Chinedu Ikedieze, aka Aki Actor, Chinedu Ikedieze, tells ‘Nonye Ben-Nwankwo about his career and married life
How do you feel each time ‘MFR’ is added to your name?
I don’t know how to explain it. I feel awesome. It is a special feeling. I feel so special. I am not only a citizen of Nigeria but also a special citizen. I feel like the special one.
But did you ever imagine that your fame would get you national and even global recognition?
When you dream, you have to dream big. When I started as an actor, I was planning that someday, I would get to the peak. If I had started and it didn’t work well, I would have done something else. I read Mass Communication in school. I could have become an independent producer or I would have gone ahead to study Law. There are so many things that would have brightened my day. As a person, you have so many dreams and ideas. At times, you will have a mental picture of who you want to be in the future.
So in that picture you painted back then, was acting in it?
I had actually wanted to be a lawyer when I was growing up. I also wanted to be a doctor but I never wanted to be a journalist. But I was into acting when I was a little boy. I used to act and recite poems in church. I never really planned to become an actor until I started watching America’s sitcom, Different Strokes, I think that was when I developed the interest. In 1992, I watched Living in Bondage and I saw how guys interpreted the roles so well. I said to myself, ‘Waoh! If these guys could do this, maybe I will one day.’ I had so many dreams. I wanted to be everything. At that time, I had the brain.
So how did you start acting?
When I was in secondary school, I was a part of the Dramatic Society and I had fun back then. I was part of the cast that acted The Incorruptible Judge. It wasn’t as if I was working towards becoming a professional actor but when I got into the Institute of Management and Technology, Enugu, I found out that some of my coursemates were part of the people that featured in Ikuku, a film produced and directed by Nkem Owoh. I felt it was my chance.
Was it your choice to attend a polytechnic?
No. I was actually waiting for my University Matriculation Examanation result to come out. I decided to get into IMT instead of staying at home being idle. I had in mind to study Law at the university. We used to have moot court in our secondary school back then. We would bring a student and we would try him. Those things actually intensified my love for the law profession. But then, acting came up. I saw it staring at me.
Did you then join your classmates who were already acting?
Oh yes. I had to. I met one of them, Afam Okereke. He was the one that took me to one of the venues where auditioning was taking place. I was auditioned and I got a role in the movie, Evil Men.
As a ‘waka pass’ (extra)?
No. I was one of the street kids that were taunting a drunk. I had a script. I wasn’t cast a waka pass. That was how my journey into acting started.
But now, are you not overwhelmed by the stardom?
When I started, I never knew that someday, I would want to do some things but because of fame, I would no longer be able to do them. I would want to walk down this street and go and meet friends. I would want to go to a ‘boli’ seller and buy one and eat. But I can’t do that now. It has come to be like that. It is either you take this or leave that. I have chosen this path of life and I have to live with it. If I want to relax, I go to the US and do my skateboarding, play with friends and walk on the streets.
You were always acting child roles until later when producers started giving you roles of a mature man. Did you have to complain before they did that?
I didn’t complain. They knew from day one that I wasn’t a child. But I cannot change myself. When the producers look at me, they would feel I could act the role of a seven or 10-year-old and they would cast me. If I went into that character, at that point, I was a child. Producers continued to cast me as a child because I was able to play the role very well. If I didn’t interpret the role well, people wouldn’t be convinced that I could do it well. But now, I convinced the world to the extent that people don’t even know that I am not a small boy except when I talk about myself. Everybody thinks Mama Gee (Patience Ozokwor) is one wicked woman because she has been able to interpret that role well. But then, I have been able to do other roles very well. The only time I complain is when I am given a bad script. There is no way I will do a film that requires me to hit a woman’s backside.
But it is acting…
No. In Nigeria, it is not normal for a child to just touch a woman’s buttocks. It is not a good thing in my hometown. Even a husband shouldn’t touch his wife’s backside in the public because people will look at it as if you are corrupting the young ones. So if I see such in my script, I tell the producer and director that I will not do such. Even when they tell me that is what people want to see, I still insist I will not be a part of it. I respect the norms and ethics of the society.
But what if the money involved is huge?
No matter how much they pay me, I will not touch a woman’s buttocks in a movie. What if I do it and people criticise me? They wouldn’t care about how much I was paid. What if I take the money and I quit acting tomorrow? I am acting for the public and not for the owner of the movie.
You are over 30 now and for all these years, have you got used to your small stature?
I don’t think about that. I don’t think about my age. If I start thinking about that, what will my mother think of?
But that is not even what I asked you…
(Cuts in) I don’t need to bother myself with negative thoughts. I know what you want to ask but I am not going to dwell on such. I think about what I will benefit from. I don’t think of what will make me feel bad. I think positive. I think of movies I produced and I intend to produce. I think about things that will make an impact.
Your job takes you outside your home often, how does your wife take your long absence from home?
If I go to any place that I will spend more than three weeks, I invite her over no matter the part of the world I find myself.
There is no particular reason. If I miss her and if she misses me, I invite her to come and stay with me. Is she not my wife?
But then, when you got married, it was said that she got married to you because of your money…
How could she have got married to me because of my money? Do you know how long I had known her? I knew her even before we got married. Do you just meet somebody today and get married to her the next day?
Oh, does it mean you were amorously involved with her even before marriage?
Ah! Look at me; don’t I look like a virgin? I am a virgin boy. But really, she didn’t marry me because of money.
You must really love her…
Of course I love her so much with my life, my soul and my body and she loves me too.
What? Ha! Is she not supposed to love me? Am I not her husband? Is it you that she will love if she doesn’t love me?
Most men are usually associated with some vices including wine and women; which one do you indulge in?
Anyone that my wife said I should indulge in, I will do it. If she said I should drink wine, I will drink wine.
Do we see you retiring?
I will retire when my brain is dead. Actors don’t retire. In fact, a dead person can still act. You will be recorded as a dead person and your people will be paid.
What is the most embarrassing thing a female fan has done to you?
A fan doesn’t even need to know your marital status before she gets close to you or starts admiring you. But then, those that know, once they come, they ask me, ‘how is madam?’ I tell them that madam is fine.
Don’t you get tempted?
Tempted to do what? Na wah for you. I have told you that I love my wife.