Leading Nollywood actor and producer Chioma Chukwuka Akpotha in a new interview talked about her Career and revealed about herself.
In 2007 she won the Africa Movie Academy Award for “Best Actress in a leading role”, and the Afro Hollywood award for best actress in a lead role in 2010. In this interview with Yetunde Oladeinde, the energetic woman talks about the things that make her tick, her inspiration and challenges.
Who or what inspired me to go into acting?
As a grown up little child, I always had the flare for the arts. I just wanted to sing in front of people, dramatise and make people happy and laugh. For me, it was an escape as a little child because I was quite a very shy one. I used it as a medium to express my inner self and it gave me joy, inner peace and I knew that it was something that I wanted to stick with. I was still going to school but I wanted to stick with it. Also where I grew up was the hub for home video producers and actors. So, seeing all of them just made me solidify my decision about wanting to be an actor, perform and something of that sort. I hadn’t quite decided at that time as a grown up little girl if it was acting, singing or whatever it took. I just knew that I just had that flair and I prayed for God to direct me on the right path. I am grateful He did and here I am.
Which was your first film?
My first film was The Apple in year 2000 but before then I had done things like dramas, montages for churches. It was produced by Theodore Anyangi and directed by Lancelot Imasuen; the executive producer was Emma Nsikak.
You read banking and finance, what was the experience like?
Growing up in my house, you have to go to school first. If you want to be a bricklayer, you must go to school first. Banking and finance was great because I liked to deal with figures, I loved to count and all of that. But I kept thinking ‘this thing is going to lead me to the Promised Land, let’s just be doing it’. So, I didn’t just connect with it. However, I did it and did it well. It was fun balancing sheets and all of that. It actually dawned on me working in the bank and still acting. But it didn’t come to pass and so just for effect, you see me doing that for film. I enjoyed all my subjects and had issues with the advanced ones and with extra tutorials I found them very, very easy.
What about some memorable moments as an actress?
My first memorable moment was my first major film, The Apple. It was out of this world; I was a greenhorn tossed right in the middle of the ocean and I had to learn on the job. I had no single idea or clue of what I was supposed to do. I didn’t know my camera angles, I didn’t know the point where I was supposed to talk or keep quiet. I didn’t even know that you were supposed to keep taking a particular scene until you got it right. So, those moments I cannot forget and then when I saw my face on the poster of my next film, The handkerchief, that was just it. It was mind blowing and I was like, ‘na my face be dis?’ (Is this my face?). It was all over the street everywhere and in those days, once people saw you they kept asking if you were the one on the poster. All those things were the highlights of my career and then I started to get more jobs.
Then my major breakthrough was when I shot the film called Disguise and people all over the world were excited. They said this girl has come to stay and all of that. Another memorable moment was when I did my first production on Bended Knees, I shot it in 2011 and it was such a nostalgic moment for me because my first director then, Lancelot Imasuen, happened to be my first director as a producer and he said waoh! I had told him on set once that, who knows, you might just direct my first film and it came to pass. Sometimes, the things we say actually happen. Then when I won AMAA’s Best Actor in a leading role in 2007 with my baby bump and all of that, the whole world saw me there. It was awesome. Also being ambassador for many brands; there are so many memorable moments in my life and career.
Did you encounter challenges?
As an actor, the regular taking up of roles that you have not done before. Acting with big shots and having to deal with some people who are not professionals or who are not so dedicated to the work. The challenge in my growing years was just learning on the job; it was too much for me at that time. And having that major break after a period of time, all the scripts kept coming and I was taking large bites and chewing really, really fast. So, that was my major challenge and I know that when people ask female actors, what is the major challenge, they expect to hear that ‘this producer asked me to remove this side of my pant and do this and do that’. It is such a cliché but I am sure that by now people know that those things are here to stay. It is just how you are able to keep your standards and discipline yourself, know what you are here for. Asides that one, you find that each job has its own different challenge. It was just my ability to understand and go with the flow and know that this director is different from this person, different location and all that.
Do you have any person who has influenced you in your career?
I think God. I absolutely believe and know that if it wasn’t for God, I would not be here today. I wouldn’t have gone the farthest that I have gone this far. And also for the influences of one or two strong disciplinarians in the industry like Kate Henshaw, Pat Uzorkwor, Pete Edochie and Ramsey Noah. I just like their work ethics and I followed suit. I picked a few things from them; but above all, it’s God.
What has changed between when you started and now?
A lot of things have changed in terms of the kind of films, the kind of story we tell and the kind of cameras. A lot of people have gone to understudy the art of film making itself, camera angles and so many things. So, it is different now and we tell our stories in such a way that it is tastefully done these days. And you can tell by the kind of films that we are churning into the cinemas and all that. Everything is really, really different from where we were; we are not where we were ten years or fifteen years ago. So, we have come to stay and we have come really far.
Are there changes you would like to see in the sector?
Funding and finances. Film villages, professionalism and I want to see collaborations between Nollywood, Hollywood and Bollywood. I want to see expansion and I want to see actors go to gain more knowledge outside and within; so that we are not stagnated because we feel that we have arrived. I want to see those changes; I want to hear that there is a Nollywood actor that has a star on works of film. So many things like having our own work of films.
Tell us about life as a role model
I wake up every day thinking of my family, having them at the back of my mind. I wake up every day knowing that there are some people looking at me, I must not fail. I must not let my family down, I must not forget where I am coming from and I must not forget the things that I was taught as a child. I must not forget the legacy of the family; I must not forget my mother who fought tooth and nail to make sure we came out right. Also, I must not forget the one that has given me life in its entirety. That is it. So, I must not forget that a lot of lives are tied to me and that there are some decisions or things that I might do today that would cause someone to take either the right decision or a wrong decision. So, that alone is fearful to me.
What is your definition of style? What are the things that you wouldn’t do in the name of fashion?
My definition of style is comfort. If it is not comfortable, I won’t wear. Style for me has to be comfortable and decent. By decent, I mean I am able to express myself without feeling the need that I have to hold back. I want to be able to walk, dance, do everything that I am doing and still feel comfortable; dress appropriately. I believe in that thing people say, ‘dress the way you want to be addressed.’ First impressions matter and all of those. Keep it simple, you would never go wrong. I can’t go naked in the name of fashion. I can’t show things that are meant to be inside, outside. But I can wear ‘suit’ at the beach.
What are the things that you treasure most in life?
Family, friends and life.
How do you relax?
I just lie down after I have done everything; I sleep. Go to the movies if I can but I like to stay indoors and just hibernate. If need be, I can go out with the girls, hangout with them, shout, dance and come back to lie down again.
Who are those you admire as role models?
There are lots of them. I love Kate, Ada and Ufuoma; I love the girls. I love them to bits because they make my life a bit easier.
You are also a professional cook, what does this mean to you?
I am a professional local cook. My siblings tell me that I cook close to my mum. She owned a restaurant and that was basically where she single handedly raised her children from. So, she tossed it over to me. It means a lot to me because aside loving to cook, I love to feed people.
I love to see people eat and say okay it is nice. Sometime, towards the end of this year or first quarter next year, we hope to see something berthing from my cooking.
If you had to advise young people who want to go into acting, what would you tell them?
Be creative, be simple. Dare to be different. Let your work stand for you, don’t do copy cat. Don’t go and steal someone’s work. Let your creativity come through from a place of inner search. Look for it, you will find it. Study, research and if the goal is there, search it out and do it. Be yourself and dare to stand out and be tasteful.