Born in England, Kalu Egbui Ikeagwu has emerged as one of Nigeria’s hottest role interpreters.
Having made his mark in several movies and stage plays, many, however, became attracted to Ikeagwu as an actor in the popular TV series, Tinsel.
Entertainer caught up with him at the premiere of Andy Boyo’s House of Talents and he opened up on his flourishing career, family and many other issues.
What new projects are you working on?
I just finished a movie where I played the role of a police officer and I had to interrogate people, so I had to shave my beard. I also just did an epic, my first ever, in Abia State. I really never thought I could do something like that because it involved a lot of running around in the bush half naked and fighting and stuffs like that. It was quite new and challenging to me. There is a stage play coming later in the year. I try to do that at least once in a year to keep in touch with my creative juices. That is a bit of what to expect.
What was your parents’ reaction when you chose acting as a career?
The struggle started way before Nollywood because I have been acting for 31 years. In the university, I did stage plays for World Health Organisation, which was a huge disappointment for my dad, because he wanted me to be a doctor. And when I told him this was what I wanted to do after school, there was crisis. So, the fight started long ago but when his friends saw me on stage and told him ‘hey! We saw your boy on TV, he is quite good’, he relented and started encouraging me.
Most of your colleagues are going into movie production; do you have any plan to move in that direction?
I can’t say for now. I have interest in that, but the business involvement in producing and making profit from movies is still not what it should be. Having said that, I commend the producers working in this hostile business environment. I commend them because they are only motivated by passion; they don’t really make money. About 70 per cent of them don’t break even. So, I am looking at the distribution aspect instead.
With the coming of Netflix to Nigeria, don’t you think you should reconsider your position?
Netflix, yes, that could be a solution if the Nigerian factor doesn’t come into play, because the Nigerian factor is very formidable. A lot of foreign companies have come here and the Nigerian factor has impacted them negatively. Having said that, in Netflix, there actually is something to look forward to, but even if it succeeds, our content might have to be compromised. That is why I said we should always be in control of our content. If we have started putting everything right in the industry, we would still be controlling our content. But with the coming of Netflix among other platforms, the risk is for us to compromise our content, and having to put up with their demands. Regarding the Nigerian factor, it is all about corruption, a situation whereby someone comes in with good intentions and then some people go over to him and say ‘oh, you don’t have to do it this way. It really doesn’t matter. You can find a shortcut to do this’.
Against the backdrop of what you just said, what do you think is the future of Nollywood?
The future of Nollywood is very bright and it is because of the nature of the practitioners, the people involved in the industry, and that is the other side of the Nigerian factor, which says ‘never die; never give up no matter what’. We are the only people in the world that succeed no matter the hostile business environment; we are that hardened! I think this is the only country in the world that is not supported by government in any way and we still succeed. We are the only economy that has no social safety net for its citizens yet, we still succeed, and that is why we thrive wherever we go in the world. So, that Nigerian factor is what will keep Nollywood alive.
You have been married for a while. How are you enjoying marriage, any kids yet?
I have been married since 2016 and it has been good all the way. I have two kids and it has been a most wonderful experience.
You are always hopping from set to set. How do you get to spend quality time with your kids?
The truth is that God has been very good to me. I spend a lot of time on set. For instance, I just spent almost three weeks shooting an epic in Abia State. After spending that much time, I try to spend like a week at home, and during those times, I don’t go anywhere. I help my daughter with her homework. I even cook for my family and now my entire family looks forward to it. They are always like ‘wow, dad is coming home and he is going to cook for us’. I spend as much time as I can with them, and my little baby is about six months old now. So, I always take them on a walk. Even now, whenever I go away for a while and return, he still recognises me.
You are a dashing young man, how are you handling your female fans?
Wow! Female fans? I see them as God’s blessings. Looking good also comes with responsibilities. When God blesses you, you appreciate it but you don’t let it go to your head. You take cognisance of the fact that the blessing was given to you for a purpose, so you focus on why it was given to you. I appreciate my female fans very much and I also see them for what they are, wonderful and adoring. It is my responsibility to minister to my female fans and not to get carried away by abusing them.
Doesn’t your wife get jealous that some smart Nollywood girl might snatch you from her?
The funny thing is I met my wife on set. Funny enough, it was her first time on set. She had just completed a make-up course in India and decided to come on set to see if she could make it as a make-up artiste or go start a business. That was how I met her in Port Harcourt. I was the one that chased her, and from the way I acted, she knew the kind of person I was. Yes, I can be very playful and sometimes I am serious, but when it comes to work, work is work and I don’t mess with my work.
Was it love at first sight and how did you pop the question?
I don’t know how to explain it, but immediately I saw her, there was a connection. I wouldn’t say I knew she was the one but when I saw her, I was inspired because she had the most beautiful eyes I had ever seen in my entire life. I just saw everything I liked in a woman. And when we were coming back, because she used to take us from set to the hotel and drive back to drop all of us. Aunty Joke Silva, myself and others, and sometimes, she drove dangerous roads and I would ask her ‘are you not scared?’ And she would say ‘no’. So, I liked that courageous heart and as time went on, I saw other qualities and I knew she was the one for me. How did I pop the question? I was at my aunt’s funeral and my uncle was there with me and he kept asking ‘when are you going to get married and start having kids? When are you going to bring your wife home and begin to have children that will break things in the house?’ And there and then, she walked in and I was like ‘uncle, here is the woman I want to marry’ and that was all (laughter). Three months after, we were married. I am not the most conventional person. I am also not the most romantic person. When I see what I want, I just go for it and the romance can follow later.
How have you been able to avoid scandals in the industry?
I believe that nobody is perfect. We all have our good and bad sides. So, there is no reason why I shouldn’t be scandalous. But the reason I would say is that it is only God. God in the sense that He made it possible for me to realise that my looks, character, talent and everything attributed to me were a gift from Him. So, when you recognise that you did not add anything to yourself, you ask, why were you made that way?
And well, the worst thing for you to do is to abuse that thing because you are abusing your maker. So, it is your responsibility to ask ‘Lord, why did you make me this way? Let me follow the way you made me’. And then, one day, we all must die and go to the afterlife and give account of what we did with the talent and gifts He gave us, and that’s what is uppermost on my mind.
You sound very spiritual.
I am. Like I said, I don’t have any presence on social media. I don’t go advertising myself, so there is a reason why I am still relevant and it has nothing to do with how good I am and whatever. There is someone responsible for that and I noticed that earlier in my career. Even my coming into this industry was a miracle. I had no reason to be here. I was living in England but acting has been something I have always wanted to do, and I have always prayed to God to guide me. I could go on forever. There are so many miracles, things that have happened in my life. I shouldn’t have had my son, not even my daughter but for His mercies. So, I have no choice but to be spiritual.
Do you have any regrets coming into acting?
It is something that I was born to do. I have no regrets whatsoever. The challenges have been great but I couldn’t have asked for a greater life.