With over a decade long acting career, Chinedu Ikedieze can easily be described as one of the darlings of Nollywood Comedy. He is best known for playing alongside his screen twin Osita Iheme in most movies after their breakthrough in the movie “Aki na Ukwa” which earned them the popular names “Aki” and “Pawpaw”.
Whether acting alone, or alongside Osita, Chinedu always brings a comic twist to every production and has earned a remarkable reputation within and outside the shores of the country.
In 2007 Ikedieze received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the African Movie Academy Awards and a National Honour as a Members of the Federal Republic (MFR) in 2010.
The graduate of Mass Communication from the Institute of Management Technology (IMT) described his entrance into acting as an accidental one, but since 2002, has featured in over 60 movies.
Getting him to schedule an appointment took more than a few phone calls, but was well worth the trouble. Chinedu is as funny off screen as he is on screen and it was
Hi Chinedu. It’s been a bit of a task getting you to sit down for this interview. You seem to have been very busy lately. What have you been up to?
I just finished a job for MNet. It’s a Sitcom – a drama and comedy. We shot about 26 episodes. Last year, we shot a Pilot of 6 episodes. People watched it and they loved it and that was what led us to doing 26 episodes. When it starts airing, I don’t think anybody would want to miss it. It’s dignified comedy, a family story and it’s purely Nigerian.
You sound very enthusiastic about this project. Have you been a part of any movie project recently that you feel very strongly about?
For some time now, I’ve not done our Nollywood movies. This is because when you think it’s going to be in one or two parts, you end up seeing it released in six parts. I don’t like it. I see it as a way of destroying the story. Because of that, I’ve turned down some of the jobs that were offered to me. But I’m going to work on one with Zeb Ejiro soon.
There was a time when it seemed like you were in almost every movie, especially acting alongside Osita Iheme.
That was when movies were released as Part 1 and 2. Now the producers are not satisfied with that, they want to release Part 3, 4, 5 and 6. If you ask them why, they say it’s the only way they can recoup their investment. But I tell them no. People still make their money by releasing movies in just one part. There was one I did recently and I told the producer not to break it into six parts. He agreed, but when the movie was released, it was in three different parts with each part in two series each!
What are you doing to try and change such practices in the movie industry?
I’m going to start producing my movies very soon. But I’m going to do more of Language movies. I watch Yoruba movies and I see the way they are being patronized. I go to London and I see the way people appreciate Yoruba movies. Why don’t we do ours?
You and Osita formed an interesting pair in Nollywood. How did you two meet?
We met in 2002 during auditions for a movie.
In the early years of your career, movie directors almost always paired you both together. You hardly ever acted without him.
We are more matured now. But it depends on the script you have. If you want the two of us, fine. If you don’t want the two of us, you can choose anyone that best fits the character of the movie.
Your 35th birthday last December was publicized by a lot of your fans online. How did you celebrate your day?
I had already made arrangements for a Yacht but it was not big enough and I knew that at the end of the day, some people would say “oh boy, you didn’t remember me oh”. So I selected a few friends and we had a pool side party. I also used the opportunity to celebrate my wedding anniversary. My wedding was on the 9th of December and my birthday on the 12th of December.
Congratulations once again. Sometime last year, a picture of you carrying a baby sparked some rumours that your wife had given birth. How did you feel about this?
I carry babies almost every day. There are some things people should see and understand quickly that people just want to take pictures with me. As Nigerians, we’ve come to that level where we should be able to distinguish the truth from ordinary fallacy. When we see truth, we should be able to identify it, but we just believe anything from people who manufacture information just to make money.
Were the rumours an indication of any pressure on you or your wife to have children?
Pressure? Who is under pressure? Nobody is under pressure.
Your wedding was one of the most talked about celebrity weddings in 2011. How did you meet your wife?
I’ve said that several times. You can read it anywhere. I met her the way people meet people.
But I haven’t read about your proposal anywhere. How did you propose to her?
It’s best known to us. The day I say it ehn, a lot of people would copy from it. It’s very unique. I tell my friends but I can’t tell you so a lot of men would not copy it.
When you stepped out with her at the Bovi Man On Fire concert last year, it created quite a buzz because you hardly make appearances with her at public events.
We do, but it depends on the event. That day we just felt like going to laugh. I don’t want to incorporate my wife into my “celebrity status”. I want her to live her life. It’s easy for me to turn her into a celebrity but I don’t want to. The Nigerian media finds it easy to toy around with couples and it is left for the man to put things where they supposed to be. If I begin to put my wife in my shoes, it would affect the both of us and I wouldn’t want that. I want her to be able to go out freely, to go shopping freely. After the wedding, she couldn’t go out freely because people recognized her and it really affected her. But for me, I’m already used to the attention.
Talking about attention, I read a story of you and Osita getting mobbed by a crowd when you visited Gambia recently.
It’s like that in all the countries we go to except Russia because I don’t think we’ve been able to penetrate their market. But in any African country, London, America, Europe; as far as Africans are there, we always get that kind of attention.
