EMEKA Enyiocha’s face may not appear on every movie jacket or posters that litter the side walls and under bridges of major cities in Nigeria, but it does not make the emerging actor and model less admired in the country’s movie renaissance dubbed Nollywood.
From an innocuous role in ‘Memorial Hospital’, a television soap which ran for so many quarters on national television to a major role in ‘End of the River’ and then to ‘Peace Makers’ which Emeka said represented his major break in the movie, Emeka or ‘Ezebunafo'(a name he earned for living well a character in one of his earlier works ‘End of the River’), has risen to become one of the most recognisable faces of the home video culture. In fact the Abia-born actor and star of offerings like ‘The Outsider’, ‘The Silent Box’, ‘Pastor and the Harlot’, ‘Pretty Woman’ and ‘False Prophets’ among others, sits pretty comfortably on the list of the most sought-after actors and emerging stars. Indeed, to say that the tall and well-built actor has become something of a household name in Nollywood would be stating the obvious.
A native of Umuobiaosu in Afugiri Local Government Area of Abia State who holds a diploma in theatre arts from the Lagos State University, Emeka got into acting by chance.Tunde Adesina,the then NTA head of production, offered him a place in the cast of Memorial Church after ‘a thorough reading exercise’ and from there, the interest “to just face acting and do less of modelling grew, “since the mark on my face was not allowing me to get more jobs”. The interest grew even more than when he had a few runs as a model. “I started off with Memorial Hospital. It was for me an opportunity to learn, since I didn’t train earlier as an actor. The best I knew then was modelling. And I gained much on the programme. I was encouraged by Last Eguaveon who directed and someone like Lancelot Imasuen, the governor who was production assistant on the programme. There was this time that I forced them to take a scene for almost 30 times because I couldn’t imagine myself romancing a lady on set as the script dictated. I was just shaking all over. But the other members of cast were patient with me until I got it right.”
After many episodes of ‘Memorial Hospital’, Emeka felt he was ready for the challenges of acting on home video. Like some of his peers, he too hopped on the home movie runway. But it was difficult for to break through as at the time he joined in. The period between 1999 and 2003 was when producers always insist on engaging recognisable faces for movies. It was common to hear some of them say that they have little or no time to burn on experimenting with a relatively unknown face. Emeka was relatively not a popular screen figure, and which was why it took him almost a decade to get his first major break as an actor.
HIS major break in home video was in the movie ‘End of the River’. It was produced by the Onitsha based upscale marketing and movie production outfit, Amaco Productions. Even at the point of accepting to play the lead role, Emeka said he knew that his effort there would make him emerge an actor to be reckoned with. ‘End of the River’ turned out a hit as soon as it was released. It not only shot Emeka and the promoters into prominence, it cleared the route to stardom for the actor who named the movie ‘End of the River’ and ‘Peace Makers’ as his all-time best movie appearances. “I am choosy when it comes to the kind of movies that I do which is why all the movies have appeared memorable. But in terms of picking my most memorable works, I think ‘End of the River’ and ‘Peace Makers’ rank as the two that gave me a kind of artistic fulfilment. Particularly ‘Peace Makers’ which won an award in 2003. I actually gave my all on set of those movies’.
An actor who spends most of his off acting period in the gym or at home watching movies, Emeka’s other movie credits include ‘Genesis of Love’, ‘I have a dream’, ‘Clash of Destiny’, ‘Lonely Heart’, ‘Beyond Belief’, ‘Living Abroad’, ‘The Seed’, ‘King of Money’, ‘Prisoner of Love’, and ‘Sharon Stone’. He was a delight to watch in Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen’s ‘Family Battle’ which earned the deep actor Kanayo Kanayo a crest at the 2006 edition of the African Movie Academy Award dubbed AMAA 2006.
If there is any challenge being a player in the movie has posed for Emeka, it is the fact that he is constantly ‘afraid not to make mistakes and not to disappoint in any way’. “it is trying to maintain your rating and trying to improve on your last effort. It’s not about getting to the top but it is remaining there because you are operating in an industry where you have people emerging by the day. So I try to be myself and I try to improve with every performance’.
