The best way, therefore, to enjoy stardom is to surrender your life to God – Kenneth Okonkwo

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Kenneth Okonkwo, or rather Barrister Kenneth Okonkwo is probably one of the most popular faces in Africa. He played the leading role in the movie heralded by many as the film that kick started Nollywood. That film is Living in Bondage, where he played Andy, the handsome husband of Merit. He has since appeared in over 150 films. Kenneth is currently the highest earning actor in Nollywood, and that makes him the most sought after too. The man who rarely speaks the press took out time from his extremely busy schedule to sit with Nollywood Angels for an extensive interview. Read on.

For those few who may not know you, please kindly introduce yourself.

My name is Barr Kenneth Okonkwo. I was born on the 6th of Nov., 1968 to the family of Chief Ozioko Francis Okonkwo and Chief (Mrs.) Beatrice Okonkwo from Nsukka, Enugu State, Nigeria. I’m an actor and a lawyer.

Could you give us a brief run down on your history in the field of entertainment? kenneth_okonkwo

I had a flair for acting from childhood. This prompted my joining the drama clubs in primary and secondary schools. During my NYSC, in our orientation camp, I was the actor that opened the acting stage with a song – “old pirates” by Bob Marley. I also acted in several other stage dramas during the camping period. After my Youth service, I went for audition in Zeb Ejiros Production in Lagos, after which, owing to my performance, they created a role, Capt. John Mark, for me in their Soap Opera, Ripples, to act with their best stars then. From there I was invited to act in Living in Bondage, the first movie that started Nollywood. The rest they say is history.

Which movies have you featured in and how many are they?

About 150 movies which include Living in Bondage, Taboo, Betrayal, Abused, World Apart, To Love a Thief, Culprits, Price of Hatred, Oganigwe, Izaga, King of Kings etc., and more recently, Dumebi-The dirty girl, Tears of Madness, Weeping Soul, Arrangee Mama, and many more.

Have you ever forgotten your lines during filming?

Yes. From time to time every artiste forgets his or her lines. It is natural. It shows you are not God but man. Again if you lose concentration, you may forget your lines. If the actor you are acting with misses his or her lines, it may affect you and many other reasons. The most important thing is when you miss your lines, you concentrate, get it back and continue.

What is something that you know now that you wish you knew when you first started out as an actor?

That when you become popular, you have fans who, unknowing to you, regard you as their role model and you must put them into account in how you live your life. This means you can no longer be yourself. You do not have a private life anymore. People want to know what you eat, drink, who you see, talk to etc. What other people do and get away with, you will do and will not get away with it.

Have you rejected roles before? If yes, which and why?

Yes. I am very selective as to the scripts I do. Because God used me to start Nollywood as an actor in the movie Living in Bondage. I always feel that I have to keep that standard to make people maintain their interest and love for Nollywood. This encourages me to choose only the best scripts that will add value to me as an actor and to the industry in general. I do not want to mention the ones I rejected because they were rejected in the first place because they will not add any value. So they will not add any value to this interview.

What are you working on now?

Movies, wonderful movies. I may not be able to tell you their titles because movie titles these days are given to movies when they are finished.

What‘s your secret for staying on top in Nollywood for so long?

Firstly, the grace of God. A lot of success in entertainment comes from the quality of being likeable. Likeability comes from favour from God which is a gift from God. One has to pray hard for this gift. Secondly, one has to work hard. Faith without work is dead being alone. Acting is both physically and intellectually stressful. You need to have a good grasp of your lines by reading your scripts very well and be physically fit to play lead roles satisfactorily and this requires hard work. Thirdly, you need humility to be able to work very well with everybody. Movie by nature carries a lot of crowd. If you are not humble, you cannot work well with others and you need the good chemistry with others to come out good as an actor. Fourthly, one needs to be patient especially when one is a beginner. As a new actor, you must realize that building a name or making money through acting takes a while and you need patience and consistency to make it. These are some of the attributes that help me remain successful in Nollywood till date

On a scale of 1 to 10, where would you rate Nollywood and why?

I will rate Nollywood 4. Reason being that at our young age, we are able to become the second in the world in quantity but in quality we still need to step up our games. It is to our credit that we have dislodged Nigerians’ appetite for foreign movies and have stimulated Nigerians’ interest in our local movies through which we portray ourselves positively to the world and letting them know who we are. Some good marks for us.

You’re also a Lawyer. What challenges do you face practicing two demanding professions?

I am not practicing two professions at the same time. Acting started for me as a hobby and has remained so since then. I was already working when I did Living in Bondage and I was already a known actor when I went back to study law. When we started Nollywood, it was still too tender for any very serious minded person to take it as a profession. But now it has grown to a level that younger ones can adopt it as a profession.

Which three actors in Nollywood would you want to work with?

I might not be able to make that choice. Reason being that as the first actor, I was there before most of them so I see them as my younger brothers and sisters who love what we started and wish to be part of it. I love them equally and give them equal opportunity to excel with me. I teach them all I know on set and pray for all of them. They reciprocate my gesture by being respectful and caring to me. I work well with all of them. The ones that do not have the natural talent to act and cannot improve I ask that they be dropped for the benefit of the movie.

What’s your aspiration going forward?

My aspiration is to partake in the making of the best movies in Nollywood. Groom as many younger ones as I can. And now that I’m a Lawyer, defend Nollywood as much as I can, both legally and otherwise. Use some of my earnings for humanitarian purposes.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of being an actor?

The main advantage is that it makes you famous, known and recognizable wherever you go. People like to associate with you. All doors open for you. But this advantage can only be possible if you are God fearing with integrity and good character. The disadvantage is that you have no privacy anymore. With fame comes a lot of temptation. If you are not God fearing, you are bound to make a lot of mistakes and the mistakes will be highly publicized that if care is not taken this will rubbish whatever goodwill you have acquired through fame. The best way, therefore, to enjoy stardom is to surrender your life to God, live a holy life in order to avoid unnecessary scandals.

What advice would you give to up and coming Actors?

First, they must trust in God and pray to Him to succeed. The best anybody can do for you is give you a role, but nobody can act for you, nobody can give you favor. These gifts come from God. Learn from those you admire before you. Ask them how they succeeded and try to replicate their success. Avoid their mistakes. Be hardworking, humble, patient and tolerant.

So many people are asking if you are married. Are you married?

Yes am married.

How long have you been married now?

About 6yrs now


CREDIT: Vnollynaija

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