Grass to grace aptly summarizes the story of multi-talented actor, Chiedozie Sambasa Nzeribe. Coming from a rough background, Sambasa made his debut in Nollywood in 2013. And barely three years after, he won the prestigious AMVCA in the Best Supporting Actor category for his role as Ghetto in A Soldier’s Story. In this chat with Christine Onwuachumba, the actor, model and poet opens up on his career and what stardom has denied him.
Tell us a little about growing up?
I grew up in Isolo, Lagos. I lost my father at a very young age. I recall as a child that he went to work one day and never made it back home. Years later we felt the impact of growing up without a father figure. My mother was a primary school teacher and her income was not enough to feed her five children so she went into petty trading. There is nothing we didn’t sell to make some money. I hawked fufu, vegetable and puff-puff on the streets of Isolo. My mother was also a drama teacher and choir instructor at our parish, St. Mary Catholic Church, Isolo. And I was a part of the drama and music group. There I developed love for music and drama. But sadly, she died of fibroid related issues when I was rounding-off my secondary school education. Thank God the Catholic Women Organisation (CWO) took up the responsibility of training me and my siblings via their Orphans’ Scholarship Scheme. They saw me through secondary school after which I wrote JAMB and gained admission to study Creative Arts at the university of Lagos (UNILAG) and here I am today.
Is Sambasa your real name?
My real name is Chiedozie Sixtus Nzeribe. Sambasa is a name that grew on me because of the tough things I was experiencing. It is an acronym for my philosophy of life and it means Surviving and Maintaining Balance against Societal Aggression. It simply means that whatever odds life throws at you, embrace it with the belief that you would survive and triumph.
You were trained by the church, was there any complaint when we you went into acting?
Yes. Many wondered where I would end up studying Creative Arts. But winning the AMVCA award has changed their impression and given meaning to my career.
Where you intimidated by the other popular actors in the category?
That I was nominated alone already makes me a winner. So I was already contented with that. I never assumed that I could win because there were more popular actors in the category. Even people around me advised me not to expect too much but to just console myself that I ever got nominated. So, yes, I was intimidated but I went in with a brave heart hoping and praying that I would win.
You came into film barely three years ago and you have won an AMVCA already. How have you been handling the female attention?
It is normal to have lots of female attention as an actor. But thank God for my background and training in Theatre Arts, I know how to relate with my female fans.
Are you married?
No, I am not.
Are you in any relationship?
Yes, I am in a serious relationship with my career (laughter).
What is the scariest encounter you have had with a female fan?
I had this very scary experience with a fan last year. I gave her my number and she began to stalk and bug me with calls. She called me countless times that I even contemplated changing my line. She desperately wanted to be in my life. And up till now she still stalks me occasionally.
Who are your role models?
I like RMD, Ramsey Noah and Desmond Elliot. In the female category, I like Genevieve Nnaji, Omotola Jalade-Ekeinde and Mercy Johnson.
What is your most challenging role to date?
I would say it is the Soldier Story by Martin Gbados. Also, A Mile From Home challenged me.
What has stardom denied you?
I love mingling with people but being an actor has denied me so much and I am still trying to get used to it. Now I can no longer mingle freely with people because almost everyone keeps asking me for money.
What is your advice to up-and-coming actors?
First believe in God and then, commit your desire, passion and art to Him. Study your art, train and then believe in yourself. And finally, you must love yourself.