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#BNMeetTheStar: An Interview With Nonso Bassey on His Rising Career in Nollywood

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Acting has always been a lifelong interest for Nonso Bassey, who portrays Nimi in the Ndani TV web series “Love Like This.” In spite of his entry into the entertainment world as a singer, he was privileged enough to have people who believed in him, nurtured and encouraged his artistic abilities. Nonso eventually made his way into Nollywood.

Despite the fact that “Love Like This” is his debut web series, he has been in productions such as Africa Magic TV’s “Battleground” and Mildred Okwo‘s 2021 noir psychological thriller, “La Femme Anjola.”

It’s apparent that Nonso is devoted to his art and takes on the persona of the character he’s portraying to the fullest extent possible. Mildred Okwo and Lani Aisida were drawn to him because of his strong belief in himself and his accomplishments. Nonso shares this sentiment, stating that the new production in which he appears has been created with a lot of love.

Nonso Bassey was interviewed by BellaNaija’s Damilola about his road to “Love Like This,” his connection with his work, if fans should anticipate Nonso the singer to return anytime soon, and other exclusives.

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Sum up 2021 in one word.

I don’t think there’s one word for that, But I would say 2021 was a turning point for me. It encapsulates everything that my 2021 was.

How did you get into that and what sparked the interest?

When I was much younger, I was that kid who did everything on my primary and secondary school sports team. I sang in the school choir and the church choir, of course, and I acted in the playgroups. I used to write my little plays and I used to draw characters, sketch and animate them. I had an interest in a lot of creative things. I always knew that I was going to be an actor. As well as being a singer and all these other things, I just didn’t think that I would start acting in my mind. I thought I would start acting in my forties. But it’s just interesting how life just played out. And it taught me that life is not always going to follow the path that you want it to take. You have to be willing to move with the tides because you will still get to your destination. You take whatever route is in front of you.

Photo Credit: @augustudoh

“La Femme Anjola” got so many nominations in the current AMVCA. How do you feel about this? 

I’m very, very happy. I’m so thankful because there are many people out there who are so talented. We work, they’ve worked long and probably harder than I have. Those who haven’t gotten what I’ve got. Sometimes when I think about these things, I’m like, who gets to select or choose who is acknowledged to get to the top? I’m just thankful because I’ve learned. Within the past few years, it’s not been my power. I’ve learned that I’m not in control, because we like to think that we’re in control of our lives and everything. And then the pandemic came, and everybody had to sit down in the house for about a year. That just taught me a lot that we don’t control anything. It took me grace, gratitude, and humility. So I’m very grateful for “La Femme Anjola,” for me getting that role, and for each of them doing what they’ve done and being received the way they’ve been received.

Talking about you being cast in this amazing film, how did it happen?

I was following the director, Mildred Okwo, on Twitter. We both followed each other, and I introduced myself to her sometime in 2017. I’m such a fan of her work. I knew that I wanted to do something cinematic. She later hit me up on Twitter, told me a role was open for me, and, of course, I took the opportunity. She sent me the script, and when I read it, I was like, “Things are now getting serious. This is good.” I went back and read it again. It just looked like I was watching an American film. It started with the cliff scene, and I was like, “What is going on here?” I read about explosions and it was so well-written. The scripts felt so ambitious. Of course, I was interested. She told me the role I would be playing, you know? And here I am. I was ready to do the work. I’m always ready. I’m always about to work. I think that’s how the Lord wrote my way through the film.

And now you’re set to star in Ndani TV’s “Love Like This.” How did you first get involved with the show? What was the casting process like?

