By Benjamin Njuko
Yul Edochie, son of veteran actor, Pete Edochie strikes you as a young man whose career path had been pretty shaped from childhood. His dexterity in the act no doubt shows that he’s indeed a chip off the old block . He has successfully established himself as a factor in Nollywood, carefully reading the footfalls of his father . Yul presents height in the industry that is rooted in dedication and perseverance.
At his Lekki, Crown Estate residence, during the week, Yul takes Showtime Celebrity, on a journey through his world of acting and women. Importantly, he explains why he decided to marry early despite the fact that age and time is still on his side. Excerpt:
When I was talking with you, I noticed that you had the same baritone voice with your father, Pete Edochie. Does it mean that you are living under his shadow?
I don’t think I’m living under his shadow. The voice just showed that I’m truly his son. There’s nothing to argue about that. But living under his shadow, it’s not true. I think everything I have today, I have achieved out of hard work and God blessings. God chooses whom to bless and at what time to bless the person. In the cause of this interview, I will tell you why I said I’m not living under my big father’s shadow . It’s not really about who works hard or who struggles the most.Rather, it’s just God’s blessing that I am who I am today.
Have you had any cause to be on the same movie location with your father?
Yes, but it’s been long a time. The last time I worked with him on set was in 2010/2011. These days, he has lot of commitments which does not allow him to go on location again. When I joined the industry newly, I worked with him on the same set. It was really great working on the set with my dad. I don’t know how to describe it. You are doing something and you have a father who is also doing the same thing. I draw so much inspiration from him when I’m on the same set with him. It’s wonderful.
Why did you decide to take after your father?
When I was growing up, I wanted to be a journalist. It’s one profession I cherish with a passion. But I think I have this movie background. I was named after a Hollywood actor, Yul Brynner who acted in 1956 movie, ‘The King and I.’ Then, my father loved watching Hollywood movies and the actor in question had this kind of my baritone voice. By the time I completed my secondary school and was about to gain admission into the university, I have always loved to watch movies.
And my father was already a big fish in the industry at that time. But because of the kind of person I am, I decided to define my own path in life. That’s why I said earlier that I’m not living under his shadows. Then, my dad wanted me to join the industry and start doing little roles that we call ‘Waka-pass’at a very early stage. But I insisted on going to the university to sharpen my skill.
It was my belief that if I go to the university to study the course, I will be more professional in what I do. That’s why I went to the University of Port-Hacourt to study Theater Arts. I did acting and directing. I started from the scratch, playing minor roles in movies. That’s how I started my journey into the world of acting.
Having come from a family of artistes, does it in any way impact on your social life?
No, it doesn’t. The only thing it takes away from me is the fact that I’m a simple shy and normal guy. I don’t like to be given a preferential treatment because of whom my dad is. I love being myself. And it was my desire to break away from my dad’s shadow and carve a niche for myself in acting.
Even before I got to where I am today in my career, some people would want to know if I am Pete Edochie’s son. My answer had always been “no”. I said it a lot of times and that’s why a lot of people hardly believe that I’m Pete Edochie’s son. It’s because I don’t like to be given preferential treatment. I think the only thing it has done for me is that it makes people to appreciate my worth.
You were still a child when you started watching your dad on the screen. What was the feeling like for you then?
It was great. I think the first time I saw him on screen was when he acted Okonkwo in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart. I was about six to seven years old then. We really appreciated him then because coming from that kind of family, we used to watch a lot of Hollywood films. Our dad would slot in Hollywood films and sit at the back of the chair to watch the movies. After he acted in Things Fall Apart, he did not do much films until the emergence of Nollywood in the 90s.
Also, while on set, does being the son of Pete Edochie affect your relationship with your colleagues?
No, it doesn’t. I thank God for giving me the talent and I’m doing what he destined me to do in life. May be, it does to them. Why I said this, is because when I did my first movie in 1995, I was nobody.
Before I started getting recognition as an actor, it took me up to three to four years. And that was between 2008 and 2009. I don’t think I’m getting any special treatment because I’m the the son of Pete Edochie. I could remember that my elder brother was in the industry before me. He was answering the same surname . But today, he s no longer acting. I don’t think I’m doing well in the industry because I’m Pete Edochie’s son .
