Emeka Enyiocha is one of the very common faces in home movies in Nigeria. Known to be always full of emotion and easily teary eyed, he is a good actor. In this interview with FUNMI ELUGBAJU he spoke about his career, his family and his plans to give back to the society that made him. Excerpts:
How did you get into Nollywood?
I entered into Nollywood in 1994. I started acting in a soap opera in NTA then. From there we are here now finally.
How are you enjoying your profession as an actor?
Beautiful, excellent. It couldn’t have been any better. I couldn’t have enjoyed doing anything else except acting, show business or general entertainment. So, it’s fulfilling career-wise. I love my profession.
What would you describe as your laudable achievement in the profession?
Loving my profession, growing in it and enjoying it even when people look at you as a plague when you tell them you are an actor. Some would look at you as a nobody, a never do well. They look at you as though you dabbled into it when you don’t have hope or anything to do. Well, in the actual sense, this is what those of us who went to school to study ended up doing. The people that were involved in acting then were not making much money. They were actually living in abject poverty and the society now tagged the entertainment industry as that of those who never do well, or people that can never make a living out of it. But thank God we proved them wrong. Now everybody wants to be an actor or an actress. You see fathers and mothers lobbying to get roles for their wards. This was not the case years ago. Thank God, so far so good; everything has been good and its gradually getting better.
What are the challenges you face as an actor?
It is something that when you look at it challenges you, you wouldn’t want to be an actor but you just do it for the love of it. Sometimes you stay on location from morning to night without food or water.
Have you ever regretted being an actor?
If I tell you I have ever regretted being an actor would you believe me? I have no regrets.
Have you ever been intimidated by any of your colleagues in the industry?
No, because actually we all grew. Nollywood wasn’t up to two years after Living in Bondage when we all entered the industry. When the Nollywood thing came out we had already gotten our little trainings from the experiences we gathered doing soap operas in NTA and other stations. Actually there wasn’t really any intimidation on the set of shooting home movies. Yes there was intimidation of non-performance but not intimidation of individuals because when I entered as an actor I wasn’t a good one. I was one of the worst actors but with time I learnt because I love the industry and there wasn’t really anything to do. There wasn’t money to go to school or money to establish anything. Nobody was there for you and you know you can do this without paying any money and from then we went back to school, started training younger ones and then we got married and doing things. So, I thank God its been rewarding; absolutely rewarding.
How would you define a good actor?
A good actor is one that loves what he does.
Who are your friends in the industry?
I have a couple of friends, my colleagues are my friends. I don’t have any enemy; we might have disagreement on set because of pressure of work and all that but that’s as far as it can go. There are more my friends because we need one another to move ourselves and to move Nollywood and to move our families forward. So, it’s a chain reaction. It’s a combination of everybody’s effort. We are working to ensure that we better our lives and fulfil our desires. We are also putting heads together to help lift Nollywood up from the stage that it is in to a better pedestal where we will attract foreign interest and investors. Everything is eventually going to work out for the good of the nation, for the good of Nollywood and for our own good.
Who would you say is your favourite Nigerian actor and actress in Nollywood?
As I said before there are some people that you would see that they have depth in their interpretation, there are some directors that you would see the passion with which they execute their job and get involved with what they are doing. Such people are my role models, not just gallop in gallop out approach. It is the passion behind it first and if most people in the industry had another opportunity, if they are given another opportunity to make money aside acting they would run away. Some people came into Nollywood to make money, some came into Nollywood for their faces to be shown on television to be able to do other things while some came because of the love of profession. And when you see them you will know, when the chips are down you will know. It is just the normal thing in Nigeria where people go to work to make money and not for the passion.
How do you handle love advances from female admirers?
It’s just like you with the beautiful voice and being soft-spoken. Every man wants to know how one would handle this situation. It is very difficult for me because advances from female folks, if you do not handle it very well you might make more enemies than fans and friends and they come on a daily basis. And if you don’t handle them well sometimes it is annoying; but you have to just develop an attitude and a style of handling them whether the ones that come for good or the ones that come for bad and the good ones will stay and the bad ones will fall by the road side. It takes the grace of God, it takes patience and it takes diplomacy because women are very tough and the ones that come would have looked into the mirror and say I am beautiful and I am irresistible. Sometimes you wouldn’t want to let a friend go because you might see somebody and like her, the person might look genuine but the thing is it takes experience. When I hadn’t gotten this big, most times I insult people because for you to run away from a woman that is desperate for you, you must insult her. As we are in this room now, if I want to have you and you don’t want it, nothing I will say will make you have me but you as a woman if you want to have me, the only thing that will stop you is for me to run away from wherever we are because if I am here definitely I must be cajoled, that is the power of a woman. That is, every woman is afraid of every other woman because what she has the other person also has.
Can you share the last experience you had in the movie industry?
