Collins Onwochie is one of the veteran actors in Nollywood. The Business Administration graduate of Yaba College of Technology spoke with ADUNOLA OLADAPO on his journey so far in Nollywood, his past, among other issues.
How will you describe entertainment life in Nigeria?
Well, for me, showbiz is the biggest money generating business in the world, though stakeholders in the business here in Nigeria are still being shortchanged. Entertainment and celebrity life is fun and I’m thankful to God that I’m part of it.
When was the last time you acted in a film?
Very recently, I’ve just finished acting in a movie.
You are seen more on the television soaps nowadays, don’t you do movies anymore?
As an actor, if you wake up in the morning and you are able to see a script on your table, you should thank your God. We have a lot of wonderful actors and actresses in this country, so, definitely they scramble for jobs in the industry. I have been in the industry for a while, and I have passed the stage that I will go about begging for scripts to act. As for me, I do good jobs that come my way; that includes TV series which seem to come often these days. I can say I have done close to four films this year, and more are still on ground; it’s just that TV soaps are more constant on air. If you buy Nigerian movies, you will see me in some of the movies. So I can say that I do both.
Between TV series and movies, which one is more rewarding?
When you do the big screen, between two weeks, you are done and you get paid. Also, if you are doing a major serial, like that of Wale Adenuga Productions, it also pays very well. It all depends on how many episodes you act; so either way, it pays.
Looking back, when would you say you started acting?
A lot of people don’t know that I am as old as Nollywood.
Yes, I have been around since way back. Most people don’t know that I have been around since. I started acting over 20 years ago; that’s almost the same time Nollywood took shape. I acted in the very first set of films produced in Nollywood, like Evil Passion, Circle of Doom and Glamour Girls. So, you can rightly say I belong to the old school. Some of my prominent films as an actor are Diamond Ring by Tade Ogidan, Extreme Measures by Zeb Ejiro, King of the Jungle, to mention a few. As a producer, my first film was Memory of a Madman. I also anchor and produce a talk show titled Hidden Issues.
After all these years in the industry, will you say it has been rewarding for you?
Well, I will say yes, because it has been so rewarding in so many ways. In terms of fame, oh yes, very rewarding, the popularity is there but financially, I won’t say it has been very rewarding for me, considering the years I have put into this career. At this level, I should be a commercial actor but it hasn’t been so.
Commercial actor? How do you mean?
A commercial actor is someone that those advertising companies call and ask how much they will be paid to be in an advert or be used for endorsements. Unfortunately, I am not one of them, despite the number of years that I have put in the movie industry. I have realised that one needs a little bit of luck in this industry to acquire fame and money.
Any regret so far?
Of course not, I don’t have any regret so far.
Nowadays, you find younger artistes getting endorsements while veterans like you almost go unrecognised. What do you think is responsible for that?
One thing I understand is this; it is not how far you have been, but how well. At times, it is not the best actor that gets the best pay. Before the likes Mike Ezuruonye or Jim Iyke came on board, I had done close to 40 films, and yet they are among the biggest entertainers we have in the movie industry today, but I am happy for them. It boils down to luck, as I said earlier.
How many films have you produced so far?
I have produced about six movies and featured in several others that I have lost count of now.
Business Administration and acting do not synchronise. How did you find your way into acting?
Incidentally, during my first year at YABATECH, I looked so cute then. After my schooling, a couple of modelling jobs came my way. About two years later, a company, organised a show called Mr Ultimate Nigeria. It is what Silverbird calls Mr Nigeria now. I came second in the competition twice, and in the first year, about three of us went to represent the country for at the Mr Universe which was held in Warsaw in Holland, that was in 1992.
Does this mean that the competition brought you i
What happened to your modelling career?
I decided to drop my modelling career, because my level had elevated my status.
What exactly do you mean by that?
Right now, I am into commercials, at times I do adverts for some agencies.
Are you married?
Oh yes, I am married to a wonderful and beautiful woman. I also have three lovely, stubborn and intelligent boys and a beautiful girl recently.
So, how do you cope with being married and a job that is very time consuming?
Well, sometimes, I have less time working, but not all the time, so I use my free periods to be with my family at home. I can be very homely and romantic.
How true is this, that producers sleep with those that want to act, or is it the women that throw themselves at you guys?
I can’t really say, but as for me I don’t do it. You work for me because I see the professionalism in you, I go for quality and finesse.
How do you handle female fans that throw themselves at you?
I try so hard to do my job, in giving a thin line, between me and my fans. When they come to me, I just say hello and so on, one has to play along, because if you snub them, it is another different issue with them. I just handle it maturely. Before I got married, I had never kept girlfriends in my life. All I did was have a nice time with you without any strings attached. I think the longest relationship was three weeks. I was free, not emotionally attached, just have flings and that was it. But when I met my wife I became a changed person completely.
So, when you met your wife, did you have a fling in mind?
Yes, I had the mind of just flinging as usual. It was when I did an award-winning documentary. She was tough to get but I guess she was meant for me because after six months of pressurising her, she finally gave in.
What are the challenges you face as a producer?
It has to do primarily with raising money, then location and cast.
Artistes are supposed to be versatile and dynamic, why do we have some acts that play a fixed character in every movie they feature in?
It is what is in the industry. They are very good at interpreting the role the producers want them to act. For example, Jim Ikye, people know him as a bad boy in movies. I know that if they are given other roles to act, they will do wonderfully well.
As a popular actor/producer, do you get harassed by street urchins?
Well, at times, especially when shooting in some locations where touts abound, they will demand that you part with some amount before you can start shooting your movie in that area.
Can you share with us your most embarrassing moment?
Yes, I can remember a very funny one, that was like two months ago, I sat at the front seat with a pretty lady, I don’t know what I ate that day, the lady and I were chatting, and every now and then I would just fart, but the lady didn’t know I was the one, because I would stand up any time I felt it coming. It was crazy. It can happen to anybody.