BY NKECHI CHIMA
In the Nigerian movie industry, star actor, Vincent Opurum, is one of the popular personalities. He’s professional, handsome and likeable. However, not many know the struggle he had in life, in his quest for daily bread in the past.
Opurum came to Lagos, but could not get accommodation from his cousins he banked on before leaving Kaduna, where he lived. Through a dint of hard work and also God’s grace, he came across the like of Jim Iyke, who offered him accommodation and a job as personal assistant. He has worked as a cleaner and bar man to make ends meet.
In this interview, Opurum told his story.
Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
My story is simple. I grew up in Kaduna. After attaining adulthood, I relocated to Lagos in search of greener pasture. It was in Lagos I joined the movie industry. Shortly after featuring in the movie entitled, Shameless Romance, where I played alongside Ramsey Noah, as a bar man in Kaduna, I fell in love with acting. Fortunately, I played my first lead role in the movie entitled, Pain of a Teenage Mother in 1991. However, Shameless Romance, which was the first movie I featured in, was released in 2001.
Since I have realised my passion for acting, I had to apply to a movie school in Kaduna, which was founded by Linus Oteh, a renowned movie director. During our training, the school organised an excursion for the students, as part of our training in acting. Among the movie director they introduced to us was Adim Williams, who created an opportunity for me to play an executive ‘wakapass’ role alongside Stephen Okereke, in a flick.
How were you able to succeed in Lagos, in the midst of a legion of notable stars?
I would say that I didn’t allow my popularity in Kaduna State to affect my quest to be at the peak of my career. I am a very zealous individual. I had to humble myself to be established in Nollywood. Though, it wasn’t an easy tax, it was quiet encouraging because I gained recognition in the industry in little or no time. Shortly, after that movie, I played my first lead role in a soap opera entitled Treasures, directed by Chico Ejiro, where I played alongside Caroline Ekalame as George. This was the flick that brought me to limelight. I want to appreciate the producer and director for giving me the opportunity. I am grateful to everyone who has contributed, in one way or another, in my success.
How did you develop passion for acting?
I have loved putting smiles on people’s life. My passion for art and creativity attracted me to the career. I must say that my parents were not supportive of my acting career initially, because they wanted me to be a medical doctor or lawyer, which they saw as reputable professions. After playing Shameless Romance, I realised where my destiny lied; so I had to pursue my career.
Would you say Ramsey Noah is your role model in the industry?
I was studying him, to learn about his acting techniques, after the movie we shot in Kaduna. In fact, my perception changed after watching Gladiator and Titanic, which increased my love for acting. I could humbly say that he is my role model because I love his acting styles.
Could you share the saddest moment of your life?
It was when my father died a few years ago, but I appreciate God for giving me the grace to bury my late father in a celebrated low-key ceremony. I also wish to appreciate my friends and well wishes, who sent condolence messages. I appreciate them for all their love.
Would you share your growing up experiences in Kaduna?
Though, I was born with a silver spoon, my family financial status changed thereafter. I thank God that my parents tried in all their ways to make sure we were educated. I had my junior secondary school at Hawad International School; then my secondary education at Kaduna Capital School. And I applied for a part-time programme in Kaduna Polytechnic, while I was doing business to support my education. I also worked as an agent for some airlines in Kaduna until I got involved in acting.
Most of your fans thought you were a Ghanaian. Where exactly are you from?
Fans have always thought I am a Ghanaian. For instance, in Umuahia, during my meeting with a marketer called Sunshine, he told me that I have resemblance of a Ghanaian. I think that’s why people think I am a Ghanaian. To correct this, I speak Igbo mostly, instead of English, when I am discussing with people from the South East. I always introduce myself and emphasise my surname, Opurum. My Igbo name is Nnamdi.
Which movie would you say gave you recognition?
The movie entitled Helpless Kingdom, directed by Alvans Okoji, actually brought me to limelight. After that movie I observed my acceptance in the industry. Shortly after that movie, I featured in the flick entitled Never Love a Prince, directed by Theodora Anyaji. In fact, I started getting invitations for more roles thereafter.
What extra thing did you do to get to where you are today?
I am a focused person and I don’t relent in serving God, no matter the challenges I face.
Who is your ideal woman?
I want a humble woman, respectful, who listens to me irrespective of my ideals, not someone who nags. I like prayerful women. I adore a woman who is highly supportive of my career. She must be conservative, not an extravagant woman, because there is no way you can survive that way. It doesn’t mean she wouldn’t take care of her needs, as every woman wants to look good, but she has to be wise in spending. You don’t need to spend above your income. Though it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t take care of my responsibilities at home, while I am spending as the head of the home, the woman should be mindful of her spending. It should be that I build the home, while she takes care of it, as a wife. So, she must be knowledgeable and focused.
You are fondly called sexy Vincent. Why?
I try to maintain my physique, because I am also a model. So I take the business of staying fit very serious. I still keep fit by maintaining my modelling look, like keeping flat tummy. I didn’t do much in modelling, because it is time consuming and the system of payment is not encouraging.
In most of the movies you featured you seem to be highly emotional. Is it your way of life?
I am very emotional, though very nice and understanding. In any case, I try not to get too emotional, so that I don’t become a fool, which wouldn’t be to my credit. Naturally, I am a shy person, gentle and calm, but the industry has really helped me to shape that area of my life. I don’t like being noticed easily in public, because I am a private person. I want to differentiate between my acting career and my true self. I maintain my gentility, so that people wouldn’t say am snobbish or proud. So the day you are invite to my house you wouldn’t be surprised to see me in a quiet mood.
