Emmanuel Akintunde is Nigerian born actor/entrepreneur/Sola ambassador. Nominated for numerous awards such as the Sola awards, Enterprise awards e.t.c , you can find him in the Blockbuster movie Prince of Persia as Amar’s Race patron and a host of other movies too. A few weeks ago, one of our writers Ade Ajibola caught up with Emmanuel to have a nice one on one chat. In this two part interview, Emmanuel talks about his first acting experience, his inspiration and the state of Nollywood film industry.
Ade Ajibola : Nice to meet you Mr Emmanuel Baba-Akintunde, Very nice name don’t you think?
Emmanuel Akintunde : [Laughs] Very Funny!
AA: What made you go into acting ?
EA: What made me go into acting?
EA: Well the story started when I did a couple of plays at school, I was in a play called the Arabian Nights, I was in a school play–. a production and i played the little beggar boy, I was actually watching the video the other day, very very funny I was doing some nice dance moves there (..) It was through that I had the–. the passion instilled in me then. But obviously with Nigerian parents (..) I went down the line of medicine so i forgot all about acting. So in 2008 I started doing extra work it was whilst I was doing extra work, I managed to get a role on Prince of Persia as Amar’s Race Patron and it was through that; that my acting passion kind of got re-ignited then. So after that I thought to myself “I can actually go into this again” so 2009 I auditioned for a school in New York, they call it New York conservatory for dramatic arts and they offered me a scholarship to come down to the states to study there. So in 2009 went out to the states studied and then came back at the end of 2009, and then 2010 got an agent and i’ve been working since.
AA: So what I pretty much gathered is that being in the role play in school was a defining moment for you, is that right?
EA: Yes! That was when the acting–. That’s when i knew and my parents knew and even people at school, my friends knew that “rah this boy can actually act”.
AA: That’s Good. So who are your Major Influences? You must be at a stage where you watch some actors and think to yourself “I just want to be like this person”.
EA: Well, Yeah! My influences at the moment are a whole heap of people, Damien Lewis being one of them, I believe he is a brilliant actor after watching Homeland, He just gets you. Him and Claire Danes brilliant actors I think!. Idris Elba is definitely one! I’am talking about all the British cats at the moment.
Idris Elba is definitely one–. One that I definitely admire, especially after watching Luther and there were some defining moments in Luther where I thought that this guy is something else, and I saw his acting kinda went to a different level. Now to cross over the Pond to the states, a lot of people say Denzel and with me, Denzel is definitely the one. After watching the bone collector, him playing that role as a decapitated man who was still able to figure out who was committing these crimes, that got me! That very much got me! And I loved his role, And I love something–. There is something about Denzel that just makes you just want to keep watching him. Yeah Will Smith! Definitely one. That’s because of the Fresh Prince of Belair and his whole work ethic and ethos that has come from the Fresh Prince of Belair and his whole ?steadiment? and the fact that he is one of the most bankable actors in Hollywood at the moment. Tyler Perry because of his business acumen!..
AA: Mmm-hmm! Tell me about it
EA: Yeah Tyler Perry is a brilliant guy, brilliant guy and this is someone that has self made it by himself. Through no studio, he made his own studio which is based in Atlanta, he’s created almost like his own industry and his own niche and as an actor and a business person, I admire that in Tyler Perry.
AA: Emmanuel you have talked about the western actors, western world actors, what are your views on Nollywood? You have mentioned Hollywood actors a lot..
EA: I haven’t finished yet! I haven’t finished yet!
AA: Okay you haven’t finished, Go on, keep going, keep going
EA: [Laughs] See I started with the British Cats, I started with the British Cats..
AA: Of course you know, I have to ask you about Nollywood [Laughs] you know this is Africa public right? This is not western public [Laughs]
AA: You know!
EA: Okay, one actor who I love, the two main who are Nigerians, they might not be in Nollywood films but one of them is actually going to be in a film that we’re shooting in America–. I mean that we’re shooting in Nigeria. Um Chiwetel Ejiofor!
AA: I know him, I know him, I know him.
EA: He’s a brilliant actor
AA: Ibo guy
EA: Yeah Ibo guy. He was in “Kinky Boots” which was a very very funny film, he was also in “Salt” which is a brilliant film, he acted well in that! And he also played a role in a British Drama series on BBC which I loved him in. So Chiwetel Ejiofor is definitely one!. David Oyelewo, he is a brilliant brilliant actor, If you’ve seen him you will know how good he is, he was in the “Rise of the Planet of the Apes” another great film. Hold on one second, I have to answer this call. It’s important.
AA: No problem
[Interview is interrupted by a phone call]
EA: [Laughs] Oh my gosh you’re funny
EA: Yeah so we were talking about Nigerian actors right?
AA: Yeah, yeah Nigerian actors, you mentioned Hollywood actors with African descent.
EA: Yeah Chiwetel Ejiofor. Also look out for the film “Half of a Yellow Sun” that’s the film he’s working on–. That he was working on, that was shot in Nigeria.
AA: Is he still working on it ?
EA: No I believe they have finished it, but yeah he is a brilliant actor
AA: So what’s the film about?
