Enyinnaya Nwigwe is one of, if not the, most sought-after actors in the Nigerian movie industry. He has been featured in most of the great movies in the industry since over a decade of signing up professionally, and right from his first, ‘Wheel of Fortune’ to the cinema blockbuster, ‘Wedding Party’, the Imo State-born graduate of Economics has shown tact and finesse associated with consummate actors. In this interview with Newton-Ray Ukwuoma, he speaks about his involvement in a new political thriller, “4th Republic,” among other issues.Excerpts:
What did you do towards becoming the actor you are today?
I did a lot of informal training. First, I would like to say it happened for me in a way when I was discovering myself; and at that same time, I was being introduced to acting. I was morphing into becoming an actor, reading a few books here, and paying attention there, understanding the correlation between life and art, and realising that it is about the same thing. My angle to finding it was such that I asked questions in my head, I find answers in real life and it feels right to me.
I pick up an acting book by some professor of some sort or Stanislavski or any of those majors and you realise the same thing, the way I had processed it in my head is the same thing that they are writing here, and you now find that thing that gives you confidence. But for now, it’s time to acquire skills to hone what it is that you think you have found for your own consistency in performance.
When you decided to go into acting despite studying Economics, what were the reactions?
The first reaction happened with modeling when I had to go in for audition and it was a holiday period and I had to be in school. I lived in Owerri at the time and school was in Calabar, University of Calabar. So, the first thing I had to do was to cut my holiday short to go back to school. Perhaps, they are not ready for you yet and you come up with this thing ‘oh, there is a television to be won’. My dad asked me if it was something that I wanted to do and I said yes. He was like ‘okay, go do it’. From then on my parents realised I was always passionate about modeling and acting and they never stopped me. They were supportive from start to finish.
Is Enyinna Nwigwe a fulfilled actor?
No he isn’t. There is so much more waiting to happen.
Do you sometimes feel under-appreciated and recognised, having given so much to the industry?
No, I don’t. I have always lived life on my terms believing that things are happening just the way they should, so long as I do my part which is doing what I am most passionate about, and following my own spiritual compass. There really is never a finish line to anything we do; lines will always fall pleasantly in due time. Our stories and journeys are as different as we are.
You played the role of Ike in’ 4th Republic’, how fulfilling was that experience?
It was an amazing experience, I must say. It gave me more insight into how election campaigns are run, strategies, obstacles and the general process. I really enjoyed acting in the movie and with other great actors and the movie director.
And how close is the character in ‘4th Republic’ to Enyinna?
I like to cite a common but yet profound quote by George Jean Nathan: “Bad leaders are elected by good citizens who refused to vote.” I think we owe it to ourselves and generations to come to get more involved in the electioneering process which of course starts from getting registered to vote. Power has to go back to the true owners, the people. We need to be able to hold the people leading us accountable. That is part of the message the movie tried to pass across. A good movie talks about the real issues and tries to proffer solutions, that is what you would see in ‘4th Republic’ as it resonates well with the people and the kind of politics we play in Nigeria. About similarities, yes I’d say there are a few similarities between myself and the character, I also learnt a lot from the character.
As the aide to a woman in politics, Mabel King (Kate Henshaw), what will you say about chances of women in politics?
I played the role of Ikechukwu Obiano, who is hired as deputy campaign manager to Mabel King’s gubernatorial campaign. Ike is a vibrant, socially conscious and morally upright young man, who believes so much in Mabel King’s political manifesto and would do everything morally right to make her dream of becoming confluence state’s first female governor a reality. He lends all his strength to the process even in the face of life-threatening encounters as he navigates the murky campaign trail.
In your opinion, would a woman make a better governor or president?
I always do believe a woman would be just as great as a man to hold any political office.
How much does the movie mirror relate the reality of elections in Nigeria?
You know, what’s interesting is that ‘4th Republic’ was shot in 2018 which is a year before the general elections and yet aptly predicts a lot of things that played out during the election season in Nigeria. I wilI like to say that it is a good thing it is coming to our screens after the elections as the boldness with which the story was approached could possibly have aided the voter apathy situation that was a huge concern throughout the election season.
With movies like ‘4th Republic’, how would you rate the growth of the Nigerian movie industry?
I can’t rate it with specifics but I can say that our industry is growing exponentially. Looking at recent numbers, Nollywood movies are now doing much better than foreign films in our local cinemas. Our movies are gaining a lot more traction and acceptance on global digital platforms and as such creating room for possible global collaborations. So, Nollywood is doing very well. A lot of Nollywood’s problems are not Nollywood’s per se, it is societal problem; it is national problem. We are a reflection of the top. Nollywood is just an arm of the industry called Nigeria.
When would you say you had your big break in the make-believe industry?
For me, I give every project I do my all; that’s the thing. The one project that I will always point to in different ways, because it did different things to my mindset, would be ‘Black November’. Majorly because it was an international project but also being able to hold my own around an Oscar winning actor, Kim Basinger, Grammy award nominee, Akon and Grammy award winner, Wyclef with Vivica A. Fox, and all the people we grew up watching in Nigeria and just finding myself not like a Nigerian actor in the US, but an actor from Nigeria, playing a lead role where you take charge of scenes with these people and hold it down without anyone putting a pin to the bubble, was most defining for me.
What are your views on marriage?
I think it is a beautiful thing but I think that beauty has to come with an organic process. I think that’s the part where in our clime we miss in putting pressure on people. So, people are getting married for the wrong reasons now. Yes, I understand time and pressure and everything, but I think it’s a foundational problem. If we are raised to be self-assertive and self-reliant in our minds and understanding of who we are from the onset, from childhood, it would have been easy to find ourselves, our strength, and to accept who we are designed to be.
How would you describe your fashion style?
I don’t consider myself as someone who has a particular style. I dress the way I feel. I always think about myself first, with how I look, no matter how. I owe myself just being comfortable, so I am not one to go with the trends. I mean, there are trends you can pick up but I can literally do without them. I have never had a stylist in my career. One thing in my closet that I can’t give away is my black suit.