What is the most embarrassing thing a fan has done upon sighting you?
They’ve done so many, but I see it as a way of expressing their feelings. It doesn’t have any negative effect either on me or them. I’ve seen women opening their blouses and screaming “oh my God”. I’ve seen people fainting because of us, I’m not joking.
On the other hand, what is the most humbling reaction you’ve gotten from a fan?
We went to a hospice in Uganda where they keep children affected with HIV. There was this section where they keep people who have lost all hope, people who are just living by the minutes so we (Osita and I) went there and when one of the kids saw us, she stood up. The people told us that for months, the girl hadn’t stood up but she did when she saw us. Even my President, the day I received the National award in 2010, I could see that he was tired after standing to give so many people their awards but when they called my name, I saw the transition on his face. The way the smile came to his face was so clear. That is to tell you that we are created for a purpose.
You seem to be quite close to the President. You were the only actor who sat at his table the day he came to Lagos for a dinner with Nollywood stars.
I’m just lucky.
You were also pictured at Patience Jonathan’s thanksgiving reception in Abuja after her recovery?
They are a lovely family. Their kids also love me. It’s a family that when I remember them, I feel happy.
You are that close to them?
Yes I’m close, I thank God. I love them.
But a lot of Nigerians don’t really “love” the President like you do.
There is so much pressure on just one man. Boko Haram for instance has done more harm than good. When you really look around, you find out that you don’t need to blame him. He is a human being like you and I and so we should help him in whatever way we can to make this country safe.
Your career has taken you around the world. This must be exciting for you.
I love travelling, I travel very often.
How many countries have you been to?
I don’t know, many. I’ve been to almost all the African countries. Outside the country, I go mostly to Europe and America.
For work or pleasure?
Most times work, and sometimes vacation.
When you travel for work, is this always about acting?
No. I do stage performances a lot outside the country with Osita.
When you compare the amount you receive for featuring in a Nollywood movie and that of a stage performance abroad, which one is better?
They pay more abroad.
What is the average amount you get for a stage performance outside Nigeria?
I get a lot but I can’t tell you before people I’m owing begin to write letters. Or people start believing I’m supposed to owe them, or people start believing they are supposed to get one or two things from me.
Tell me about your style. Where do you shop?
I shop at any good place I find any good thing. I’m stylish but not too stylish. I love things that are very unique. I make my clothes here but when I travel, I still buy.
Do you have any favourite designers?
Yes I have, my wife. Very soon, she will be launching her fashion label and fashion school and we’re working seriously on it. It’s a place where you can learn to become a fashionista and start a business of your own.
You sound like you’re very proud of her.
Of course, I’m very very proud. She read Mass Communication just like me but she has a passion for fashion and I have to encourage her.
Where do you hang out and relax after a hard day’s work?
I am not the kind of person who does things because others are doing it. I am very real, I’m me. Because there is one particular hang out in V.I. where celebrities hang out, I won’t leave Ikeja and start driving to V.I. No. I hang out at Londoners in Ikeja. There are also certain places in my Estate where I can go and relax. But most times, I relax at home. I have all it takes to relax in my house. I also invite people to come and hang out with me at home. When I’m not travelling or working, I love relaxing at home with my wife.
For someone who travels quite often, are you going to raise your family in Nigeria?
My wife and I both have our Visas so I can’t really say. But Nigeria is still the best place to raise any child. Here you can have control over your child unlike any other European or American country.
To what extent has acting been worth your while?
It has given me a lot. If not for that, would you have come to interview me? The person I am today, the things I enjoy all came from acting.
Was it your childhood dream to become an actor?
As a child, I wanted to be a Doctor or a Lawyer or an Engineer, anything professional. I became an actor somehow by accident. I actually wanted to study Law but my in-law wooed me into the Mass Communication. At my department, there was a Theater where I used to see movie actors and I got interested. I joined a Theatre Group in my Department called Communicators Art Forum. Later on I got admission to study Law at Madonna University but I was already interested in acting so I forfeited that. It wasn’t a childhood dream even though as a little boy I loved watching Gary Coleman on Different Strokes.
It’s the start of the second quarter of the year. What should we be expecting from you this year?
I will produce movies and I want to do a documentary on Sickle Cell. I lost my younger brother to Sickle Cell so I want to create awareness in my community. If my parents had known that the chances of having a Sickler for couples with the AS genotype was 50/50, they would have planned differently. But it didn’t happen like that. A lot of people in remote areas still believe its Abiku or Ogbanje so we need to create awareness.
Please accept my condolences on the loss of your brother. On a closing note, what do you feel most fulfilled about when you look back at everything you’ve gained from your career?
I feel most fulfilled about the fact that when people see me, they brighten up. A woman has told me once that since her husband started watching my movies, his high blood pressure has come down. He always laughs when he watches me. That alone makes me feel happy. Seeing sick people rejuvenated all of a sudden when they see me is fulfilling enough.