EA: Half of a Yellow Sun?
AA: Yeah Half of a Yellow Sun
EA: I’m not too sure, it’s set around the Biafran times that’s as far as i know, but i haven’t read the book yet unfortunately, i haven’t had the pleasure.
AA: That’s alright, I think it should be an interesting movie if it’s set around the Biafran period.
EA: Yeah, Yeah and of course David Oyelewo another good actor who I admire very very much. For the reason of, he is so eclectic in his..
AA: Are you hearing the words people? Eclectic!
EA: Eclectic yes! he is very eclectic which means that he can play –. he is very diverse in the roles that he plays and that is what I try to aspire to do and to be as well. So yeah those are all the actors that I quite admire and I would say are one of my influences.
AA: Okay that’s good Emmanuel, let’s go back to Nollywood now, you know Nollywod is moving up in terms of profit making. There is so much money being poured into that industry now, so what’s your take on Nollywood today? We know that 10years ago the quality was bad its obvious, but now things are getting better.
AA: Back in the day, Nollywood films were 2D, now we’re doing HD now so it’s an upgrade Emmanuel, so what’s your take on it?
EA: [Laughs], As you mentioned, the Nollywood industry is a very very booming market and it’s one I would love to tap into because at the moment its currently third as the largest producer of feature films Hollywood being the first, then Bollywood being in India and Nollywood being in Nigeria. So obviously with that sort of market you would want to be part of that as an actor and yeah if anyone watches me–. and as you said the quality is increasing and there are quite a few production companies out in Nigeria at the moment which it will be a pleasure to work with and Nollywood is not an Industry I would dismiss as an actor.
AA: So do you think in the near future we would be able to compete with not only Hollywood but Bollywood, do you think we would be able to take Bollywood out?
EA: Anything is possible.
AA: Anything is possible.
EA: Because what it is, it’s a culture. Hollywood is a culture, Bollywood is a culture, Nollywood is a culture. So it’s all about who’s buying into that culture. And obviously with Nigerians, there’s a lot of spotlight on Nigerians at the moment. Be it Nigerians, be it actors, be it for good, bad or ugly things, we are in the spotlight but we’re mainly in the spotlight for a lot of good things at the moment. Especially with a lot of actors in the UK who are winning awards who are of Nigerian descent. So it’s very much anything is possible, anything can happen.
AA: Emmanuel, I don’t know if you watch Nollywood movies-
AA: Or if you’ve ever watched one, what do you think needs to be done? We know our quality hasn’t reached the Hollywood stage, we know that. What do you think could be done to improve and to make Nollywood films better?
EA: At the moment, everything is good because it’s a case of the market and its audience being able to relate to everything that Nollywood films produce. Personally I think the stories can improve. The story lines need to improve, it needs to captivate not just a Nigerian market but it needs to reach a wider market. You need to be able to have a British person looking at the film and watching the film and thinking to himself they can be able to relate to that. This is what Hollywood has done. Hollywood films are not just about America it’s about different things of life they come to the UK to do some filming, they talk about every aspect of –. They speak about stories as opposed to culture which I believe Nollywood–. That’s what they do in Nollywood but, in saying that I think the story line needs to improve and they need to be able capture a wider market as an industry as opposed to just capturing the Nigerian market. So if they do that they could be Bollywood, they could be Hollywood. As I said anything’s possible.
AA: Out of interest who is your best Nollywood actor or actress?
[They both laugh]
EA: Ramsey Noah!
AA: I was expecting you to say Mr Ibu
[They both Laugh]
EA: You’re a funny funny guy! Oh and the two–. Aki and Popo!
AA: Those guys are old, they are married now, you know [Laughs]
EA: Oh really [Laughs]
AA: Yeah, they aren’t young men anymore, they are old men
EA: Serious? Wow!!, yeah Ramsey Noah, Mr Ibu even the woman that played Jennifer, she is a funny character.
AA: Who? You are talking about that old woman? The one that’s always playing the wicked–. Is it her?
EA: She played Jennifer, she played Jennifer! Um
AA: Are you talking about Patience Ozokwo?
EA: Is that her name?
AA: The woman that’s always acting evil roles
EA: Is she always acting evil roles?
AA: She always does, she’s very loud, everyone knows her. You haven’t been watching too much Nollywood movies, Get on that stuff!!
[They both laugh]
EA: To be honest I get pushed into it because my mum always watches it at home so I’ve started watching a few actually to be fair.
AA: It’s improved, it’s improved, we have to say it’s improved you understand.
EA: Yeah to be fair, as I said it’s still improving.
AA: I am sure Emmanuel that you remember that African movie where they used a fake plane?
EA: Don’t even go there!! [Laughs]
AA: You remember that right? [Laughs] We are improving, we thank God.
EA: [Laughs hysterically]
AA: If you were to work with a Hollywood-
EA: Sorry to interrupt you, the woman I’m talking about that was in Jennifer, her name is Funke Akindele!
AA: Funke Akindele is another good actress, the Yoruba actress, she is very good
EA: That’s it! Yes! She is brilliant, she’s good, really good
To be continued, watch out for part 2