Room 027 threw the whole of Nollywood into a frenzy when clips of the film emerged online in 2013 for its explicit scenes of sex and nudity. The culprits in the film, Collins Onwochei, Tony Umez and Chinelo Ememchukwu have since had to answer many questions for their roles in the film. Though the dust seems to have settled but there are echoes of questions still looming. In this chat, Onwochei comes clean with his role in the movie.
By Juliet Ebirim
What have you been up to lately?
I’ve been doing a couple of movies, though in the last ten years, I’ve been doing more of behind-the-scene jobs because I’ve also grown to become a senior artiste in Nigeria. We started Nollywood, I was part of the first three films that was produced in Nollywood and I’ve been on since then, even though I branched off into other things that were still related to entertainment. I’ve produced my own movies and I’m also into events.
You’re getting younger by the day……
(Cuts in) That’s because there is peace at home. There are a lot of intrigues and stress in the industry, that’s why you notice that most celebrity marriages break up. So I try to separate my entertainment life from my family life. That doesn’t mean that I indulge myself in immoral affairs in the industry. When I’m at home, I’m no longer an actor, I’m a husband, I take care of my kids and spend time with them. My children’s welfare matter more to me than hanging out in clubs spending extravagantly. I’m a domestic person.
How many kids do you have?
I have a lovely wife and four beautiful kids; three boys and a girl.
How did your wife react to your role in ‘Room 027’?
Badly, like every woman would. Room 027 was a big experiment for me. A lot of Nigerians have criticized me and understandably so, because we are very protective of our culture and values. Nudity is not part of our culture. It is cheap publicity to sell a movie by doing some sexually explicit scenes. The original idea was to do a story that the whole world can connect with.
I didn’t want to do a movie that has a girl going to the bathroom without her clothes on. It doesn’t make sense. We watch foreign movies and we see how they do these things. We see them making love and nobody frowns at that. If you check statistics, Spartacus was one of the most viewed series that came into Nigeria. Millions of Nigerians viewed Spartacus and nobody complained about the nudity and violence.
I felt I could tell a good story, I didn’t do a pornographic movie or soft porn, I wanted to tell a story with a touch of reality, but it backfired and I won’t do it again. I understand the Nigerian market and besides a lot of people are looking up to me. As a filmmaker and as a creative person, we work within the means of our creativity, but it backfired. It isn’t something I want to do again.
How did it affect your family?
I won’t say it affected it, but my wife did not like it because we are Christians and she felt I didn’t have to do that kind of story. I was even suspended in the department I work in church. I am active in church, that’s not to say I’m a holy man. I genuinely love God even though I have my weaknesses and might sometimes get carried away by the flow in the industry. I belong to the protocol team in church. So if I have a budget for Room 027, I won’t do that kind of story again. But again, life is a learning process. As a filmmaker, I look back and say, ‘Room 027 was a mistake, because it didn’t represent my faith which is key. It’s not all about money and fame, but guess what? The devil is crazy! Do you know that in my almost 20 years of being in this industry, I’ve not gotten the kind of attention that Room 027 gave me? But I won’t repeat it again.
Having been in the industry for a long while, how would you rate Nollywood?
As a matter of fact, we need to applaud Nollywood. Even though people criticize our movies, yet Nollywood has attracted international recognition and has projected the country’s image positively. We are doing great and we can do better.
What aspect of the industry would you like to see changes?
Nollywood needs the support of the government. We don’t have constant power and people expect good movies. You might be shooting a film and the light goes off, it destabilizes everything. The elements that help to make a good film should be in place, you can’t shoot a good film with sound coming from a power generating set in the background. It’s the government’s responsibility to put all these in place. If we have all these and government support, our pictures, technicalities and quality of production will improve. But I think we are doing well at the moment.
Do you have plans to go into politics like some of your contemporaries?
For now, No. You’ll realise that most of the actors that are going into politics have paid their dues and they have attained some level of financial stability from the gains of the industry. I’m going to be honest about my financial achievements. Popular, yes, maybe; but financial gratification, no. I need to be financially gratified. I want my creative input in Nollywood to bring me the kind of endorsements and monetary benefits that come to my peers. I need to have that kind of stability before thinking about politics. I’ve not conquered yet. I need to conquer my territory and be financially stable before talking about improving the whole society. I think that’s what service in politics is about.
What has kept you from achieving this all these years?
The industry dictates, I don’t. If God says it’s time, it is. Even the Bible says, “Every good thing comes from God”. My time will come.