I was always interested in web series. I buried my mom in October last year (2021), and before I’d gone home, I went for the audition, and I didn’t even think I was going to get the role. I was going through so much that I honestly didn’t think I was going to get it. Weddings and funerals in Nigeria are so exhausting and expensive. By the time that was done, I came back to Lagos. I had a few gigs lined up for November and all of them just disappeared. They were either ready to shoot, or they just decided to go with another actor, or they decided they didn’t want to pay me certain amounts, like just for some reason or another, all of them disappeared. It was just like a miracle. The audition went well. I got the role. Everything just happened to work out for the best. And like I said earlier, not being in control of anything, just being thankful for the blessings that come your way. And when these opportunities come, you give them your very best. That’s always what I strive for.

Photo Credit: @ibukunwilliams_

You play Nimi in the series. Talk to us about your character. How did you approach this role? Could you relate to the role in any way?

I try to find similarities between myself and every character. What connects me to this guy? What connects this person with me and with them? I mean, he’s a complicated guy. He’s not perfect. And the more you watch, the more you realize.

Kudos to the writers of the show. They did an amazing job of writing complex characters who are not just one unit. Like all human beings, we are not just one thing. We are many things, and we learn about ourselves every day. I just feel like he’s emotional. Complexity was the thing that got to me. After reading what happened to him in episode one, I was like, “I want to play this.” And for me, I keep my creative process. I keep journals, I ask questions like, where is this guy coming from? Why is he the way he is? What has he been through? Where did he grow up? What was happening in the world? Because these things inform the way we see the world, and what’s his personality type? Why does he act the way he does? And so when I do my scene by scene breakdown, I’m a person and what I’m feeling about what’s going on is a person. Those things just kind of help me so that if I’m not supposed to like somebody, I understand why I don’t like them. I approach most of my characters that way, unless, of course, some things can happen.

There was one that I was in that, not because of production incompetence or anything, but we’d just changed. Everything was changed at the last minute to a new location, a new place. We had to rewrite the whole script, there and then. It was a group effort, and because Nollywood is not a perfect industry, we are doing our best. We have to do what we have to do to get the show going.

Photo Credit: @ibukunwilliams_

You’ve got 30K Instagram followers. If you could send one message out to all of them, what would it be?

Thank you. I was never good at receiving compliments or receiving love for something. Everybody has something they’re dealing with or struggling with. And so, for whatever reason or the other, I’ve just never been good at receiving or believing when people say nice things to me or when they support me. I just never understood what it was. I’m learning to. And just being thankful for the fact that I don’t even think I’ve done nearly half of all the things that I’m out here to do, I’ve not gone nearly as far as I want to go, but there are people who support what I do and my fans are the most amazing and supportive. They kept checking up on me and were like, “Wow.” So, thank you. It does mean a lot to me. I’m just counting all my blessings, and today you’re one of them.

Do you feel pressured by the fact that thousands of people follow you? Does this influence what you post and how you act?

I think the truth is, in some way or another, there is always some pressure because we’re human. We have feelings, we have emotions. We see things. I’m just a person, and I want to go very far. I want to do a lot of things in my life. Right. And then, there is the waiting game because everybody has that time. We are all working towards something. Sometimes you don’t feel like, “Oh, you’ve gotten to where you want to get, or you’re doing the things at the level at which you want to do them, or you’re not doing things at that level.” Of course, there is that feeling. There’s that tendency to feel bad when things aren’t working out the way you want them to work out. But ultimately, I have never given in to pressure to please people. We will all be dead in 100 years. There’ll be a completely new set of people. None of these things that we are here talking about ourselves even matter. Nobody gives a damn. We’re all just here with this life in front of us. What do we do with the time that we’re given? I can’t spend it worrying about other people who are going to die, just like I’m going to die. What’s the point? I’m just thankful. I’m just thankful for where I am. And that’s these things. Instead of feeling pressured, I get motivated and challenged to keep my eye on the goal.

You’re a man of many talents. Singer, actor, songwriter! Which one of your passions would you say is your favourite and why?

