Uzee Usman is a young Nollywood actor and producer based in Northern Nigeria. He holds two degrees in Political Science and English Language from the University of Abuja and University of Jos respectively. Usman studied Special Effects in South Africa and has successfully become one of the biggest entertainers dominating the northern part of the entertainment industry aka Kannywood. In this interview with Rita Okoye, the multiple award-winning hunk speaks on the challenges of Northern entertainers, relationship and what style means to him.
How would you rate the outgoing year?
Honestly, it’s been wonderful. We thank Almighty God and we’ll keep pushing. It’s been quite a successful one for me.
Would you agree that you’re more popular in the north than in the south, why?
I started my career in the north and I was also born there and grew up in Kaduna. I was in Lagos though for a while until 2008 when somebody reminded me of being from the northern part of the country and suggested that I go back and give back to my people, which I did almost immediately. However, it’s northern movies that really brought me fame. In fact, I’m the producer that started this merger thing into the industry today, which is bringing people from Kannywood to collaborate with Nollywood stars for movie productions.
How did get into the movie industry?
I began my movie career in 2003. I started as a make-up artiste and that earned me an award at the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) in 2008. I also won the Best Makeup Artiste for the movie, London Boy, and that helped me to gain experience and contacts, which launched me into stardom. I then started acting, after which I tried presenting before upgrading to a moviemaker and entrepreneur. I soon became very famous in Kannywood movies and even produced some of movies. I am the CEO of Uzee Concept too. Over the years, I’ve produced more than 20 movies in Nollywood and Kannywood, which earned me multiple awards including the United Nations Peace Achievers Award. My movies so far include Maja, Oga Abuja, Under, Red Line, Hassana Da Hussaina, Thorny, Power Of Tomorrow, Almost Perfect, Dark Closet, If I Am President and Makeroom. I also host the most talked about talk show in northern Nigeria called Taurarin Zamani, which airs every Saturdays and Sundays on African Magic Hausa, Arewa24, and AIT.
What inspired your choice of going the entertainment way?
It’s all about the passion! I have a passion for entertainment, movie making, especially acting. That passion has driven me to where I am today and to the glory of God, I’ve achieved a lot doing it.
How do you cope with challenges?
I’m that kind of a person that never allows anything to bother him. My friends know me and I believe in the phrase ‘everything will be alright.’ So, basically, I sleep over things and then let go. I’m a very simple person and I know that no matter what, I’ll sleep and when I wake up the next morning, I’ll let all the worries go.
As one the famous Kannywood personalities, what are your challenges in the industry?
There wasn’t really any big challenge that I had to deal with because when I came, the top actors at the time just let me take the position that I proved to be worthy of. The only thing I will say is that there’s a lot of competition, which is healthy in every profession. But in the north, there isn’t a lot of competition because there are just a few of us. However, I can say that there are just about five of us that can take the industry from the north to the south successfully and be accepted immediately especially when you consider language barrier, education and a host of others. Most fans do not care where you come from as long as you give them what they really want.
When you look back, would you say you’re where you ought to be in the industry?
No I’m not but I thank the Almighty God for the level He’s brought me so far. I can proudly say that I’m a United Nations Ambassador on SDGs and I’m also a Nigerian Ambassador to MacArthur Foundation Global among others.
And what would you say is the position of Kannywood in the Nigeria movie industry today?
Let me say this, in Nollywood there are branches and among all these branches, Kannywood is the most reckoned with. We have stars that have emerged from Kannywood and are in competitive circles with those from the southern part of the country. Kannywood has the largest branch in terms of fame and sales so much so that it has generated huge revenue for the government.
So, why did you say that there is only one industry and that is Nollywood in a recent statement?
The reason is that so many braches are springing up like Kannywood and Yorubawood and more and I think it’s wrong. We’re all Nollywood. But Kannywood specifically stands out because at some point, that branch was not associated with southern movie makers until people like me came in to effect the merger and made sure it worked. In movies, language is not a barrier. We watch Indian movies, we watch Latin and American movies and some of these languages we do not understand. I believe in differentiating but we’re all are still under Nollywood.
How do you balance work and leisure?
Trust me, out of the 12 months in a year, 11 months for me is totally work. I take a break in December every year but lately, since I started appearing in television shows, December has become one of the busiest periods for me because of events. I can’t say I have a love life because I’m totally dedicated to my job.
You look cool, how did you achieve your urbane look?
The main secret of my urbane look is that I’m a free minded person. I go to bed every night with no ill feelings. If I must sleep, I sleep like a baby. I wake up every morning and I look fresher than I was the night before.
What does fashion and style mean to you?
It means a lot to me, half of my earnings go to fashion. I wear almost all the top designers in Abuja and Lagos. I’m an ambassador to a very top brand designer. I like fashion. You cannot be in the circle of entertainment and not be top notch in terms of fashion. Fashion opens doors for me. It’s a must for anybody that’s in the limelight. I can proudly say that I’m the most fashionable person in the North.
What fashion accessories would you not be caught without?
Rings, wrist watches and belt.
What are your most memorable moments?
One of my most memorable moments while growing up was when I got the call that my first visa to travel to London had been approved. I could not sleep till the next day but just held onto my passport all through the night.
What is your philosophy in life?
Everybody will be all right, don’t take things too serious. Always remember that you will die one day.
What is your relationship status?
I’m single and searching at the moment. I suffered a tremendous heartbreak, which really affected my love life. I’m not ready for marriage for now. In fact, I’m too busy to think about relationships or marriage. My job is taking much of my time and I’m enjoying it.
When do you think it’s right to settle down, because I know northerners marry quite early?
Well, for now, I can’t say. I’m too preoccupied to think about marriage. Filmmaking is sweeter than sex. So, I’d rather enjoy my work now. Women and other relationship issues can come later. I like dark tall girls a lot though.
These days there are lots of claims that actors stay away from marriage because of sugar mummies, how true?
I don’t know about others. But I know I’ve had several encounters with sugar mummies and their mouth-watering promises. I’m a man of principles. Even on social media, they send all kinds of messages to me. I resist all forms of their temptations.
How long can you stay without sex?
Right now, I can stay for over three months without getting intimate with any woman. I have trained myself to be like that. I’m not a sex freak.
What’s your advice to young Nigerians?
Always believe in yourself. Don’t try to be somebody else. You can achieve your own goals. Don’t allow politicians to use you and dump you. Always start from somewhere and remember time is never a problem. You can be 35 and still pursue a degree in the university; it’s not a big deal. Always be positive and be yourself and above all, be prayerful and dedicated to whatever you do.