How romantic are you?
I am very romantic and daring, though very strict when it comes to women. There are certain things you need to avoid as a responsible man.
You are wearing a new look, with contact lens. Are you rebranding or it is for a particular role you are playing in a movie?
As an entertainer you are expected to make changes regarding styles; don’t allow people get used to your particular style. Though it has to do with choice, I like making changes in my presentation anytime I am acting.
What turns you on in a woman?
I adore a very sincere and simple woman. It doesn’t matter if you are ugly or beautiful, but there is a unique presentation of a true identity instead of living a pretentious life style. I like slim and well packaged lady. So, I always advise ladies to watch their weight and maintain a flat tummy, because keeping fit keeps a woman younger and good-looking.
Have you experienced heartbreak before and how did you overcome it?
I shed tears the day my ex-friend broke my heart because I was deeply in love with her. It came to me as a great shock, though I wouldn’t wish to talk about it in detail. I thank God that I was able to overcome it.
What were those challenges you faced to get to where you are today?
Shelter was my initial challenge, because the people I had in mind to stay with in Lagos didn’t accommodate me, especially my cousins. They didn’t believe I came to do something beneficial to my life; rather they saw it as a waste of time. In fact, they didn’t believe I could come this far in my acting career. I felt disappointed that they were not able to give me shelter for a while, as well as guidance, since I wasn’t familiar with the city. So, I had to go back to the street in search of greener pastures, in addition to my acting career, since I was earning low fees as an upcoming actor. Most of the roles I got then were ‘wakapass,’ which was barely enough to take care of my needs. In fact, I struggled to survive I remember an experience when I worked as a bar man for over two years in Surulere, Lagos. I also worked as a cleaner for an old man in Lagos, whose children lived abroad, to enable me survive. One day she asked me why I was doing cleaning job. I humbly told her that I was doing it to take care of my bills. Indeed, because of my accommodation problem, I had to live with Jim Iyke in his house. I also worked as his personal assistant in his NGO. Though there were sad experiences, I wouldn’t want to talk about them in details because this was one of my stepping-stones to where I am today.
What were those experiences you faced during your stay with Jim Ijke?
As I said earlier, I wouldn’t want to give details because it’s in the past. Discussing it is like opening old wounds. I appreciate a friend called Kelvin, who gave me shoulders to lean on. After explaining my predicament, he felt really bad that my cousins also abandoned me. So, he accepted to accommodate me in his house for over three years. I later got contact to feature in my first soap opera entitled Treasures by Chico Ejiro, where I played lead role as George, alongside Caroline Ekalame. In fact, I started getting recognition in the industry after playing George in Treasures.
Are you saying you were homeless, when you came to Lagos in search of a career?
It was devastating, because the people I thought could help me disappointed me. It wasn’t easy going to auditions without food. Imagine a situation where you don’t know where to sleep after the day’s struggles; it was a terrible experience. Sometimes, you need a private environment to internalise your script, to enable you interpret your role. Instead of this, I was thinking of where to sleep or what to eat. This really affected my career initially. You know acting is emotional; you need a stable mind to be a good actor. It is like someone who goes to school without a shelter; where would you spend time to read to pass your examinations? I am very grateful to God for making ways for me.
Since you have become a star, how do they relate to you?
I am happy with everybody and I don’t bear any grudges against anyone. I have realised that facing challenges is part of life. I would proudly say I have become more responsible in my family, after the death of my father. I am taking care of my mother and sibling, who are based in Kaduna.
What attracts you to script?
Good stories are what attract me to a script and I like working with producers who have human feelings, and above all respect for their actors.
Looking back at your experiences, were you afraid at any time that you would be a failure?
Once in a while, I actually entertained little fears, but my faith in God helped me to move on. In fact, the prayers and counseling I got from my General Overseer Chuks Nwaokeke, who made me the Chief Protocol Officer of his ministry, help a lot. I wasn’t quiet accepted to head that department in the church because they perceive actors as unserious-minded individual, but the pastor felt I could do it. Since he knew my faith in Christ was strong he left me to manage the position. I worked hard and proved to them that the pastor was right.
There is the notion that actors are less spiritual. How would you react to this?
It is normal for people to make assumptions, but I don’t think it is true. I am also an actor and a committed Christian. It is generally believed that we are living in a pretentious society, because we played certain roles to enable people learn from what is happening in our society. Instead of looking at the lessons, viewers consider the actors as immoral people. I totally disagree with the notion that we are less spiritual. There are other professional bodies that do more than what we do on movies in real lives. But because we are the mirror to the world they consider ours very imperative.
Having faced a lot of challenges in life, what has life taught you?
Honestly, it’s simplicity because there is nothing that has happened to you that is new in life. In fact, there is nothing you have that is bigger than heaven; so why would you keep your head high because of worldly things that is all vanity? Reach out to the needy with what God has blessed you. And above all show respect to people, no matter your class or riches.
How do you handle your female admirers?
I don’t snob them because they contributed to my growth in the industry. I try to be polite to them, even when they show admiration to a fault, which I do reciprocate by appreciating them in a friendly way, with no string attached.
What is your advice to young and aspiring actors?
They should b0e hard working and focused in life. You don’t need to depend on a woman to survive, because you wouldn’t gain respect in that relationship. Though it a different story when you are married to your wife, who should support you as a helper, but you need to be the head of the family by catering for the family. No woman will respect a lazy man, no matter the atom of love she feels for him.