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INTERVIEW: Enugu & Asaba Set The Benchmark For Production In Nollywood Today – Actor, Nkechi Nnaji.

Nkechi Nnaji.

Meeting Nkechi Nnaji changed my impression of her from watching her on television coupled with the way she carries herself, her humility, respect for both self and others, her intelligence which does not show at first till you start engaging her.

Nkechi is a total package of a Nollywood actor, different from those you and I watch on television, no pride, no arrogance, simply herself in totality and yes, she is very observant, truthful and likes good food.

She took some time off her very busy schedule to speak with “Precious Eze’s Blog” on herself, her career and lots more.


I am Nkechi Nnaji. I hail from Enugu State, precisely Nkanu East. I am a Nollywood actress. I am the first child and the only girl of a family of 2. I have just one sibling who is a male. My dad is late but I am privileged to still have my beautiful mum alive and by my side. I have been shaped by my childhood experiences which formed my deep orientation to put family first.

How did your journey into Nollywood begin?

I can't remember the precise date and year but I remember as a kid I loved to act. I started as a kid actor. As a young girl, I observed my neighbor, he was always going out for auditions. Their meeting point was the former Palace Hotel in Enugu. He featured majorly as an extra and he was a big deal and popular back then. I wanted to act, but my mum would not support the idea. I approached him and told him of my intentions to act and he promised that when next he was going for an audition he would take me along. The day came, I followed him by sneaking out and was selected. That was my first movie selection and I made my first N7,000 as a kid actor. I got home and showed my mum, she was amazed that a kid could act and make such money at a tender age. That was how the journey began. It's so funny that at my grown age, some people still send me clips from the movies I did as a kid. It has indeed been an exciting journey and I can only thank God for how far I have come.

How have you been able to maneuver your way in the industry?

Truthfully, it has been filled with ups and downs. I struggled at different stages but I found Charles Inojie. He gave me a soft landing in the industry. As a kid, he loved to feature me in his movies. He will go as far as personally asking my mum for permission. At one point, I couldn't balance school and acting and it began beginning to tell on my studies, so I had to quit. I went back to school full time. From secondary days up on till University, I didn't act. After graduation from the University, I realized that Asaba had become the home to actors. Everything that had to do with movies and acting had its headquarters in Asaba. Those I knew in the industry were not around anymore so it became a challenge as I started building new connections to get me back into the industry. 

How have you benefited from Nollywood as an Industry?

Nollywood is a great platform to rise and show your skills. It has given me an avenue to rise. Acting is not an easy job but Nollywood made it easy and has opened lots of doors for me.

So far, what has been your major challenge in the industry?

My major challenge was the difficulty I had when I got back from the University and realized Nollywood now had its base in Asaba. Everyone I knew in the industry before going back to school full time were unreachable and seemed far away. Not having any contact or knowing how to get back on track is what I'll term a challenge. It didn't last for long, as I was able to find my way back into the industry.

Can you remember the first movie you did as a kid actor and the one you did after you graduated from the University?

The movie I did as a kid was a long time ago. I was very young and can't seem to remember. But after University I remember featuring in ‘Escort Girls’ and ‘Cry of the Innocent’. They were both hit movies. They were my launching pad and I have done several other movies after that.

What was your most successful movie among your featured movies?

I've done a lot of hit movies which were all successful and got people glued to their screens but I will say the most successful was ‘Palace Cook’. It featured Zubby Michael among others. After it’s release, it got people talking and the internet literally shut down because it was full of drama.

You were away for a while, how has it been coming back & hearing all the sexual harassment’s faced by your female counterparts from producers and directors. Can you share any personal experience?

I don't have a personal experience of sexual harassment but I am aware it’s rampant in Nollywood. I know a few female colleagues who have lamented about it. In my opinion, how you portray yourself in this industry goes a long way. If you present yourself too low, and carry yourself without class and dignity then you are bound to encounter the scenario of sexual harassment. When I'm on set with male actors, there is respect on set. I am not trying brag, but I have never created the room for anyone to disrespect me or want to take advantage of me. Some people think I am rude and proud but that is what has helped me stay respected in the industry.

Has your expectations of Nollywood been met since you rejoined?

The industry has a long way to go, as it is very hard to infiltrate with the invention of other streaming platforms like YouTube, Netflix, Prime etc. Back in the days, movies sell for a long time but with these streaming platforms, movies are short lived. A movie may be topping the chart but the moment another is released, the previous one goes out of market. The advantage of these platforms is that, movies tend to reach a wider audience across the world. Whenever I visit malls out of Nigeria especially in London, I always marveled at how people walk up to me and identify me from my movies. I would think they are Nigerians but most of them are from Jamaica and Spain. Their comment is that they watched it on YouTube. That is to show how broad these platforms have helped distribute our movies. With these, as an artist you have to keep evolving as the streaming world evolves.

People think there is something called ‘Asaba Nollywood’. What can you say about this?

<laughs> I have heard people say that a lot. Nollywood began from Enugu before it moved to Asaba. People believe that the brand of Nollywood being showcased by Lagos actors is different from what is obtainable in Asaba. I think when it comes to interpreting roles, Asaba production does it better. I make bold to say that Asaba/Enugu set the benchmark for production. I am not playing down anyone but I think Lagos production is more about phonetics and aesthetics.

Do you think Nollywood will rise above where it is currently?

I envisage it. One thing that can make one excel in life is to create room for improvement and development. The world keeps evolving and so should Nollywood. I believe where we are now is not where we should be in the first place but if we give ourselves time we will do better.

Who are your role models in the industry?

Genevieve Nnaji and Rita Dominic. There is an attractive aura around Rita Dominic that makes you want to associate yourself with her. She exhume class. In the case of Genevieve, I love how she has remained relevant in the industry after all these years. She has also managed to stay scandal free. One thing I love about the older Nollywood models is that they live a ‘noiseless life’ despite their wealth and affluence, they don't shove it over the internet unlike these new generation of actors who believe they have to show off. They believe they need validation from their ‘internet family’. They want to be known and that is why you will see them go extra miles to pay blogs. They act like they are in competition with one another. No offense intended, but how long will they keep living such life.

Which female actor do you wish to share a screen with?

Genevieve Nnaji, though I don't see the possibility of that anytime soon but never say never. 

Who are your favorite Nollywood Producers and Directors?

I am a tremendous fan of Uncle Charles Inojie but he no longer directs. Other than him I don't have any but I respect every producer and director in the industry.

You are the Special Advisor to the National President of the Actors Guild of Nigeria (AGN) on Film Project, South-East, what are your recommendations for the young fellows joining the Guild?

My advice is to stick to the art. Unlearn and relearn your skill in acting. Build up yourself to be relevant. A lot of people see Nollywood as a platform to boost their businesses. It’s funny how skit makers are beginning to call themselves actors without prior acting skills but that is issue for another day and will be addressed by the National President and his Executives. Acting these days is now for the fun of it. The passion and desire is no longer there. I will simply suggest for proper screening and orientation for new actors. It’s also funny when you go through some new actor’s about pages on Social Media, you will see things like actor and director. It should not be. You must have mastered the craft before you can give yourself a title.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?

I hope to be happily settled. I hope to have grown in my field of work and have my work speaking for me globally.

So far, how long would you say you have been in the industry?

I will say more than 15 years. I started as a kid actor and I have been here for a while though there was a break in between. You can call me a veteran <laughs>.

Finally, do you have any political ambitions?

Not directly, but I will support my husband if he chooses to go into politics.

Thank you for this chat. It was fun having these conversations.


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