By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor
You may recognise him from his role as Ohakanu on the award-winning Africa Magic series Tinsel, but Stan Nze is in a different spotlight today. The 32-year-old has been acting professionally since 2009, but had his epic moment in Nollywood with Tinsel.
Stan has taken on various roles from the bad guy to the emotional wreck. Today, he is one of the most sought-after actors in the Nigerian film industry. In this interview, he speaks on his acting background, Nollywood setbacks, the industry rising amidst the pandemic and his experience as the daring Dotun in Inkblot Productions’ Charge and Bail.
How did you end up falling in love with acting and why?
Growing up I always watched a lot of Nigerian films and actors like Genevieve, RMD, Ramsey Noah, and Mike Ezuruonye among others.
I just loved how they delivered the characters. Sometimes, I would imitate and try to mimic some of the characters they played. I didn’t think it was something I would want to do professionally, but I knew it was something I enjoyed doing in front of my mirror or at home.
It wasn’t until I finished secondary school that I knew that I wanted to do this more. So, I started writing. There was a programme on TV called Arise Africa where they advertised for people that wanted to act or sing. I didn’t have money for acting.
I think it was like N5,000. What I had was N4,000 and singing was N4,500. I pleaded with them to join singing.
From there, my interest just kept growing. I got into the university and joined a theatre group called Champions Theatre.
With that, I was ministering every Sunday, which gave me the boost and confidence I needed.
After every ministration, people would come to me and say “Oh! You were so amazing”, “Guy you dey act o, are you sure you wouldn’t do this professionally?.”
This created the hunger to want to do more acting professionally.
There is constant public attention on celebrities, do you sometimes wish for more privacy?
Absolutely. It is tough to lose your privacy as a celebrity. Right now, I go out with my wife and most times I will have my face mask, glasses and face cap but my wife doesn’t like the discomfort she gets from the face mask or care about the glasses.
If you have seen my wife; you have seen me. People instantly recognise us. In traffic, they are also waving at us.
It just feels like you can’t really do anything in private anymore. You can’t just go somewhere, sit down, relax and be taken care of.
People will recognise you and want to take photos or want to greet you or tell you about the last films they watched and saw you in. I mean, that is amazing.
Sometimes you will love the recognition and that’s like the greatest reward you will get for your work – people appreciating your work. But, there is no drawing the line anymore. Every day is a celebrity day.
Every day, you have to take pictures, be nice, smile at people and be there for them even when you don’t feel like it.
Nobody even cares how you are feeling. If you want to take pictures, you have to smile because you don’t have a choice.
You are in one of the most anticipated movies of 2021, ‘Charge and Bail’. Tell us about your role and the experience, especially being part of an all-star cast…
I play the character of Dotun Adebutun aka Dee A. He is a very egocentric guy, full of himself, cocky and arrogant. He runs a Charge and Bail law firm with his elder brother.
They take up cases that they can win quickly and charge N500,000 for each of those cases. It was quite enjoyable playing Dotun because it is different from who Stan Nze is.
I like to take on characters that challenge me and I must say that Dotun Adebutun challenged me to an extent but I’m hoping that the public would love this movie and the character as much as I loved playing it.
Working with great stars and talented actors was amazing. I have not worked with Zainab Balogun and Femi Adebayo before, although Uncle Bimbo Manuel was on Tinsel, I don’t think we had scenes together.
I had most of my scenes in Charge and Bail with Zainab Balogun and I must say that she is a very warm person to work with. Folu Storms is an amazing actor with an amazing personality.
I think everybody was quite professional with their delivery and being on set. It was quite an enjoyable moment and I had so much fun shooting this film.
What was your first reaction when you got contacted to feature in Charge and Bail?
My first reaction when I was called to be in this movie – I wouldn’t say it was unbelievable. I was hoping that I would be in the film from when I went for the screen audition.
I just sort of felt that this role would be mine so the surprise wasn’t as much.
What was it about the movie that made you want to be part of it?
It was about law. I like films that take us to a particular space, maybe the medical world, the world of politics and others.
Because acting is about becoming, I love to become a particular character, be in a particular field for some time. I want to be a lawyer, engineer, and doctor among others. That for me was the most intriguing thing about Charge and Bail.
Being a lawyer for some time was interesting. There were scenes where they didn’t want me to wear the wig and I protested. I wanted to feel everything that it feels like to be a lawyer.
What was it like working with the director, Uyoyou Adia, and how is she different from your average Nollywood director?
This is my first time working with the production company, Inkblot. I haven’t worked with them before but I have known them for quite a while.
They are the egbons in the industry. I remember going to most of the premieres they have done and I always go to greet them. That’s Zulu and Damola. They have always been on my radar and I was hoping that one day I would get to work with this big studio.
Working with them was amazing. It was smooth. We got everything we asked for.