When I was much younger, I thought it was just music and music alone. Growing up, life sort of unfolds in different ways, and it teaches you more about yourself and what you’re capable of. For me, with talent and dreams, dreams will come and go, but I’m the one that is still here. It’s like, how do I evolve? How do I navigate? Which of my talents do I use for this part of my life to get me to where I’m going to use this other talent? Yes, music is my first love. Whenever people compliment my writing, songwriting, or any kind of writing, it gets to me more than my singing, because I know I can sing. For me, I like all the things that I’m blessed with as equally as humanly possible.

What is the key to achieving success in the film industry?

I don’t know, oh! For artists, generally speaking, like actors, musicians, filmmakers, and fashion designers, I think something is that we are not taught enough to think of our art as a business. We only want to be active. It’s all about my love for music. Oh, it’s all about the love for my craft. We’re not taught about money. We don’t understand how to make or keep the money. We don’t understand how to keep our business books. I feel like that’s what made me suffer a few things in the past. It’s something that I’m having to learn now, especially in Nigeria. We’re still a long way from building a structure that works for everybody. The industry is supposed to benefit everybody. That’s part of it. Even our veterans, who were stars when we were children, are old and they’re begging on Instagram. I’m like, what is success? I don’t know. I’m trying to define that for myself. I’m trying to build that for myself. Maybe you can ask me this by the end of this decade. Let’s see.

I’m very passionate about my generation and the generation coming after me changing things because we cannot continue going like this. It’s not by having 500 titles under your belt. Now you enter a hospital, you come out with kidney failure, and you have to go to India or somewhere, and you don’t have money because you don’t have insurance. We can’t afford things, you know? And then they start begging. It’s so demoralizing to see that. I want a situation where makeup artists, writers, and people who are not at the top of the food chain own houses. The work that we do is world-class, and the talent we have is world-class as well. The world loves our stories, but I feel like we don’t even understand the power that we have. We don’t treat our products as solid commodities. Hopefully, that will change sooner than later. Thankfully, more and more people are waking up to this.

Photo Credit: @bolu_photography

As we near the end of the first quarter of 2022, what would you say you’ve learnt so far and what do you plan to achieve before the year ends?

This is the question you’ve asked me, and I haven’t been this excited in a while. The last few years, I think since 2019, were like wilderness years for me because I’ve not been out there as it was. It was a deliberate decision for me to step back because a lot was going on with me when I started. The question you asked about which of my talents do I prefer? You know, I was not able to easily answer the question. Before, it had given me such an identity crisis. People in music were saying, “Oh, you’re never serious, you’re doing film.” People in the film were like, “Who is this musician that they’re giving all our roles to in every single interview?” They all treated me like an outsider, and every single interview I went for told me, “You must choose one.” Why are you doing this? Choose one? You can successfully juggle the two. It used to baffle me because we are such a religious country and we have Christian country rights. One of the most well-known parables is the Parable of the Talents, which tells of a master who is about to travel and bestow talents on one of his servants. He gave five to another. He gives two and he gives one. And he expected them to use every single talent. And so I’ve thought about it these last few years. If I died now, he would ask me, “What did you do with what I gave you?” Well, I’d say “I should choose one.”

So, like, I was learning all this stuff these last few years and then the pandemic came and I lost so much, losing my mom. Towards the end of last year, all the stuff just kind of snapped things into place in my head. Stop waiting for things to be perfect; just go. Do that thing you want to do. Time does not care about your perfectionism. Like, nobody gives a damn. Are you part of the conversation or not? Learning that is what I’ve taken into this year. And we’re already in March, and I can already see a difference. I’m so excited. I don’t want to talk about these things yet, but we’ll be in touch. You’ll see.

Would we be getting Nonso the singer anytime soon?

Like I said, wait and see.

Oluwadamilola Olatunji is a creative trailblazer and a savvy digital editorial leader who creates compelling content for over 1 million unique monthly readers. As a Senior Content Associate, she supervises BellaNaija's editorial strategy to ensure the needs of each audience are met. You can contact her directly via Instagram (@datshortgirlcalleddami) or on Twitter (@olatunji_dami).

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