Interview Nollywood actor, Aki recently had with the SUN newspaper, see excerpts from the interview below:
Once upon a time you were nobody, did you ever believe that you could be this big?
To start with I be somebody o, at least, I have parents who gave birth to me (laughter). As a little boy like every other kid around me I had dreams. We all had it at the back of our minds that when we grew up we wanted to be this or that. It is only a fool that will dream of being a pick pocket or an armed robber. What I am saying in essence is that when I was much younger, I had the dream that someday I would make it. To God be the glory, I just knew that there was something peculiar about me; my life has been exceptional I must confess. Let me tell you something about my birth. My mum put to bed at exactly 12 am on the dot the day I was born; as soon as it was 12 am I popped out! One peculiar thing about my mum is that she goes to the labour room with her wristwatch and once she gives birth she records the time. And God has so blessed her she delivered like the Hebrew women; she never had complications. I came into the world at exactly 12 am on the dot on the 12 day of the 12 month of the year so that means there is something unique about me (laughter). Growing up as a tot my parents wondered how I would end up because they couldnít even dictate to me. You know, parents have a way of knowing what their kids would be in the future. They would be like this one is going to be a medical doctor and that one is going to be an engineer. In my case, they couldnít tell where I was headed because I seemed to have a knack for everything; thatís the making behind my life and who I am today.
Letís look at your family background. How many were you in the family?
We were many like any other African family. I am the first son and second child. I am not from a polygamous home. I used to have four brothers but I lost one in 2009. I also have a sister; the first child of the family.
Considering your size, did your parents ever believe that you could amount to anything? That you could take the family name across the world?
It was always known that there was something mysterious about me; I have to be honest with you.
How did you get into Nollywood?
That was in my first year at IMT in 1998. Before then I was in the Debating & Dramatic Society. However, before I got into school I had acted in one or two movies so when I got into IMT, I approached those already in the know. I was like guys, I want to be like you; I want to be part of this world. I had watched both foreign and local films and seen people doing extra ordinary things and so I said to myself ĎChinedu, one day it would be your turn to do same.í
Who were you looking up to then?
I used to admire the late Gary Colman. I thought he was a small boy like me. I used to watchDifferent Strokes back then and I was keeping my hair like him. Each time I looked at him I felt I was seeing myself; there was this resemblance. He inspired me a great deal and I took a cue from him. I was like, if Gary Coleman could do this then I could do it. And then I found out that he was a man and I was like wow! Late Gary Coleman was my mentor. Locally Kenneth Okonkwo is my role model; the way he interpreted his role in Living in Bondage was fabulous.
Didnít you experience any discrimination on account of your size?
No, my IQ made up for whatever I was lacking. My first role was that of a seven year-old boy and I delivered and the director and producers were like wow!
How did you meet your friend, Pawpaw, Osita Iheme?
I started acting in 1998. He came into the industry three years later in 2001. I was in school then and we had a job so he had this opportunity to shoot in Enugu. He had just started acting then. We met in the hotel lobby where we were lodged. We talked and I discovered he was a very shy fellow. Before then Amayo Uzor had been telling me that ĎChinedu, just hang on, there is boy I have seen that looks just like you and guess what, he is in the industry and I am working on a script for the both of you.í After our meeting, they called us and gave us scripts; that was the first time I did pure comedy. The movie was entitled Aki Na Ukwa.
Lately unlike in the past, you guys no longer hang out together like you used to. What is happening?
We started doing movies in September 2001 and until 2008 or 2009, we were paired together. I donít think there is anything bad if we do separate jobs now. I was there three years before him and even when we were pairing, we also did our own personal stuff where we were featured separately. Somebody could come and say I want Aki for this job or I want Pawpaw; we were free to do whatever we wanted.
But are you guys still good friends?
Yes of course, we even run an NGO and a company together, Aki & Pawpaw Child Care Foundation and Aki & Pawpaw Entertainment. Even as I am talking to you, we are travelling together soon. We have a show and we just finished a job together. We have shows like five times together every year. However, people should know that we also have our individual dreams.
What is the secret to your success?
God first and I try to be myself. I try to research and learn that which I donít know.
We understand that several times you have been mobbed overseas by fans. Can you share your experience with us?