Having struggled to carve out a niche for yourself, does it make you a better person?
Of course, it does. I am proud of myself and my achievements. Though I’m not a proud or arrogant person. I try as much as possible to be real. If I narrate my story to you, you won’t believe it. When I came to Lagos, I was squatting with my friend and senior colleague, Nonso Diobi. Then, I used to sleep on the floor, but today, we are neighbors at Crown Estate, Lekki . That’s the irony of life.
Then, he was living in one-room apartment, and I was sleeping in the parlor without minding the consequences. I didn’t mind because I know where I was going to. I wasn’t concerned about the money I was going to make from this business. I just wanted to show the world that I can act and today, I have achieved a few things for myself. That’s my story. I passed through this struggle not because of the name I have. I did it on my own,so, I’m happy with my achievement.
Each time one watches on screen, you are either playing a lover boy role, or a good guy who is always a victim of circumstances. Is it part of your real life you are playing out on screen?
I have stopped playing the lover boy’s role in movies. Reason, anybody can play lover boy. These days I go for challenging roles. Roles that not everybody can play. I started with playing the lover boy role. Normally, when you come into the industry, as a greenhorn, you are given roles like that. It got to a point, where I grew in my career and I realized anybody can play the lover boy role.
So, when I play a role now, it’s like no other person can do it except me. If the script is crazy, that’s when they look for me. I just discovered my strong point and I don’t think I’m special. Everybody is special in his or her own right.
How long have you been married now?
I have been married for eight years.
Were you dating your wife before you got into the industry?
Yes, we got married in 2004. But I started dating her since 1998.
You married her because you didn’t want to take chances?
May be, I started dating her when I got admission to study Theatre Arts at the University of Port Harcourt. While I was on campus, I saw a lot of girls but I was able to go for her. I saw her as my wife and I relayed my intentions to her. Though, I was young then, and it wasn’t about money because I had nothing to offer to her. I asked her if she was ready to embark on the journey of life with me and she replied me in the affirmative.
That was how it happened. I wanted to do it then, because I felt it would help me to be focused, given the kind of industry I was going into. I knew if I had remained a bachelor I would probably had ran into problems finding a life partner. And since I had somebody in mind, and I resolved within myself to get married to her before venturing into the industry.
Despite your status as a married man, some women are still running around you?
I can’t say, I don’t know about the women.
But you can’t deny knowing one Christabel Ekeh who reportedly confessed her undying love for you?
I read about it. I don’t care about such things, they don’t move me. I ignore them a lot. Any time, I come on set, it’s always like that. But I can’t do anything to hurt my wife. I must be honest with you, it’s not really easy to play safe.
It was more difficult for me to overcome the temptations about four years ago. Nowadays, if a lady confesses her love for me, I will simply say ‘thank you’, and that’s all. I’m happy people appreciate me, let them continue to love and appreciate me. But I can’t afford to hurt my wife and my three loving kids.
Have you once been embarrassed by any of these ladies?
Of course, it happens all the time. But it has come to a point where I just told myself I have to live with this situation. I could recall one nasty experience I had some time ago when I was shooting a film in Festac town. I strolled into one of the relaxation spots to watch the premier league.
Upon recognising my face, the manager of the hangout ushered me into the VIP section. While I was there, some girls stormed the place. One of them who recognized me shouted out my name and was all over me. Before I knew what was happening, she took my wallet, my cell phones and threw them into her handbag.
As if that was not enough, she emptied a bottle of red wine I kept on the table, insisting that she was going to spend the whole day with me. I tried to plead with her to give me a breathing space. But she wouldn’t, rather she dared me. For her, she was ready to sleep with me that night. I was mad at her but she wasn’t bothered . I tried to control myself, it was the manager of the place who saved the situation as he recovered all my stuffs she seized from her.
How does your wife absolve all these?
My wife trusts me, she knows that no matter what happens I will always come back home. I have known my wife for 14 years(since 1998). And each new day, she finds out that I am not that kind of person. Yes, I travel a lot because of my work but the moment I guess I’m free, I do not hesitate to return to my family immediately. And once I am with my family I hardly hangout. I love staying with my family and I have been able to prove to my wife that aside my job, I am always there for her.
