we are human beings like them and that we need our privacy. I am grateful to God for bringing me this far, but I appeal to fans to also understand that we are human beings that deserve some privacy like everyone else.
Aside acting do you have any other hobby?
I love music and I rap. I write songs, but because I am more into acting, I have not had time to do something with them. I love TV, presenting shows. I am going to go into all that later. Right now, I am tied.