Many will not know him but his participation at the popular Big Brother Africa Nigeria Show some years ago shot him into limelight and his role in MNET soap, Tinsel. Gideon Okeke is one actor with many sides, his style of acting differ him from others and his stage performances on live theatre show is something to reckon with. Cornered at the just concluded Nigerian Entertainment Conference (NEC), the Tinsel star and graduate of the prestigious Nnamdi Azikiwe University spoke on his career, the burden of pirates and solutions and his growing up days amongst others.
What have you been up to?
I have been working and presently am back on the set of Tinsel after a little break.
Talking about the concept of this program, how do you think it would benefit the entertainers?
We need this on my side of my divide in the industry, the African international film festival is the only legit convener of African talent and industry practitioners to come and talk film in the past twelve months. If this is happening for the entire spectrum of entertainment industry then it’s good, because we need information to drive us forward. I am hoping that the real players who have the power to talk about our industry are being invited even if the artists or industry players are not here. It’s this same industry that feeds a lot of people and a lot earn from it so we should pay attention.
What is the reason why some of your colleagues aren’t here?
Well, I wouldn’t know who the target audience is particularly. Anybody who was invited should probably be here.
During the Easter period we saw a wonderful performance by you at the Saro Musical concert ,which will you say you more comfortable with the stage drama or the normal acting?
Acting is living, so there is no form of comfort in living. You just live. So whatever platform it presents itself I will play. I will live. So there is no form of leaving better. Any platform that comes I will play. I must say that I am comfortable both a stage and the other side of it.
How was it performing in front of a live audience, was it your first time?
Well many people don’t know us for now, they don’t know where we coming from or how we got here. A lot are just concerned with the glory in present day. If you check the background of a few talents you know they’ve been training from here and there and done a few other things to get them were they are or to get you were you met them. I had some training in theatre and also drama and as such I have always wanted to do theatre professionally, so when the organiser as big as Saro platform contacted me, I did not think twice before saying a yes.
During AMVCA you showed another skill of yours in terms of music when yourself, Femi Jacob rendered an acapella version of Shoki, is it that you want to venture into music?
We not doing enough acting, we haven’t done enough as actors. There is still more work to do. So let’s not try to take other peoples job from them.
Talking about piracy, is it that the piracy is favouring the actors not the producer?
Piracy affects everyone at the end of the day. Because at some point it’s not about acting it to let people know what we do professionally. It’s not just about going into play and getting your money. At some point as you grow bigger you want to sell a film; you want to be on a film that sells, you want to be the face that sells it. If it’s pirated it does bad for producer, cleaner, actor, everybody. Because your success isn’t individual, your success is tied to a lot of people success. So if am on a film and it’s pirated in hope for it to sell even if you don’t negotiate bad ends. The industry hasn’t gotten to that point where we get residuals. It seems like the producer takes all at the end of the day. As we grow bigger, we hope that one day we will get residuals from our work. Besides residuals as you grow bigger in the industry you hope not just to be the face on the screen but be the person that sells the project.
If you were to advise on how to stop piracy, what would you say?
First piracy is a global thing, its everywhere. There hasn’t been a way to attack it, but whatever the Americans are doing with incretion encoding. It might be expensive that is as far as the material itself. And down to the mindset of the people accepting. It has a lot to say about our value system. Why do you value the original or pirated? It’s like saying you would rather eat kompo than eating beef. So it’s our value system, if you want to feel good then pay value for what you want. Sincerely my advice is severe penalty for anyone who is caught.
As an actor how will enlighten the people on what film is original from the pirated one?
The industry is still growing, that will now be a short fall of the producers in the marketing of their products. It’s a very valid question you asking. We’ve never had that one product that says for mark of authenticity this is the original copy don’t buy anything less than this. Their own way has been to say this is where to get the film don’t get it outside of any of their distribution channels. It goes back to distribution, if we have a proper distribution channel then you know you to go to the store and get your stuff. There are places in Ghana were you just can’t work on the road and see people selling DVDs you have to go to stores to get them. Those distribution channels would at least help to reduce it if not totally but drastically.
What then should the government do?
Well clamp down on the act of the pirate give penalties.
Has there being laws against piracy?
Yes there has been a law but it’s not being enforced. It’s an intellectual property right, which is also the aim of all of these to get people more aware of intellectual property rights, distribution rights and all the things down the line. Your work is what feeds you. Shakespeare died but is still leaving but that is not the case in the Nigeria system.
How was your growing up?
My growing up was sheltered even though it wasn’t with a silver spoon. I was the only kid in the house so my parents tried to restrain me from doing a lot of things including going out. I was given what I needed and wanted. I started acting at the age of six and I have never stopped acting.
Let’s talk about Tinsel. How did the journey start?
One night, I went to the club with my friends; the day before, we’d all gotten the text message for an audition. I got back home, I was squatting with my friend, Chinedu in Surulere, at that time and next morning I was like ‘o boy I wan go that audition o.’ We were all drunk from the club, and he was like ‘dey go jo I no dey go’ and I went and came back and I was like ‘I don get am o’ and he was shocked. He also talks about the story, he says it all the time like you know when something is cut out for you, the stars align. If I hadn’t gone who knows what would have happened?
Prior to the audition, had you ever tried acting?
Which is why I say it’s not a mistake where I find myself, I have been acting since I was six in primary school. My headmistress loved me so much, apparently for my acting skills. I have been acting since I was in secondary school; I directed all the stage plays and other people as well, as a kid. My English teacher put a lot of trust in me, and would buy books and give me. I was [also] the head of debating and drama society, she used to give me books to read and ask me to direct it for the next play, so I’d read and gather my mates do something and then present it to her and she used to take credit for it. I did it from my JS1 till SS3. When I went into university, I [used to] finish from my class, run to Nonso Diobi’s class in theatre arts, and help them pack the drums, but Nonso never knew me then. Now I tell him, dude, we went to the same school and I was always in your class, he is like wow! It was no mistake at all, I only got professional training 2 years ago.