For Uyoyou Adia, the director, she is such an amazing director. This is the first time I am working with her as a director although she was an Assistant Director on movies I had worked on before such as Rattlesnake and Her Story.
We built our relationship from there. She is a director that has got your back. As an actor, you would want to feel safe working with a director and that is what I think is most outstanding about her.
She is not your regular Nollywood Director because what the regular director would do is trust you to deliver.
Whether you do it right or wrong, it doesn’t matter. But for Uyoyou, she really invested in the project and wanted you to deliver every step.
After I did my ADR, Uyoyou called me and said “Stan, there’s a word you didn’t pronounce correctly. I want you to come and correct it.” I went and saw the word I missed out of the sentence.
She said to me, “I don’t want people to see you this way, that character is heavy. It is not good for your brand. I want people to see you as being perfect.”
That is the amazing thing about directors that watch your back, care about you, your image, the image of the production and the film. That is priceless.
With Uyoyou, I felt really safe. I was comfortable. I wasn’t scared of making mistakes because I knew that I would be corrected. The experience was amazing.
You are currently one of the most sought-after actors in Nollywood. How does this make you feel?
I am flattered by that. It is the dream of every actor to want to work, do good films and projects. It makes me feel fulfilled.
No one comes into Nollywood to want to become average or do two films and leave. It might not work for everybody and some people have left during this journey.
But for me, I have always wanted to be at the top. I have always wanted to act. I have always wanted to be here for the long haul. I have said that I would act till I am hundred.
The journey is still a far one. I am quite fulfilled to know that I am one of the people that are being booked for work, considered and sought after.
I am honoured and I look forward to greater pedestals and projects ahead.
A lot of people say Nollywood is not where it should be in terms of development. What do you think the problem is?
The problems in Nollywood are not just one or two although there are a couple of things I would like to pick on.
One of our major problems is still funding. It is still a big deal to get funding for a film. It is still quite tough. Not everybody wants to support a Nollywood film.
There are still a lot of people that say “I don’t watch Nigerian films, the drama is too much” or “I want to watch American films,” It is a major problem, getting the Nigerian audience or Nigerians to watch what we make for them.
On the other hand, I also think that we the Nollywood filmmakers and practitioners have a lot of work to do in terms of material, especially in terms of the quality of content we produce and the scripts that we make.
I don’t have a problem with low-budget films but at least they should tell a decent story. You can make a fantastic short film with a strong message that you are telling to the public. People want to be entertained.
People want to learn from this film. Regardless of whether the budget is low or not, let the story be good.
Therefore, I think that story is one of our major problems and that would rectify the fact that people don’t watch our film. We need to gain back the trust of Nollywood film lovers and Nigerians.
We need to get them to the point where they would start watching our films and start enjoying them as much as they watch Hollywood films.
Would you say your character was a protagonist or a villain? What should viewers look out for with your role as Dotun?
My character is in the mix. He starts as the bad guy but eventually, he becomes the good guy. Viewers should look out for drama. He is quite dramatic.
He has a fashion sense. He is a slay king. You are going to enjoy his finesse, poise and dress sense.
Do your movie roles have any resemblance to your real-life or personality?
I have played some roles that felt like they were close to me, but most of the time you don’t play roles that are close to you.
At a point, I deliberately had to stop playing roles that painted me bad because people thought I was bad.
I have heard how they stoned people with pure water in the market because they played some bad roles.
People take these things seriously. They just feel like it is real, especially when you deliver your role well.
Majority of the roles I play are not who I am. I am a good person. I am a church boy-a chorister in my church. I am a professional.
For instance, throughout this year I have been trying to do a lot of comedies and roles that will make people laugh.
Last year was my emotional year- the year I wanted to do the sweet boy and emotional wreck. You will see that in a film called Imela, Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story and some other projects I worked on last year.
The COVID-19 crash disrupted the global film industry. What are the challenges and opportunities for the industry beyond the pandemic?
The pandemic effect was really bad although people still pulled through, Rattlesnake:The Ahanna Story was majoring in the pandemic.
We did not do all that we were meant to do with the project but it was a beautiful film. I remember the first draft, it was amazing.
We were supposed to go to South Africa to shoot some stunt scenes but all that couldn’t happen because we couldn’t fly. Producers were supposed to fly stuntmen from South Africa, but they couldn’t do that because there was no permit to travel.
It was heartbreaking for me but it gladdens my heart to know that the film still pulled through that. There have been a lot of good sides to the pandemic effect as well.
People now release their films online like Coming to America which was released on Amazon Prime. It had a global premiere online.
There is more attention to not just box office. There are also platforms springing up and people can now get premium entertainment just at the palm of their hands.
There is the good and there’s the bad. It is just for filmmakers to open their minds on how to distribute their films online and look forward to new frontiers.