It took a while to get the comic actor, Chinedu Ikedieze, MFR, a.k.a Aki for an interview. It almost confirmed the rumour doing the rounds that the comic actor is running away from the press, but he debunked it when SEYI SOKOYA eventually caught up with him in Lagos. He revealed what kept him away, spoke on his marriage, acting career, the industry, among other issues. Excerpts:
Do you fear the press? It’s been long that this session should have held but for your unavailability…
It is not as if it is not easy get Aki or that I am running away from the press. The truth is that my job, especially the one I told you about some months ago, has kept me busy. Most of the time you cannot predict your movement. One can receive a call for one project or another at any time. I would say it has really been challenging and also interesting. To me, this job is just as if we are freelancing because the money comes from different places. I will definitely attend to any call from my immediate constituency because that is where I make a living.
Considering the fact that you have been busy since the beginning of the year, would you say you don’t have time for yourself?
Yes, I do. What I usually do is that I take a time out after a hectic work. I travel and I may leave one of my phones on in case of any important call. Most times when I am off work, my management team takes care of other things. My brother, I must take time to free myself from any stress either for months or weeks because life is very vital. One is only useful when one is alive. My body is the engine room of what I give out. If I don’t have the physical energy, I won’t be able to give, as well as sustain my best. I have to make sure that my body and soul are in order. This is why I go on vacation. I also unwind, but it is not what I do all the time. I have reduced the number of times I go to club as a married man. You will agree with me that there are some things that I would have to minimise because I have much more responsibilities now. More so, I have exercise apparatus in the house to keep me fit. I love reading books and playing games, especially the play station. I have a lot of things that can take my mind away from acting for a period of time.
Has marriage denied you of enjoying life again?
No. The life of a bachelor is different from that of a married man. It is expected of you to respect your spouse. One has to be conscious and make an adjustment on the kind of life one lived before settling down. A responsible man must always be conscious and always stay around his family.
How has life been as a married man?
It has been wonderful and interesting. I thank God for it. As I said earlier, it requires more of responsibility than when one was living the life of a bachelor. I really enjoy my marriage and I thank my understanding wife who takes care of the home while I am away.
What is stopping you from joining the list of celebs that have shown interest in politics?
I would encourage anyone who is interested in the Nigerian politics system to do so because it is a good development. We need such faces in governance. Personally though, I cannot give a definite answer to that. The fact, however, remains that we are all part of the game of politicking and this is the only way we can bring change to the country. Let’s wait and see the outcome because I don’t always delve into things without cross-checking.
If you eventually declare your interest in politics, which position would you opt for?
That would be determined by my people. They have the final say on that.
Could it be true that the interest of celebs in politics is as a result of the purported wealth being amassed?
I will not agree with that. I don’t think there is any truth in that because it has no basis. We are human beings and most of us are intellectuals. Anyone that wants to go into politics should have it at the back of his or her mind that they would bring change and help the people.
In your own take, do you believe that celebrities can bring the change the people really want?
It is an individual thing because dreams are different from one person to another. For me, I would say yes, we can bring about that change. Shakespeare says that: “The mind is like a basket, no one knows what the other person is carrying.” Generally, we are all instruments of change, and from the things we do, we are like evangelists who reveal the unknown to the public, especially things that are happening in the society. So, if we can achieve this dramatically, we can bring it to the reality. I believe the mindset of every entertainer going into politics is to set a standard and bring positive change to the nation.
Back into acting, it seems you did not discover yourself until Paw Paw joined you in the industry?
It wasn’t like that. I started acting in 1998 while I was still an undergraduate and I have done some major jobs between 1999 and 2000, especially as supporting lead role. In fact, I was almost there before Paw Paw surfaced; he started acting in 2001, but he was not famous. God miraculously picked the two of us and featured us in a movie which gave us a break among others of such stature as ours. I believe we were not the only ones with small stature. It was a unique combination which opened the people’s eyes as well as gave the industry a new face. Remember, I did not start acting with the comic aspect. Back in my secondary school days, my friends knew that I was a funny person. Everything that happened was for a reason. I guess it was time for people to know the other side of me, which also gladdened my heart. I would say that our coming together stirred the comic thing.
Do you sometimes think you guys might not have been famous if you had not come together?
I don’t see it that way. As I said earlier, it was a divine connection. God has a purpose for bringing us together and every man has his time and season. Despite our small stature, which many people see as a disadvantage, fame still located us. The coming together of Aki and Paw Paw was a prestige to us and a plus to the industry because it was a usual way of shooting movies before we were discovered, especially witchcraft or any other movie. The whole thing changed when we came on board. We brought stories that happened to us personally to the screen and before we knew it, the combination became hot cake in the market.
