Greatest compliment I ever received was when I played the role of a Yoruba man – Kalu Ikeagwu
YOU write poems and that is one aspect of you most people don't know about. How did it all start?
I have been writing poems from a young age and it is one of the ways I express my thoughts most. The first time I was aware of what was mostly going on around me was through literature, which was what my dad introduced me to as regards reading. He would always lay emphasis on it, both the one in Igbo and in English. I am a naturally creative and imaginative person, being something of an introvert; I tend to go into my own world. Literature helped fire that up in me. Besides, my studying English Literature at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka sort of reinforced it and I began to take it more seriously. I used to be intimidated by the form of literature, that is, its rigidity, its rhymes, in alliteration but I just chose to do mine, free style. That seemed okay with me as long as I was able to capture imagery in words as best as I could and most importantly, be able to convey to the reader what I was saying. I also try to keep my poem as simple as possible. I like a lot of humour in my poem, not the complexities of the Wole Soyinka kind of poem.
Have you tried publishing any?
No I haven't. I just keep amassing them although I am seriously thinking of doing that as soon as possible, maybe put two of the ones that are very dear to me into short 10-minute films. Its reviews would determine if I would publish.
You also blog; how did that also evolve?
Most recently, I started to keep a blog to sort of guide my readers into my thoughts, experiences and what I think about in the past, present, sometimes on set, social issues I see that I am not very happy with. It is a mix, any and everything. It is with a view to sharing me with everyone else. I started blogging last year April. The feedback has been quite good and I have my adult followers. I am also looking seriously to being more serious as regards screen writing. And maybe also write at least a novel before I kick the bucket.
Are you thinking along the line of directing?
Yes, because screen writing and directing go hand in hand.
How long have you been acting?
About 20 years, but I started off with stage acting.
Which is your ultimate preference, stage or pictures?
I like both; they both have their attractions. I wouldn't be what I am today if not for stage. The only difference between the two is that on stage, you do a lot of research to get into the character you want to play. One of the greatest compliments I ever received was when I played the role of a Yoruba man from Ondo State in a stage play. On one of the nights after the play had ended, one of the members of the audience walked up to me and asked if I was truly from Ondo. I told him I was Igbo; he couldn't believe me because I had imbibed the Ondo accent, the spurt on humour and everything about the Ondo. He was very impressed and that was one of the best compliment I got. Even after that, I couldn't get rid of the accent for two weeks and refused to speak in English except in Pidgin to mask the accent. That is the beauty of stage. I remember doing quite a bit of research about the Ondo and the man in question. I rehearsed for the role for about two months. The beauty of film on the other hand is that you don't have to exert yourself as much as you do on stage play. The camera is such a beautiful and intrusive thing; that is, all you need do is just think a thought and the camera looks into your soul and picks it up right away. You only need to understand the character and think what the character is likely to think and the camera will follow you every step of the way. They are both different in their own ways but very exhilarating.
How did you acquire your British accent?
I was born in England, lived in Zambia till I was nine years, did my secondary school and university in Nigeria and went back to England and stayed there for about 12 years before coming back to Nigeria. But today in our family house, we don't speak English as a rule; it is Igbo all the way.
What were you up to when you stayed back for 12 years?
Working; I tried to go to school and was able to get a diploma in computer programming. I became a computer programmer during the day and in the evening, I kept my hand on the pulse of what I loved doing, acting. I joined the local drama group in my church, joined some professional theatres as an amateur for rehearsals. That was why the transition to acting here was quite easy.
What else do you do besides all that you have talked about?
I run a business with my cousin in Port Harcourt. We do contracts for oil companies, fittings, safety equipment and the likes.
What business do you have with the Cross Rivers State Government?
It is on tourism and helping with promoting it. It is still in the works so I can't really talk much about it now.
What was growing up like?
I was a horrendous truant while I was in secondary school. I went through six different secondary schools. What cane did I not receive? There was the fan belt, koboko, name it. Ironically, I was the quietest of my siblings. I always quarrelled with my dad and if I knew I couldn't win, I simply applied the passive aggressive method, like refusing to go to boarding school, which was what he wanted for me. Of course he would insist and I would accept. He would give me my school fees, I would leave home and just run off somewhere rather than to school, travelling all over the place. There was a time I was looked for all over the place by the police for months. I was eventually found and brought home and my dad finally succumbed to what I wanted: to be a day student. It was short lived because he still shipped me off to boarding school. I rebelled again and got kicked out of school and then he finally made me a permanent day student. That was when I started performing well. I didn't like to go to boarding school because at that time a lot of people were being rehabilitated from the Civil War and you could easily find much older people as your classmates. One of my classmates was a 35-year-old man with five children and had his own business. A real baby was like a 15-year-old in Class Two and I was nine. Some of these people had been through rough times and were traumatised by all the things they had been through in the Civil War and they took it out on lesser and younger ones like me in terms of punishment. I have crawled on my knees on very rough grounds for long distances and my knees got peeled. I couldn't take it more so, we had just come back from England and I was used to a certain life style and rights. But there, we had no rights whatsoever: that was why I rebelled, more or less.
How would you describe yourself?
I am a very passionate person; I have a lot of belief in humanity, to use my talent to reach as many people as possible. I am very determined, I do not compromise on what I want to do and I go for perfection. Maybe it is a bad thing but that is just me.