Popular Nollywood actor, Chiwetalu Agu, often acts the role of a wicked man in movies. And his depictions are so real that many fans believe that is his real character. In this chat with Vanguard’s Showtime Celebrity, he explains that the negative reaction of fans towards his wicked roles is what actually led him into acting comic roles. Excerpts…
You seem to have an affinity for comedies; why is that?
I wouldn’t call it affinity. Years ago, I found out that most of the scripts that were brought to me didn’t have comic relief; I was always given roles of a wicked man and I got to understand that most of my fans were not pleased with it. Some of them felt it was something real, and the consequence was that whenever I stepped out in public, I was caught in embarrassing situations. I then decided to be infusing comic relief even when I’m playing wicked characters because I’m a veteran screen writer. In the early 80s, we were operating in NTA Enugu, which was formerly Anambra Television Channel 50, so the talent is there, and I combined it with the wicked roles they were giving me. The result is that when you are watching me play a wicked role, you will still have cause to laugh, and ease your tension. In fact, I have achieved a lot by doing that.
Can you share instances when fans reacted to you with the belief that you’re a wicked man?
They have done daring things. Some of their actions look like attacks, but with my experience as an entertainer, I will say I saw all that coming, so I was able to manage all of them very well. But one day, while I was on Onitsha ‘Head Bridge’ on my way to Asaba, there was this traffic snarl that made us come out of the car. One fan came to hail me and slap me on the shoulder in the course of appraising my unique style of acting. Some other persons cautioned him, and he fired back by saying, ‘Don’t you know this man is my all-in-all? He makes me happy; whenever I’m not happy, I just slot in his movie, and I become happy.’ That was an embarrassing incident, but I saw it coming because that was the period I was playing evil diabolical roles. However, I also touch lives, because sometimes when we shoot movies, it’s like we’re telling some people’s life story. You know, talking about what happens in various families where wicked uncles deal with their nephews and things like that. But like I said earlier, I thank God that I have found a way of getting people to laugh at the same time they watch me play wicked roles.
Is there any role you would love to play that you’ve not had the opportunity to?
I am planning my own production outfit, and the name of my company is Chukwuwetalu Films. By the grace of God, when we take off, I’m going to be playing roles such as a true man of God, a romantic figure, and other characters that people haven’t really seen me portray. My fan clubs all over the world will then have the opportunity to see me doing well in those areas.
Some people say that Nigerian actors are not properly trained; what do you have to say about that?
We can’t do without film schools. There should be regular workshops where actors will be trained and retrained because all we have been doing mostly came from no background. But I will still commend our people because without a solid background, they have been able to prove their mettle, and I know that everything is going to improve in terms of acting when these schools start working and people go there on regular basis to get trained. It will help the industry grow better.
Recently, a picture of you grabbing the boobs of an actress, Anita Joseph, on a movie set went viral; what really happened?
They are my daughters. It was a story, and we were playing our roles. Maybe you didn’t have time to watch that movie to understand what was going on. The main character in that movie was Ini Edo who was rascally, and more of a tom-boy. If she fought with my daughters, she would defeat them, so I did everything to prepare strong grounds for them to overpower her, but it wasn’t possible. So I said since that failed, let’s look for another way to prepare them to live their lives, so that any suitor who sees them will fall in love and marry them. That way, they will be useful since they failed in fighting a common enemy. The scene that went viral was where I was dressing them up for a burial ceremony that was coming up where I expected men to see them, and to find them attractive enough to take as wives. You know women’s bust plays a very big role in attracting any man who comes as a suitor, but people who wanted sensation made the picture go viral to sell their media. If I tell you now that I help some children in the motherless baby’s home, it may not be as sensational as when they say that I raped a minor.
But how does your wife react to scenes like that?
If I have up to one million fans, my wife will be number one. The greatest joy she derives is watching me act; no matter how negative the role is, because she is the only person that knows me better than anyone else since we live together. She knows how gentle and wonderful I am. She also knows how philanthropic I am because I always love to help humanity. So when she sees me in those kinds of scenes, she knows I’m just acting. Each time I churn out a catch-phrase, byline or slogan, she laughs so hard that even the person who is one mile away will hear the sound. She doesn’t find anything I do in films embarrassing at all; the reverse is the case.
You mean she even tells you to do it better if she feels it’s not good enough?
Yes, she chips in her own advice on how to make my acting more comical. She knows I’m a very strong comic character; comedy is in my nature, and that is the first thing that makes her happy that I’m her husband. There are some husbands that always have hard countenances, and their wives fear them, but I’m not like that. As far as I’m concerned, she is my biggest fan.
Is any of your children taking after you?
My second son is comical in nature. At times, he goes out of his way to wear women’s dress to make caricature out of some ideas. Then my first son; each time I return from anywhere, he greets me with the slogan of my last movie he watched. One of my daughters is a fashion designer, and whenever she dresses herself up, she looks more attractive and fashionable than any other girl of her age. The creative nature runs in the family and I’m sure that when they all come out of school, they are going to fit into my company because it’s going to be a conglomerate by God’s grace, producing many titles, including comedy, tragedy, and many others. I’m also going to be involved in distributing directly to houses and offices.
So you encourage them to take it serious?
Why not? Their school fees come from what I’m doing, their feeding, and everything about their welfare comes from this. They have shown the flair already; all I have to do is encourage them.
How do you intend to surmount piracy with your company?
I believe that the biggest problem in the industry is piracy. About five years ago, I went to NIPOST in course of carrying out a survey on how to make marketing work and beat piracy. I bought a book called post codes from NIPOST, and it contains all the street codes and numbers in Nigeria. After that, I went to the National Population Commission (NPC), Abuja, to get two of their books which contained records ending 2006. When I start my company, my subscribers, who will be up to 50million, will be paying into a designated account. Whenever anybody pays, the official vehicles of my company, will deliver the consignment either to the person’s house or office wherever they are in the country. The movies will not be sold on the open market, so if you see it in the open market, everybody will know it’s a pirated copy.