Ghanaian actor Christopher Attoh popularly known as Chris Attoh is a star who shines in several ways. With over a decade of experience in the entertainment industry in his home country – Ghana, Nigeria and in the UK, Chris has carved a niche for himself as an entertainer who delivers excellent performance across different fields.
He started out as a radio presenter, then transitioned into TV presenting, acting and most recently, movie directing. He also runs a TV production company in Ghana. Having starred in several movies and the immensely popular M-Net TV Soap Opera ‘Tinsel’, handsome Chris has charmed his way into the hearts of many with his good looks and gentlemanly charm. He speaks to Adeola Adeyemo in this exclusive interview about his passions – his career, the love of his life, and his plans for the future.
One of the Tinsel home sets in a serene part of Lagos provided a conducive atmosphere for Chris to open up about himself – his past, his present and his future. It was easy to probe into different aspects of his life and he held nothing back as he spurned out well-thought responses to my several questions. Chris has had one of his biggest career breaks with Tinsel and how he achieved success with the TV soap was what I was most curious about.
His Breakthrough Role on Tinsel
Was there something specific about your character in Tinsel that drew you in?
What attracted me was the fact that I was going to play the guy in the wheel chair, (that meant) I wasn’t going to move my feet. It’s one of the most interesting characters I’ve done. I did some research on stem cells and implants and people who can’t walk and I met some very interesting people who up until today, make me thankful for my hands and legs.
Tell us about “Being Kwame Mensah”?
Kwame is at the moment, not your villain but more of an antagonist because Kwame will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. He is coming from a background of a well-raised child but had difficulties growing up and his sister Brenda who was very hard on him and sort of looked after him when their parents abandoned them. He is very misunderstood but I think that one of the things that tones the character down is his love for Telema. In a nutshell, he is an antagonist. He had an operation, a stem cell implant and now he can walk and that is the problem because ever since he started walking, all hell has broken loose. It’s fun to play!
Did “Tinsel” bring you to Nigeria?
At the moment, yes. Before Tinsel, I would only come and visit. The most I had done was interviews on the red carpet for shows like HipHop World Awards, Dele Momodu’s Red Carol. I would come almost every year to cover some of these events so Nigeria wasn’t totally new to me but at the moment, yes, most of my time spent here is on and for Tinsel.
The “Chris Attoh” Media Mogul Map – The Story
How did you get into radio?
It began with me in the library of Groove FM as a Librarian. This was during my National Service after my A-Level. I had constantly watched the presenters come and go and one day one guy didn’t turn up and I said to my boss, “please let me do the show”. He was too frustrated to think, and he said, “alright – get on” and within five minutes of it, he said “you are not entering the library again”. That is how I started. I started a show called Book Worm Square on Groove FM and then I moved to Choice FM and then to Capital Radio in Kumasi, and all around.
Radio & TV Presenter, Actor & and Now Your Role as a Director and Production Company Executive. We know about your start in radio, let’s find out the rest of the journey began.
I got my first degree in Painting at the University of Science and Technology, Ghana. Then I left Ghana and moved to London to go and further my education at the London Television and Film Institute but I never finished my second degree. I started but then I started working on the side and I began to enjoy the money. I said to myself that I was going to defer for a year and just work. So I went full-time into banking security. The last place that I worked was Goldman Sachs in London but the passion for Television and Film was still there. The owner of OBE TV in Londonhad heard about the good work I had done in school (London Television and Film Institute) and actually requested for me to come and do something for them. That’s how I got back into television.
What did you when you started your TV career?
It was a show called “One Touch”. It was mainly a request show – people would call in and request for songs. Then other programs spun-off for it, and sometimes we would cover carnivals and other major events. Then I found love.
Love was there already and before I knew it, I was moving back to Ghana to save a relationship and also to wake myself up because in the first place, I said I was going to school, and I now saw money and “money was big” so I got distracted. The relationship went well for about a year or two but I think we had just grown apart. Though, I was thankful for coming back because at the end of the day, I would still have been out there still doing banking security or some job like that whereas I believe I have a true calling here and day in day out I’m thankful for the move back home.
So what did you do when you returned to Ghana?
There were a few breaks. One of them was a TV show called “Mentor” which was on local television and it was a music talent request show. They were looking for a host, I went there to audition and got the job. “Mentor” went well, I did only the first season and after that, I got more offers.
I started working for a TV production company called Charter House. I was at Charter House for a while and I think it was from there that everything else began. I went back into radio full-time, I went back into television full-time, and then I finally decided on acting!
What do you look out for before accepting a movie or soap opera role?
A good story and a good director. Those are the two really key important things to me…and a good production team as well. So that from the point where the story is kicks off to where it’s actually being produced, to the post production, you know that you are covered.
Have you featured in any other soap opera apart from Tinsel?
I’ve dabbled in another one which never came out unfortunately.
How long have you been on the “Tinsel” Cast?
Since it began. About five years now.
How did you get the role?
What they did in that they auditioned in some African countries, Ghana being one of them. I was minding my own business in Ghana and the timing was appropriate. Remember the girl I said I moved back to Ghana for? That was when she broke up with me. I was in a very loose cannon state, I was like anything goes, anything, anyhow.
