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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

KOK - From Digging Pit Toilets to Nollywood

click on the picture to enlarge

Tell us a little about your childhood, growing up, parents, brothers and sisters?

I was brought up under the strict guidance of Mr and Mrs Donatus and Isabella Onyekwere, my parents, with catholic tenets and Apostolic reverence for God. I have 2 sisters and an elder brother. Growing up was fun, I used to plait my hair a lot but papa never liked it.

What was the first paying job ever that you had?

”Digging pit toilets with an older relative”.

How much were you paid per month and what were the responsibilities?

I Can’t remember the payment. I was on ground receiving red sand while the older relative dug deep.

What other jobs did you do outside Acting?

I used to travel to Aba from lagos to buy and sow shirts and suits materials which I took around to banks, NTA e.t.c to sell.

What made you go into the Acting Career and when did you start Acting (year)?

I started acting in 1982. I got into acting out of a personal desire to bring smiles to the faces of people, because about 1980, there were not too many T.V sets then, characters on TV were admired greatly, and were seen as role models.

Who was/were your Idols/Models (Actors) in those days?

Matt Dadzie.

What was your first role in Theatre, TV or Movies?

I Can’t recall my first role on TV but on movies was Chief Omego in “Living in Bondage” in 1992.

What was your major break-through role and in what film, series or play?

My major breakthrough was No.7

What were the constraints you had to face and overcome as an up-and-coming Actor (young actor)?

The major constraint as a young actor was the bureaucratic processing of payment forms at the Nigeria Television Authority, one spent over 70% of his artiste fee before getting paid. It was very discouraging because parents still had to cough out transport fares for their wards who are supposed to be earning their wages.

How many films have you been involved with as an Actor to date?

Above 120 films - (1) Blood money, (2) Rituals, (3.) Lost kingdom, (4.) Fire on the Mountain, (5) Billionaires Club, and (6) Entangled, to name a few.

As a DYNAMIC, OUTSTANDING, 'A'-List Actor, how have you managed to adapt to the different range of roles you have played in your career?

Simply by thinking yourself into the role.

What is the most awkward or strangest role you have had to take/play in your career and why?

No roles are strange or awkward, roles pose challenges and I love challenges.

What film have you been most proud to be involved with so far, and why?

“Blood Money”, because it was shot in the thick of the Otokoto Saga in Owerri, and the viewing public applauded its social relevance.

As an 'A'-List Actor yourself, what other 'A'-List Actors or Actresses have worked or collaborated with?

Olu jacobs, Pete Edochie, Liz Benson, Omotola Ekehinde, Genevive Nnaji, Justus Esiri etc.

Did you at anytime want to quit your Acting career for something else or for a reason, and why (if any)?

The industry took a break for 4 months in 2002 to restructure, I felt like quitting the profession when I found out as a representative of the Actors Guild in the CWC that most members we worked with were agents sent to destabilise and derail plans for a better welfare for actors.

What is the motivation for you or what keeps you interested in this career every morning you wake up?

Public Opinion. Just knowing that I bring joy constantly into their lives, especially in this economically difficult times.

How important are our Nigerian roots, morals, values, knowledge and sense of wisdom to you and your works?

They are the only identity we have as Nigerians.

On the stories, scripts, or screen play of your films, and its impact on the Nigerian/African cultural values (home and abroad), how do you manage to harness, keep and pass them across in your films?

I ensure that I only participate in films with social relevance.

As a Producer, Director and filmmaker also, how is this different for you from Acting and what is the additional drive for you?

The additional drive is that I encourage script writers writers by contributing freely to re-working scripts.

What projects are you working on at the moment and with whom?

I am presently working on a project, part of which will be shot in South Africa. It has a working title at the moment, so it’s better kept secret. Where do you see yourself in this career in the next five years?

The future is very bright with a focused army of practitioners travelling in and out of the country to create awareness for our industry. With Governments “sudden interest” and relevant implementable policies, co-producers/production companies will come in from abroad to make movies in conjunction with Nigerian enterprises.

Where do you see the Nigerian movies industry in the next couple of years?

From the above, a better welfare for me translates into a better and professionally managed industry.

When you are not working (Acting, producing, directing or making a film), what do you do or how do you pass the time?

I run a media consultancy outfit, and own a cyber cafй in Lagos. I spend some time with my family (which I take very seriously). My schedule is too tight right now for any other activities.

What kind of music do you listen to and who is your favourite musician?

Classical music, Jazz, Roots Rock Reggae, and Indigenous African music. Fela and Bob Marley.

Is there an International Actor (American, British, Australian, African, etc.) you will want to work with if the opportunity presented itself?

Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, and Al Pacino.

What message do you have for your international fans in America, United kingdom, Europe, Africa and its Diaspora?

Keep the African spirit alive by being good ambassadors, think about home always, and imbibe virtues abroad to be used to extinguish the vices.

For any reason at all, how would you personally want your fans to remember you?

I want to be remembered as that guy who made drama look real.

Dedicated to the memory of Teslim Olamilekan Suleiman (1992 - 2005) [Click Image to read about him]