By Adewale Sanyaolu Despite being a country with the second largest deposit of bitumen in the world, Nigeria, according to Foraminifera, a marketing and research firm, spends about N2 billion yearly on importation of asphalt, a derivative of bitumen. The occurrence of bitumen deposits in Nigeria is twice the amount of existing reserves of crude…
Determined to make a difference, Okechukwu Joseph ventured into the movie industry but after about a decade, the actor believed that he had not made the desired change. and so he travelled to the United States where he enrolled at the New York Film Academy. The result of this is a soon-to-be released movie entitled, Second Chance. In an interview with Christian Agadibe, Joseph talks about his new film, aborted romance with star actress, Genevieve Nnaji and his plans for Nollywood.
How does it feel to come back home after your academic sojourn in America?
I am more than happy to be home. It was strictly an academic sojourn. I got into the movie industry in 1996, shot my first movie in 1997 and 10 years later, I felt it was a good time for some upgrade at the New York Film Academy at Universal Studios; Hollywood was the best choice I ever made. I loved every bit of my experience there. It was life changing.
What project have you been able to accomplish after school and are there any specific benefits of your return to Nollywood?
After I finished from film school I produced a movie in Maryland. The movie is entitled Second Chance. Ever since I have had a few post-production hiccups here and there but thank God, all those are giving way now and Second Chance will soon be released in Nigeria. I am excited to announce that one of the big Hollywood producers/directors with whom I went into partnership some years back is finally here in Nigeria for good. He brought loads of hi-tech equipment and there is now a huge studio set up in Calabar. We intend to extend production services to different parts of the country at a rate never before heard of. The idea is to encourage professional filmmaking without breaking the bank. And we also want to start connecting our Nollywood producers with foreign distribution outlets in America, Europe and beyond.
Did you play a role in the movie?
Of course! I acted in the movie. I was one of the lead characters.
What do you like about the character you played?
The role I played was very sensitive and tasking. It was a challenge I was very happy to take. It had way too many significant transitions and each transition pulled the same amount of energy and required even higher concentration and focus than the previous. It tells you how strong the story was. I conceived the story, took about 18 months to piece it together and finally wrote it in the Netherlands.
Before you left the country, which was the last movie you featured in?
Alice My First Lady! I played Amadi. I married two wives – Alice and Akunne. Alice was the first and for some reasons, I paid a terrible price for my choice of a second wife, Akunne. Alice beat the crap out of my rather fragile Akunne. I think a lot of people like that movie. I do too. Very hilarious! I have featured in over a hundred movies but every time I step out all I hear is ‘Amadi, Alice’s husband’. Or you see some women clapping their hands and cracking up at the sight of me. Ladies laugh me to stupor sometimes because they see me as the weakling of a man who made Alice their perfect symbol of defiant womanhood.
Growing up, were there signs that pointed you in this direction?
Yes. I come from a family of five. I have just a brother and a sister. So, usually, when I was much younger, I would spontaneously just entertain my family and make everybody laugh especially my mother. I could mimic like crazy. Actually, my mom thought I would become a comedian so she fought so hard to distract me from the entertainment industry. You see, she enjoyed my performances but she wanted me to be an engineer because her other son is a medical doctor and the girl is a lawyer. But hey, I am who I am and I have absolutely no regrets.
What is the craziest thing a fan has done to you?
A female fan once brought out her breast in an open place and gave me a marker to sign on it. It was very bizarre. I begged her to let me sign on her chest and she insisted. Trust me I had no choice. I did it! Just made sure my hands were at the upper end of the marker pen.
What is your kind of woman?
Classy, clean and confident.
Has any one of your female colleagues ever solicited sex from you while in the process of shooting?
Truth is a lot of people didn’t know that all that while that I was shooting movies everywhere I was still a virgin! I didn’t know how to explain this to ladies especially. People thought I had other strange feelings. One of my directors even confronted me at some point wanting to know if I was hiding some ailment. It was on the set of this director that two young women attempted to rape me in my hotel room. I will never forget this. It was Singapore Hotel, Ikeja, where we lodged. The movie was Karishika 2. We had returned from a shoot so I left my door open. They came in, stripped themselves halfway and pounced on me. I fought with them for nearly 25 minutes. They gave up when I threatened to stab them. I lied that I had a knife. That was probably the third time that I had had that kind of experience.
Were they your colleagues?
Of course! They were upcoming artistes. They were also part of that movie. Everybody else was fair game, but I was ‘forming superman’ so I could understand their frustration. And they were a crazy bunch. You don’t come across girls like that every day – whether in Nollywood or elsewhere. It was something else.
Why did you find it difficult to mingle like others?
I had no difficulty mingling. What I had issues with was entangling- copulating. And like I said earlier, I wasn’t ready because I was a virgin and I didn’t want to tell anybody. I was always making excuses about why I couldn’t ‘get down.’ In fact this is one of the reasons my very short relationship with Genevieve was such a disaster. This is the first time I am admitting this publicly. Genny and I met and became friends on the set of Mark of the Beast. Of course in her very early days. It was as though we were in some type of experiment. But I learned a lot about her within that short period. Two unforgettable moments- the day she introduced her little brother to me and the day she told me literally everything about herself. She trusted me that much. My mind was racing like crazy and I kept wondering how so little people knew about this young Amazon who was out to play the Esther for her family and did she? She felt like family to me. Unfortunately, we couldn’t go further because of my funny little ‘virgin’ secret. Not that she solicited or asked for anything but of course, my body language was downright repulsive to that effect and it didn’t take anything for any woman with brains to figure it out. She was so full of pragmatic energy and so on-the-go- like woman on a mission. Never ready to play around with stuff she couldn’t put up with. I hope she’s still that way. She has got an incredible story to her glory.
If you have that kind of opportunity with Genevieve again, would you take things to the next level?
I don’t know what you mean by ‘the next level.’ But I would love to play by my rules book at this moment. However, there is not going to be any such opportunity. The young woman has moved on ever so predictably and I’m the happiest for her.
How do you handle those fans coming to you with crazy demands?
If you can’t grant some one’s crazy demands, it simply means that what you have to offer is incompatible with what they’re looking for. So offer what you have. In other words, deploy your self control parachute as politely and diplomatically as you possibly can. You don’t want to get unnecessarily caught up in an ever blazing fan fury. It hurts sometimes.
Aside acting, what else do you do on the side?
I do business. I’m obsessed with new technology. At the moment there is a revolutionary product that I have been promoting in Nigeria. It is known as Atmospheric Water Generator. It is like a regular water dispenser but in reality, as the name implies, it produces water out of thin air. I mean pure, clean, drinking water from humidity! Water produced by this machine is regarded as the purest, cleanest drinking water known to mankind today. It is more than business and I see it as a mission that is why I went into it. You can read more about my business on Fountain Royale Atmospheric Water Generator. Or check it on our website at Aquavolve LLC where you will see machines that are capable of producing as much as 5,000 liters a day from the humidity in the air. Whole neighborhoods can be supplied and boreholes could be a thing of the past with our machines.
Now that you are back in town, what should fans expect from you?
Fans should expect some really good stuff from me. I have done like five movies and one TV series since I returned from the United States. I am currently working on a few others.