I remember I was looking for a way out because Ghana is too small. I didn’t want to be in the same place and someone called me from Multichoice. I had done some work for M-Net before. I was a link presenter for Big Brother Africa 1 and 2 for Ghana. So I went for the audition. At the time, what attracted me to Tinsel was that I had just began to do movies, I had done my second movie by then and I was afraid to get type cast as a ‘Lover Boy’ in movies. I do have a few predecessors in the business and somehow whatever role they are playing is similar.
Bright Lights – Chris, the Movie Star
All along, I think the passion was heading towards film because I knew I always wanted to direct. One day, I said “let me put myself in the shoes of an actor so when I’m directing an actor, I know exactly what I want.” That’s how I stumbled into acting. I don’t like saying the word stumbled because I don’t think it was totally by chance. My first break came with the movie “Life and Living It”. So far, I’ve starred in 7 movies.
Tell Us About Them
“Life and Living It” was my first, “Six Hours to Christmas” which I did with Damilola Adegbite, “Scorned”, “Deleting Bisi” (Out in 2012), “Sinking Sands” alongside Hollywood actor Jimmy Jean-Louis, “Perfect Picture”, which is one of my favourites. In Nigeria, I believe it was released as the “Three Virgins”. The latest one is “Be My Guest”. It’s going to opened in cinemas in Ghana on Valentine’s Day. It stars myself, Nadia Buari and (Nigerian beauty queen turned actress) Omotu Bissong.
Passion & Life
What would you say your greatest passion is?
I’m an actor, film maker, television presenter and an entrepreneur. Those are my passions.
Which do you enjoy most?
To be honest, the reason why I haven’t left any of them is that I enjoy them all a little too equally. At the moment, my strongest passions would probably lie in film making and acting and I think people would see a lot more of that in the coming years.
You have been a co-director on movie sets. When will you make your solo directorial debut?
The world should look out for a feature from me this year. I eventually went back to school in 2009 at the New York Film Academy. I took some time off and went back to school because one of the passions has been directing. It was good, it was a wake up call. I did a five months course in film-making and directing.
Where will you shoot your movie – In Ghana or Nigeria?
You have to forgive me, I’ve stopped thinking like that, you know, Ghana vs. Nigeria. I’ve shared both worlds for almost five years. It’s an African thing. It’s no longer about Ghana, it’s no longer about Nigeria, I’ve stayed in both places at various occasions and we are so similar, the cultures are so similar, we are indeed one and the same people.
So where do you consider home now?
The plane. Forgive me but I travel very often, almost every week.
How do you cope with your frequent travels, running a business in Ghana and working in Nigeria?
We are blessed to have a techno savvy world where today, you are not so far from what is happening on the other side of the world. I was in Kenya recently and I was surprised at how many people recognized me.
Growing up in Ghana must have been exciting…
I was born and raised in Ghana. I was fortunate to be born into a comfortable setting, to the family of one of Ghana’s top photographers and a local chief. However, somewhere along the line, things changed but I’m thankful for that because that made us focus but I mostly had a comfortable upbringing.
Who are your favourite designers and how would you describe your style?
I’m loving Mai Atafo right now, K O D with his 1957 clothing line. Ebuka I was introduced to earlier, he was the first person who styled for Tinsel and also Mudi. If I were to describe my fashion style, it would be smart, casual, sophisticated and rich smelling. I think the fragrance is a very big part of anyone’s fashion style, it’s not just the clothes.
How do you manage attention from your female fans?
I would simply quote Rudolph Valentino who was a popular Italian actor in the 1920. He said, “Women are not in love with me but with the picture that they see of me on the screens. I’m merely but a canvas on which women paint their dreams“. So I would tell you that it comes with the job but as an individual, I am just like any other guy and I manage it just like any other guy.
How has your status as a handsome celebrity affected your private love life?
It has given me the opportunity to tell between a woman of value and a passerby because the position comes with a lot of patience, a lot of understanding for someone to share those passions with you.
Your female fans will love to know, what kind of woman are you attracted to.
I look for a number of things. Someone that you can click with, someone who is understanding considering what it is that you do, and that is why I would say I’m very blessed.
Sorry ladies, Chris is taken! Chris is currently in a relationship with a woman he describes as “someone very very special”. Though, they have attempted to keep their relationhip private, that “someone very very special” is the lady BN has spotted alongside Chris on the red carpet, Ghanaian beauty – Andrea Manuela Giaccaglia.
Giving Back & Inspiration
We know that “giving back” is very important to you. Tell us about your charity work.
I am an ambassador to a foundation, the Leukemia Project Foundataion. What I do basically is help the foundation raise money. At the moment, our biggest project is to build a Transplant Center for Leukemia patients. There is no facility in Ghana that can cater to a serious type case of Leukemia, they would always have to fly out and so one of the biggest missions at the moment is to see if we can raise enough money to actually put up the Transplant Center.
Which actor or actress do you dream of working with someday?
Samuel Jackson, I absolutely love him. I can’t wait to work with him because I think he is an actor who truly embodies the role every time he is doing something. I can’t wait to work with Genevieve Nnaji so I’m saying it here, I’m calling you out Genevieve, find a project for us because I think it would be epic.
Who are the people that have inspired you or given you a push in your career?
I’ve met very special people at very different times. One way or the other, they’ve all contributed to getting me where I need to get to so it would be very hard to recollect every name and it would be very hard to leave any name aside. There has been obviously more than just one person that has inspired me.
Photo Credit: Steve Ababio | Nana Yaw WIredu