Nollywood movie icon Kenneth Okonkwo is one of the few veterans who gave birth to what we have as Nollywood today, with his stellar performance in the movie Living in Bondage, he shot into prominence and has remained unequalled in his delivery and clout for over 2 decades now. The talented actor who recently delved into politics is also one of the highest earners in Nollywood. He took a big break after he got married several years ago and returned with a bang shortly after. Although he has been acting for over 15 years, he still holds sway as one of the best breeds. City People Vivian Onuorah had an interview with him and he opened up on his career and his experiences with marriage.
A lot of people see you as a blunt actor, why is that so?
In my family they will tell you that if I
- have a problem with somebody, if they hear my own side they can pass judgement. Anything you say that is contrary to what I say is a lie. That’s the truth and I wouldn’t say anyone that will favour me. I would say it just the way it is, then, would apologize where I would apologize. That just the kind of person I am. The truth is the truth. Yes it may hurt sometimes but when you tell the truth, you have done your best. Even if someone gets mad at me for saying what I said, they will come around but unfortunately, there are someone relationship that by the time they come around you must have moved on from where they left you.
You are touted to be one of the highest paid actors in Nollywood, with your acting fees ranging from 1.5 to 2m, how true is that?
Well, I wouldn’t want to discuss my fee, if you check the records because you are been unfair to us. You don’t go and ask a civil servant how much he is earning. But the fact remains that from Living in Bondage Part 2, I have been earning what I love to earn. It is satisfying. It’s just good enough because we are in Nigeria. We are venturing on.
You’re one of the best in Nollywood. What are those qualities that stand you out?
Should I not allow you to answer that (Laughs)? If you put it to me, I would say thank you for say8ing nice things about me. But I think basically, the grace of God. There is this thing about charisma that is a gift. I’ve seen a lot of actors and actresses acting very well but are not being liked. You see, likeability is different from the acting and I think that’s a gift. I think the grace of contributes a lot to entertainment. You can imagine, before Living in Bondage, Nigerians would not even want to be patient enough to watch a local movie. I went to one video shop, and the man had this inscription, no local video is allowed here. But immediately Living in Bondage came out. We didn’t even advertise it. It was like there was an outcry, have you seen this movie? People were rushing. And with all due respect, it was the story of my character from beginning to the end. So you can see the likeability. It was not subtitled, the real first one that came out. The Hausa’s, the Yoruba’s wanted it subtitled. The loved everything about it. We had to take it back to subtitle it. Likeability! So that’s the grace of God, working in its highest form. So I would say the grace of God. And I’m grateful to God Almighty for that. What can I do? What can I say? I didn’t contribute anything to the way I look, the way I talk. I didn’t go to the school of Theatre Art, so I carried myself into the movie and I am just accepted. That’s the grace of God. Then again, you know the secret of my success? I read a lot! I think a lot! I work a lot! That’s what Henry Ford told the business men that want to be a success.
How do you unwind when you are not on a movie set?
I read a lot. I’m a born again Christian now. I wasn’t a good guy from birth. So that helped me also to cut out a lot of frivolities, keep praying to God that I fall not into temptation and that ladies, do not lead me into temptation because the beautiful ones are coming out every day. You don’t just need prayers only, you need to do the biblical injunction flee.
At what point did you turn born again?
1994. You know when you think that material thing, fame and fortune will make you happy and God deposited all these things in you and you are not happy. Then you just know that there is a vacuum, God must be interested in me. The story of my salvation is altered by God Almighty. I just knew that truthfully without Him I can do nothing.
Do you have any regrets regarding your past?
No! I don’t have any regrets about the things I did. When I was doing them then, I was enjoying it so no regrets. I thought I was having fun, no regrets.
You are very stylish. What informs your style?
I think by nature I’m just stylish.
Even the way you walk is stylish but that’s not natural…
The truth is that if not that people are saying it, and everybody is saying the same thing, I would have argued that it’s not true. I’m telling you, that’s the way I’ve always walked from day one. As a matter of fact, at times, I try too hard not to walk that way but once my mind gets off it, I just return to it.
You must have a lot of admirers. How do you couple with female fans?
What can I say; I just try to be nice to them. Some of them we relate as very good friends.
What of the persistent female fans. How to you handle them?
How are you sure that there are persistent ones (laughs)? Hmm, let that the best one of the best things that God made on earth is the woman. There is something about the woman. They know more than we think. They know the sincerity of your heart. When you’re very honest to them they will see the real thing God has deposited in them. Some of them may feel hurt when you say no, but they will understand especially when they know that you mean it and your standard is the same for everybody. And that initially feeling hurt, will transform into big love, respect and truth. When you get your acts right with the female, you will know that they are the sweetest thing on earth. If you start messing with women, you can only have one at a time and eventually it will limit a lot of things for you. But when you’re good to them, without asking for anything in return, you have all of them at a time. And women have a way of contributing to a man success if they know you are genuine. And so I’m having a very good relationship with them now. But at the initially stage, it was bumpy but later stage beautiful.
How has marriage helped to stabilize you?
Since I got married, I have not had carnal knowledge of any other lady but I have been very close it, tempted, and Jesus Christ helping me, it has not happened.
Since when please?
What do you love most about her?
She’s very beautiful. She’s very brilliant. She understands me. And you know what? She loves me very well.
Sorry to take you back, you must be a strong man not to have played side-betting since 2007…
For what side-betting is but you know as an actor, she understand. I don’t count the peripheral thing that we even do publicly. I mean the real thing.
Are there not times that you guys act to things and you get feeling for the person?
You get used to what you are a professional to. Is like asking a doctor, don’t you get tickled? Doctors are even closer than us.
Every time you get, you celebrate your present marriage. Why didn’t you celebrate your marriage?
The only thing I’m going to say is that this is the real time that I happened to be married.