BY BENJAMIN NJOKU
Popular for the role which he played in the movie, “Games Men Play Reloaded”, and the yet to be released controversial “Black November” movie which he co-produced with Jeta Amata, Enyinna Nwigwe originally did not set out to become an actor.
He delved into acting by accident, and today, he’s one of the hottest rising actors in Nollywood. Often described as the “ladies man’ , Enyinna who hails from Imo State takes Showtime Celebrity through his journey as a runaway model, instructor, actor and producer par excellence.
How did you begin this journey of acting?
I started in 2004. Then I was studying at the University of Calabar. At a time, I was introduced to modelling, I started training models which I was doing as a part time back then as an undergraduate. That was what actually sustained my interest in entertainment. In 2003, I met Jeta Amata, who was working in Calabar then, and we became friends.
When he was filming his movie, “The Wheel of Change”, he invited me to the location and I honoured the invitation. Somehow, he was shooting a particular scene where he needed somebody to compliment the role. That was how he casually asked me to play the role. I would say that my delving into acting was accidental. In fact, it was this singular action that triggered off my interest in acting.
Modelling was your first love. Have you dumped it?
I wouldn’t say I have dumped modelling even though it wasn’t a career path for me. It was something I was doing by the side. At a time, modelling was good. It was something that kept me busy as an undergraduate. Then I was doing runaway modelling within the South South region before I later stormed Lagos. I did a couple of jobs for leading telecommunications companies and airlines. Also, there was a job I did for a bank that lasted for about two years. But since I started acting, I haven’t been doing modelling.
Are you based here in Nigeria?
I’m partly based here and in Los Angeles. I have always based here until a film project called “Black November” which I played the lead actor and co-produced with Jeta Amata took me to Los Angeles.
It was alleged that “Black November” was banned in Nigeria. What’s the true story?
It was a rumour. Although, there were some controversies and threats here and there because of the sensitivity of the subject matter, the film was not banned. But it was a story that had to be told. While we had to delay releasing the film is because, it went through a lot of re-shoot and reconsideration along the line. So, it wasn’t banned.
In fact, we had screenings of the film in the United States for the Library of Congress of which resolution was introduced to the congress by Bobby Rush, a congress man to clean up the oil spill in the Niger Delta based on the effect the film had on them when we screened it there. We also screened the film at the United Nations convention in New York in 2012, of which I got five conventional certificates of recognition from the US government. “Black November” is one film that has helped to put Nollywood on the world map of film nations. The industry is known today in Hollywood because of “Black November.” They were shocked that there were producers and directors from Nigeria who could do a great job like ‘Black November” at that level of production. I would give credit to the investor, Captain Hussein Kumbo who did a good job. He stayed throughout the entire project and really supported it financially.
Is there any hope of premiering the film in Nigeria?
The film hasn’t yet been premiered in Nigeria. We are planning to release the film in the country during the first quarter of next year. Precisely, in April, 2014. But we are going to have a world premiere of the film. It’s going to be premiered the same way big films are premiered all over the world.
How challenging was your role as the lead actor?
The film took me through a journey because it grew beyond where it originally started from. But what would have become the most challenging moment for me was playing a lead character among Hollywood’s highest-paid actors like Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Kim Basinger, an OSCAR award winner, Mickey Rourke, also an OSCAR award nominee, Wyclef who happened to be one of the big actors I have always revered as a child.
His album, “The Refugees”was the very first CD my dad bought when CDs were introduced into the Nigerian market. I have always idolised him, and it was a great opportunity this film presented to me.
And so, having to do that and working with these great actors, I have always known that it was the most challenging moment of my career to hold my own which I eventually did, and came out good.
Why are you called the ‘ladies man?
I don’t know. I hear that all the time online. May
be, the ladies love me. But it’s not from my own end, rather it is what they perceive in their minds. It’s an impression.
Do you mean, you have not been affected by such tag?
I think I’m a bit grounded to be moved by a tag like that. My mum gave me good training.
What’s your impression about Nollywood at the moment?
Nollywood is growing in leaps and bounds. It has had its best times and lowest moments. I will describe the industry as a phoenix that get burnt and rises again from its ashes. So, Nollywood is rising from its ashes now and taking its position sin the world’s stage.
