Ejike Okoye is a Nollywood actor and producer based in America. The talented actor is currently working on two movies titled “Onye Ichie in America” and “Shadows of America”.
In this interview, he shares with us his life in America, challenges and his mum.
You are based abroad, how do you juggle living there and making movies for the Nigerian audience?
Making movies abroad is a lot more challenging to me than in Nigeria. In the United States of America for instance, most people have primary jobs that actually put food on their table. Acting becomes secondary in this case. As a producer, you have to work with people’s schedule. It’s truly difficult to bring every cast together because when one person is available the other one is not. In most cases, Nollywood movies shot in the U.S. usually don’t have large casts due to scheduling issues. The motivating factor is not even there, I mean money to pay artists. One can’t put his or her job in jeopardy for shooting a movie and at the end, you will not get paid. Then when the bills come you will be in the woods whereas in Nigeria, artists are mainly available and ready to shoot. Also, labour and services are pretty much cheaper in Nigeria than U.S.A.
What inspires your movies?
I like movies that are based on true life stories, inspirational and action movies.
What are the challenges you face in the industry?
The major challenge we face is finance. If you have the funds you tend to make movies with better equipment. You can afford to pay artists better. With better money offer they can take off from work and be available for your movie without feeling the impact in their pockets. Also, you can promote your movie better with adequate funds available. Hollywood may shoot a movie with 10million dollars and promote it with 15million dollars. The good promotion makes good sales. Sometimes our government offers grants to movie makers but the grant doesn’t go round. We equally promote our culture through movie making but because we are based abroad, the grants never reach us. We are Nollywood U.S.A for crying out loud. It’s quite unfortunate. I don’t easily give up. In fact, I love challenges because it makes me work harder and think critically. My parents taught me not to give up to challenges but instead face it squarely. Thanks to my wife for being my backbone especially when the rocky road gets rockier
What is the name of your mum?
My mum’s name is Keziah Nwamaka Okoye (nee Ozoekwe)
How old is she?
Unfortunately, she died in 1997. She was 50yrs old when she died.
What was she doing when she was alive?
My mum was a fashion designer and a teacher.
What was her favourite dish?
It was okro soup.
What was your favourite of all the meals she cooked?
My mum made many delicious delicacies but I love her Nsala soup (white soup).
What are the things you remember about her?
My mum was the best mum ever. She was the best woman you would ever want to meet, always smiling and very friendly. My mum was a very hard working woman and I believe I got that from her. She would rather be hungry to make sure somebody else ate. She was peoples’ favourite. She was a God fearing woman. She did what she had to do to make sure that her children are where and what they are today. I loved my mum and still miss her till date.
What was your relationship with her like?
I had an awesome relationship with my mother. I wish she was alive today to see what we have become.
What attributes did you pick from her?
I possess some of my mum’s attributes. She was a peace-loving woman and I am a peace loving man just like my mother. I don’t relent in working hard and also making sure my children are on the right track just like my humble self
What was the greatest thing she ever told you that you still hold dearly to your heart?
My mum always told me to be focused in whatever I am doing. That I should put God first in everything I am doing. There will always be ups and downs but I should not give up. One other thing she told me was that when I am climbing a ladder that I should not take someone with me else both of us will fall from the ladder but that I should not hesitate in pulling somebody up the ladder after I must have climbed the ladder. I truly appreciate all that she told me.
What was the greatest sacrifice that she ever made for you?
One thing I hold dear to my heart that my mum did for me was one day I had a glass cut on one of my toes and blood was gushing out. I didn’t really take it seriously because it was not painful. When my mum saw it, she shouted and took me to a pharmacist while she was bare footed and also without her purse. I guess she knew the gravity of the injury by looking at it. From the pharmacy we went to UNTH where I consequently passed out (became unconscious) and was rushed into the theater for emergency stitches. Her quick action saved my life. I would have bled to death. I appreciate the fact that she saw me in the corridor in our house in Enugu and did not go back to the house to look for shoes or change her clothes like some other women would have done. She did not even go back for her purse. It was after I regained consciousness that I realized that every second counts when someone is bleeding. It’s something to be taken seriously. My mum was the best. That was a great sacrifice as far as I am concerned.
When you get angry at a movie, what sets you off?
I don’t usually get angry at movies because nobody is perfect except God, but in recent days I do. I get angry at the contents of movies and not if it was a good or bad movie. I used to watch Nollywood movies with my wife and kids but nowadays I don’t simply because our movies, including but not limited to comedies contain a lot of vulgarities, profanities, lewd and sexual scenes that may not be appropriate for kids under certain ages and nothing is inscribed on the packet to warn consumers. It is not okay! Some of our children have access to these movies because they are the ones selling them on the streets.
I partly blame the censors board because they don’t do their job, they don’t rate and vet these movies. I don’t have problem with those kind of movies but producers need to make it clear on the poster or DVD/VCD case that “this movie contains materials that may not be appropriate for kids under certain age” or inscribe age limit on it. The National Film and Video Censors Board (NFVCB) needs to do their job. I have also seen a lot of Nollywood movie trailers on social media that are hard core porn. I mean super sexually explicit. It’s crazy. I never knew that we will degenerate to making X-rated movies. It’s really sad. Artists involved in those porn movies were probably paid next to nothing.