Could you recall how you discovered acting?
I studied Mass Communication from the Institute of Management and Technology in Enugu. Before then, back in the secondary school, I was a member of arts and drama club and as a boy, I used to do ministrations in churches. I would say all these built my character as an actor, but I wasn’t seeing myself as an actor. I was just doing it for fun until I got admitted to IMT where I eventually developed an interest for acting. In 2004, I went to New York Film academy for 8 weeks workshop. The little knowledge I got there has been helping me a lot, but it was not easy, especially the disappointments I usually encountered whenever I went for auditions. It was really challenging, but I did not relent despite the fact that I had to shuttle between school and going for auditions or locations. It was tasking, but I eventually succeeded.
How successful are you as an actor?
I am contented and satisfied with where God has placed me today. I really appreciate how God has lifted my career. I am happy and fulfilled, but I still have more to achieve and until I do that, I won’t be completely satisfied.
Could you recall you guys’ meeting point?
It was easy for me to shuttle between school and locations in Enugu back then, but Paw Paw usually came from Aba. I had been in the industry before him and, according to him, he had been longing to meet me and we eventually met in 2001 at a location.
If not acting, what would you have become?
As a Mass Communication undergraduate then, I was hoping to be an independent producer and report for CNN or any top international medium. I even had the premonition that I would further my academics in law, even though I was offered admission to study at Madonna University in 1998, but I was already a Mass Communication student.
How many movies have you done so far?
Honestly, I have lost count of the movies I have produced. I have been producing since I started acting and I don’t have a favourite among them. I love all the movies I have shot because I love going to locations. I have even lost count of how many movies Paw Paw and I have done together.
How do you draw inspiration?
Sometimes, I wonder how I come about these things, but I would say I draw the inspiration from God and I mimic people a lot, especially when I was a little boy. My mum does that perfectly. I think it runs in the blood. Not that the pranks I played at my tender age coupled with what I gathered in my surroundings then gives me joy, but I have been able to bring them into acting to give people a clear picture of what is happening in different homes and the society at large. I love my parents’, unfortunately I lost my dad last year, but my mum was actually my source of inspiration because she is a woman that would ensure that her children have the best.
You are always hyperactive in movies. Is that part of your scripts or you act outside of the scripts?
(Laughs…) The truth is that I always research on any scripts I lay my hands on. I usually have a mental picture of how I would want to see myself in a movie., especially when I want to play the role of a kid. I pick from how my cousin or nephew play in the real sense into the character and once I hear action, I am the character at that moment. Honestly, I have to be professional about it because if I don’t do that, I won’t be able to convince my audience. It has been interesting. Sometimes, I play double role, which is one of the advantages of my size. I could play an adult and also a child at the same time.
Have you ever been misrepresented as a kid?
We are all human beings and any body that sees me for the first time would think I am a baby, but when I talk, my reaction would give the person an understanding that I am not. I did not create myself and I cannot change myself either. There is nothing I can do about that; no amount of plastic surgery can increase my height, except if God wants me to grow taller than I am. I have realised that we leave in a world where people are easily carried away. A lot of people are myopic and my perception about life is quite different from theirs. Sometimes an adult will see you and misbehave. Despite the cautioning, they still go ahead to laugh at me and sometimes, many even try to tease me. People don’t understand that the Aki they see on the screen is different from Chinedu Ikedieze.
Are you the only one with a small stature in your family?
Yes. I don’t know how it happened and I was not bordered to ask my parents about it. I just knew I was created that way. I am the first son of the family.
How were you able to handle the crisis that struck when you rang your wedding bell?
It wasn’t difficult because I had an effective event planner. You will agree with me that there must be division of labour; I cannot be everywhere.
News had it that you asked Paw Paw to vacate the apartment both of you once leaved in as a bachelor when you got married
There was no clash between us. Then, the owner of the property wanted to use it, so we both had to vacate the apartment. The truth must be told, we cannot live together forever. We are adults and someday we would get married. We are not same twins, I am from Abia and he is from Imo. It’s just that we are good friends. It is not bad we go our separate ways, though; we are not far from each other.
Are you satisfied with the state of the industry?
I think we are growing everyday. The government even confirmed it. It shows they felt our impact in the growth of the country despite the fact that we did not receive any financial support from them. It is a welcome development that the industry has contributed immensely to the growth of the country. I think the ball in the government’s court to do the needful.
For how long have you been living in Lagos?
It’s been a very long time. In fact, I have been paying house rent for very long time. I love the delicacies here, especially yam powder, also known as Amala and beans.