I’m into production now, this is my second soap opera I am producing. The first one was The Patriot, the workings of NAFDAC when Dora was there. What happened was, as an actor, I honestly would have been somewhere if not for the fans who appreciated my efforts and my works; they loved my movie till they moved me up to this stage and so I just taught I can’t really give everybody everything. I and my friend and partner, Chidi asked what can we do to give back to the society. So we said if we go back to what NAFDAC is doing and giving to the society, I think people will benefit more and that way we must have touched the lives of people more. So, when we wrote the first script and did our researches, we went to them to show them and they liked it. They said they were going to support us by giving us their office for the production and that’s why a lot of scenes were shot in their office here in Lagos. Dora’s office was Joke Silva’s office in the movie and she gave every director a standing order to talk to us about their experiences. They told us what they have gone through in their own separate ways in their offices and we now compiled it and did the story. It is showing on Galaxy Television now and it was test run on AIT. African Magic also shows it every Monday too. So, the thing is we want to teach people, for example, if something happens to anyone, and you just rush to the pharmacy and buy anything you have to check if its original or if it has NAFDAC number; if it has expired or if even the address of the manufacturer is there so that if anything happens you can trace it. So, I said to myself that if I can be ignorant of this that means millions of people would have been victims of such things and from what we have discovered people die on a daily basis because of this and so we told the actors about it. They were so passionate about it. Joke, Ejike, Bob Manuel, KOK a lot of them. It was studded and we told them about it and they loved it and it was like Nollywood supporting what the agency is doing and all that, and from peoples opinion, they said it is fantastic. They said it is beautiful but we went through hell and we are still going through hell. But the fact that we are touching lives is the most important thing and that is what we have been doing. despite the threats from the counterparts but we are moving ahead and apart from that we have an educational story about law students, that’s why you can see everybody here in black and white and its called school. It’s about a law student that thinks that education is just about how much your father has and a lecturer that makes his point that if you want to be a lawyer you must learn. It’s a beautiful story and that’s exactly what we are doing right now. Just came back from Asaba to shoot a movie because for the past one year because of my project I didn’t have time to shoot other people’s movie but with time now I will be able to do the good movies with good story lines once in a while.
Beyond acting, what does Emeka do?
Beyond acting what I do is to be a good father.
In the light of that can you tell us about your family?
My family is just less than a year old and I have a beautiful daughter and my wife, its just a small family.
How did you meet your wife? Was it love at first sight?
I saw a beautiful dashing young girl, a student that doesn’t play with her education. It was like for the first time I saw a student who every midnight she and her friends would be studying till day break. I saw it and I couldn’t believe it, this was when she was in Law School. That is the beautiful girl that attracted me. We told ourselves then that if we see somebody better we could go ahead and move on and we went on like that until we found out that we saw the best in each other and then we got married and we are blessed with a baby girl.
How is life after marriage?
It is different because you can’t do things on your own again. You can’t just wake up and take a decision by yourself. You must learn how to consult her. It is fun because you have people that are constantly at home. When you are a bachelor once in a while friends will come visiting but as a married man you are sure that someone is constantly at home. There must be the generator on for people at home and in anything you do you put them into consideration. It is not cheap or easy to maintain your family except you don’t want to give your family the good things of life but if you want to, it is very expensive. You must spend a minimum of N2,000 everyday because the baby must not sleep in a cool environment.
What inspires and motivates you?
My inspiration was the fear of failing and going back to the gutters. That is what pushes me to achieve and to hold on, not the craze of making wealth that is abnormal. I know that there are rich men without crime, people that do good business and that are rich. So, I believe that you can actually do good business and be rich and enjoy the money very well. I believe that if you work hard and you are persistent you will make it. It took me ten years to get where I am, being in the industry constantly for twenty four hours. People that I started with ran away and now they are big men doing one business or the other. We are climbing towards them but the thing is you have a name to protect and a country to defend. Yes, the leaders are not encouraging the youth but we are Nigerians. I love my country so much despite all the odds and I’m doing something in my little way to help the country grow. I enjoy life.
Where do you relax?
I relax by watching life matches. I’m a football fan.
If you were told you had an hour to live what positive impact would you want to make?
I will remember the bad things I have done and confess my sins. At that time you should have made the impacts before then because you can’t make any positive impact at that time. I think that the question here is that what have you been doing? I live my life as if tomorrow will not come. The good things I can do everyday to put smiles in the lives of people I do that consistently. As a man you make one or two mistakes but the ability to correct that mistake is what makes you great.
You are often emotional in your movies, you cry a lot, how do you do that?
I think that you have to ask my wife, but when I’m given a script and a camera is in front of me I will cry.
How do you balance your responsibility as a husband, father and actor?
It is necessary to pray to God to give you your own husband and wife because it’s not everyone that can tolerate it. It is not something you can imagine. Going to work in the morning before anyone wakes up and returning late when everyone is asleep, its not too good but because I have my production outfit now I stay home late and leave work early and when my wife was pregnant I made sure I gave her my time and appreciated her by balancing my career and my family. But it’s been good so far.
When you resign from this career what will you retire into?
I will retire into my grave. There are roles for all ages.
Can you say that you are fulfilled?
I’m fulfilled because I’m doing what I love. I’m doing what gives me joy and gladness. I’m fulfilled being an actor and being a film maker.