(Laughter) There was a day in America when Osita and I went to an eatery disguised. I had my hood on and Osita also had his so we were covered up. As we were living we ran into a bunch of American kids. How these kids got to know we were the ones still baffles me! Before we knew it they were screaming Aki and Pawpaw! Aki and Pawpaw! Even deep inside the Caribbean we are mobbed! Even white Americans are excited whenever they see us; it is crazy!
How much were you paid for your first movie?
Very interesting, you wonít believe it. I was paid N500 (laughter). I did not do that movie for the money. I used the N500 to buy a ring boiler. I was not discouraged. The title of the movie was Evil Men Part 1.
Since you came into acting, has there been any moment you felt like quitting?
No, not at all.
What has been your most challenging movie till date?
My most challenging to date was playing the role of a seven year-old boy. I had to go back and change my attitude, my character and my entire being to play a seven year-old; it was very challenging.
Tell us about the craziest things female fans have done to you?
I like them and they like me. Yes, they are my friends. I know they love me and so they will not kill me. At worst, they will kiss me and go. I am not dating any of my female fans.
How do you react when they kiss you?
I react in such a way that they feel happy and I go my way. A lot of times they are like Ďwe love you, could we have your autograph and I sign.í
Where do you sign?
Where ever they make available. I just sign and I go (laughter).
A while ago you got married? How did you meet your wife?
Just the way every other man meets his wife.
Who made the first move?
I did. Does it really matter?
How did you pop the question?
God will not forgive you if you know you love a girl and she loves you and you know you can make a family. So, what stops you from telling her you love her? What stops you from telling her Ďcommon baby, letís do this.í I just told her baby, lets do this and the rest is history.
Three years after, how many kids do you have now?
In Africa we donít count kids (laughter).
You have also gone into movie production; tell us about the business man in you?
I do anything that maximises profit.
How did you feel when you got the MFR?
I loved it! It was just fantastic even though there was no money attached to it, I was overwhelmed.
Chinedu, are you giving back?
In my own little way, yes. Like I told you earlier, we have the Aki & Pawpaw Foundation. There was a time we wanted to do something with one very big organisations and somebody said artistes use their NGOs to scam the public. It was an obvious reference to artistes that use the name foundation or charity to rip people off! Most of the time, we use our funds for everything we do; 99 per cent of our initiatives are self-sponsored. We donít like making noise. When that day comes when we will need help, we will reach out to people.
What has been your happiest moment in Nollywood?
Whenever I wake up and I have a script or a call to come for a shoot and I see my friends and the industry growing every day.
What has been your saddest moment?
When I see the way people are pirating our movies I become very sad because it is very ugly. It is sad that someone somewhere is feeding on your intellectual property and there is very little you can do about it; monkey de work and baboon de chop.
What are your dreams?
To be a great film maker; a renowned actor and director.
You are a product of sheer determination to succeed against the odds, what message do you have for Nigerian youths?
They should make hay while the sun shines. Use what is available and make it desirable. If you donít have money to go to school, go and learn a trade. Today I have my brothers in the east who had minimum education but are married and are millionaires and giving back to society because they invested their time well. You donít say because you are handicapped you canít work. As long as your hands can move, get a computer and start learning how to make money online. Even if you donít have legs and hands, you could still be useful. And if you are fit, look for something positive to do. I believe in the law of karma. Where are all those that did 418 back in the day? Some have lost everything because it must bounce back; that is the law of karma. Do something positive. Look at me, I chose this career because I knew what I had inside of me. If I had gone looking for conventional job, people would have made jest of me and thank God I chose this profession because it is paying off. It pays my bills, gave me a beautiful wife and it has given me an opportunity to dine and wine with presidents. I have travelled all over the world. The baseline is find something and get busy, donít wait for government. In America there is a simple slogan which says Ďdonít think of what America can do for you but what you can do for America.í The question is, what can you do for Nigeria? Donít wait for government to give you a job, give yourself a job and government will ask you for a favour.
How do you relax?
If I donít travel I relax with my wife. We go swimming and I love PS 3 to bits! I have everything that makes me happy in my home. I love travelling a lot. Looking forward to visiting The Great Wall of China; one of the Seven Wonders of The World. I love relaxing in an environment where you see nature staring at you and you are connecting with it.
Now that you are married, are your female fans still coming after you?
Did you call them my fans? They love what I do and they are still coming (laughter).