Did the Enyiochas ever object to acting as his profession? Emeka said they didn’t(but) were only bothered about how he was going to make the best use the opportunity. ‘They didn’t object at all. They were more concerned about what I was going to make out of the opportunity. All I recall they said was that I should not get involved in anything that will bring the family name to disrepute. And I don’t think I have done anything terrible since I joined the business. It’s just a pity that daddy didn’t live to see what has become of his boy. He died last year.”
Said to be very rigid in his interpretation of roles with others suggesting that he is only good at playing ‘bad roles’ in movies, Emeka differed when he said that it would be wrong to suggest that he has been boxed into playing specific roles. As far he is concerned he had tried to mix up his roles, noting though that he operates in an environment where an actor has no say in the choice of roles to interprete. “We operate in a sector where everyone wants a quick return on investment and so once they have a story to tell they already know the roles that will suit you. Agreed that for some time I played the bad boy, but that has since changed. I have tried to play other roles. In fact if you followed my works, you would have observed that I have traversed all the roles except playing an old man or a witch. But I have been able to mix my roles. I have played both the good and the bad, that is.”
Emeka whose role models include the immensely popular actor Richard Mofe-Damijo(RMD), the veteran actor ‘Uncle Olu Jacobs’ and his better half Joke says acting has been rewarding and he has no regret hitting the movie runway. “I have no regrets at all. I actually don’t regret whatever action I take because I must have weighed it properly before taking the action. Even when it doesn’t turn out well for me, I don’t regret. I only take it as a mistake that I can learn from later. So I don’t have any regret but let me just say disappointments. There have been disappointments here and there. And as far as I am concerned it’s a normal thing for people to get disappointed. You would not value life if everything works out good for you all the time’.
Though happy with his present status in the industry, there is no woman yet behind Emeka’s success story as a screen actor. “I am still single,” he says but it would not be long before he quits bachelorhood. “I don’t want to remain single for ever. I want to get married, have kids and raise my own family. Every man wants that for himself. Every man wants a woman he can talk to, a woman he can hang out with and all that. I pray God to give me the woman of my dream. But this is not to say that someone like that is not around the corner. I actually don’t like talking about my relationship on paper.”
An actor who loves to stay indoor, the only other activities outside acting that would keep Emeka outdoor may be when he decides to take ‘a walk’ as part of his daily exercise routine or when he has cause to go visiting or hang out with friends. Outside that, Emeka says he spends time watching movies at home and ‘cooking’. He adds:’I like to cook my own meals’.
Being a celebrity has however cost him his privacy. He says of the cost of stardom: “One is no longer free to do the things that he would ordinarily want to do. Everyday you have ‘area boys’ and some lustful fans to contend with. When you try to move on, they would just conclude that you are a snub or that you have an attitude problem. Most times you go to the market or boutique to buy a wear and you discover that they are selling at a different price because they believe that you can afford whatever price they give to you. But there are others who see you and in appreciation they want to do things for you free. Others get on your case and when you turn them down they say you are rude. But I have learnt to cope with all that. I try to be as diplomatic as I can especially when I run into a lustful female fan. There are so many of them out there.”
What informs his dress sense? Emeka says his mood determines what he wears on a particular day. He adds that he would do anything to appear smart at all times. ‘I like taking good care of myself. In this business you have to.”
Emeka’s greatest wish is to become a role model in the mould of Richard Mofe-Damijo and Olu Jacobs. “Richard is my man any day. I like his dress sense. Uncle Olu Jacob is wonderful. He is a great actor. I love Aunty Joke’s diction. She is also a fantastic actress. I also admire Genevieve Nnaji and Eucharia Anunobi Ekwu. They are my all-time greats. You see, my role models are generally people who love the arts and people who are good in what they are doing”.
Emeka also wants to become a force to be reckoned with in the entertainment industry, “to leave an indelible mark as an actor. I want to get on the A- list of world actors and remain there.”