So, she has built that trust in me. Above all, she is used to the situation. There was a day I was going to somewhere with her. I was about entering my car when some girls accosted me and suddenly were all over me. They took pictures with me, some even gave me pecks while she looked on. After the razzmatazz, we entered the car and drove off. She is okay with it.
You talked about being broke and facing difficulties while learning to climb the ladder. Was your parents not supportive?
Never, maybe it is because of the kind of person. My father was always there for me, he is the best father in the world. I really didn’t depend on his money. I wanted to acquire my own wealth, I wanted to struggle and do things for myself. He was always there to support me in his own little way but I kept telling him how long would you be giving me money.
This is not what I wanted, I desired to go to the university , study Theatre Arts, graduate and be exposed to the world of acting. But unfortunately, I didn’t get the kind of exposure I was looking for through my dad.
I don’t know why, I think he is the kind of father that will leave you to struggle on your own. That’s the kind of dad I have.
He believes that he has done everything for you, he prepared me for the challenges ahead, and I felt its time for me to go out there and survive, never depending on his wealth. Of course, he was always there for me. But my life was never dependent on him doing anything for me. I struggled on my own to survive. Whatever I have today belongs to me.
If you did not marry your wife would you have married from the industry?
Honestly, I don’t think so. People say the girls in the industry are loose. Yes, I have seen the good and the loose ones, but my my problem is not about the women in the industry who are wayward, it’s about being busy all the time.
I don’t think I can afford to marry a wife that when I’m in Ghana today, she will be in London tomorrow. It’s crazy, who takes care of the kids? How do we run the home? So, I don’t think I would have done that. I’m a jealous person. I will like to go out and come back, and my wife will be at home to take care of the children because am always everywhere.
Apart from your dad, who are the people that influenced you in the industry?
People like Nonso Diobi, Ramsey Noah, Jim Iyke, Emeka Ike. Mike Ezuruonye, Charles Inojie, Ejike Asiegbu this are the people I always looked up to, I wanted to be like this people, I kept telling myself, if this people can do this, then I can do it as well. Also, I admired some Hollywood artist Albert Chino, Robert Deniro, these are people I always want to be like.
If you review some of the roles you played in the past, do you have any need to regret featuring in those films?
I don’t keep killing myself about it because it happens to everybody, you must grow. I’m privileged to be among the actors who have grown over the years in the industry. Some people join the industry and they don’t even have the opportunity to grow and they leave for one reason or the other.
So, I watch my past films, I don’t have any need to tell myself I would have done it this way or that way. Then, I didn’t know a little of what I know today. I tell myself, fine I was able to do this at that time if this kind of role comes my way again I would do it better than this.
Are embarking on project?
Yes, currently I’’m doing something with the African Children Talent Discovery foundation. Though the foundation does not belong to me, it;s based in Abuja. I’m one of the ambassadors for the Foundation so also is Jim Iyke, Chika Ike and five others. What we are doing for the foundation is that when we see children in the street with talent, either in singing, dancing or acting. We try to groom them and showcase them to the world. I intend to start my own project later in the year, but for now, that’s the project that I’m doing.
You are still young and free from scandal. How would feel when one hits you?
Scandal? I can’t say how I will feel until one hits me. May be, when the scandal hits me, then I will know how to feel but for now, I try to avoid any thing that bring scandal to me.
How did you meet Nonso Diobi?
Nonso Diobi is my brother from another mother. He used to live in Enugu, before he relocated to Lagos. Though I was born in Lagos, I started my acting career in Enugu. While my family lives in Enugu Nonso’s family too resides the coal city. We met there but he has been in the industry for few years before I came on board.
So, he is like a senior colleague to me, and sees me as his brother. He told me when he relocated to Lagos. And I was ready to come down to Lagos to hustle, he gave me shelter. I was staying in his place then. He is a good friend, that’s how I met him.
At the time you were leaving Enugu for Lagos, what was the advice your father gave you ?
My father didn’t even know when I left for Lagos. He was shooting a movie in Ikorodu, the next day I came to meet him on set and he was shocked when he saw me. He was like asking me, what are you doing here? I told him, I wasn’t doing anything in Enugu, and needed to come down to hustle. I never told him I was Enugu.