Did you study Theatre Arts in the first place?
I didn’t study Theatre Arts, rather I studied Economics. Acting came naturally to me after I discovered I had the talent. I have watched myself grow in the industry. I would describe myself as a self-trained actor. My director, Jeta Amata did a great job in grooming me as an actor. Apart from that, I do a lot of reading on acting.
If the opportunity presents itself again, would you go back to what you studied in school?
I am not a routine person. So, routine jobs are not for me. The only way I can do that is to apply it in my business because beside acting, I’m also a businessman. I can bring my knowledge as an economist to bear in my business. I am a contractor. I’m into building and construction business. When I’m not on movie locations, I am doing my business.
There was this movie you acted gay called “Games Men Play Reloaded”. Did it in anyway affect your social life?
It doesn’t get to me. Yes, I got a couple of funny hints from the community that I must be one of them. I
don’t have a problem with that. I was just interpreting a role. But it’s only natural that if the gay community finds you attractive, they would come after you. Having said this, I have not been stigmatised whatsoever.
How was it playing the role?
It was tricky, but the thing is that as an actor, you should learn to zone out and compartmentised which is exactly what I did. I took myself out of who I was and became the character I was playing. The moment you are able to figure this out, those things you call challenges do not exist because you are living the character at the moment until you switch back tom yourself.
Were you aware that your were going to play the role of a gay in the film?
Yes, I did. I was given the script, I read it and accepted playing the role.
Have you parent seen the film?
I don’t think they have seen. But my parents support whatever I’m doing. They know that I am a responsible young man and that I was only interpreting a role in a film.
Have you had any embarrassing moments as an actor?
What would have been my most embarrassing moment was the gay role I played in “Games men Play Reloaded.” But I’m not embarrassed by the role because AfricaMagic show the film at least, once every week. It was shot in 2007, and until now, I’m not embarrassed. I’m proud of my job.
When you look into the mirror, what do you see?
I see me. I don’t know how to describe myself. But I can say, I’m an ever evolving person, I’m flexible. I like to be free, and I like people around me to be happy. I like to be at peace with myself.
You present a picture of a heart breaker. Are you one?
Unfortunately, I am not. I speak the truth, that’s one thing I can give to myself. Heart-breakers are those guys that lie to women and in the process hurt them. But I don’t lie. I am myself and I expect that you should accept me for who I am, the same I should accept you for you are.
Are you saying, you are 100 percent honest to you women?
I will stand and say that anytime.
Being a ladies man, how do you handle advances from the opposite sex?
I get passes from women even when I’m on movie location and off location. But naturally, I know how to handle them. I’m a human behaviour person, I observe and understand human behaviour. It helps me to manage situations like that very well. But I’m always nice and friendly to women. There are several ways you can be friendly and people would understand that you can be friends and at the same time be decent without having all the complications.
Can you deny that you have not hurt any woman in your life?
Well, if I have hurt anyone, it may not be as a result of betrayal, or my being irrational and mean to that person. It’s just a case of misunderstandings that is peculiar to human nature.
Apart from studying Economics and going into modelling, did it occur to you that you would end up as an actor someday?
I used to be a shy kid, I grew up being a shy kid. My very first attempt at acting was so bad. Then I was about five years, and there was this kiddies programme on the television. My teachers were going from class to class selecting kids that would present a play on the television. In my class, I was the first kid that was selected to rehearse a few lines and before I could say one or two words, I was sent back to my sit. I was so nervous and that attempt discouraged me as a child until my meeting with Jeta Amata which opened my eyes further to film coupled with the friendship we had, and his passion for his career rubbed off on me. After which it opened up my mind causing me to realise my great capabilities and things I could do with film.
If have the opportunity, what would change about your life?
I think I love my life the way it is. There weren’t things I think is different really in my life.
What’s your dream in Nollywood?
My dream is to carve out a unique brand for myself in the industry. I’m not necessarily interested in doing a thousand and one films in a year. I’m about doing what I love to do with any script that excite. If I don’t find an exciting script for a whole year, I will be doing my business by the side.