WE KISS IN MOVIES...IS THAT A SIN?...KENNETH OKONKWO
If you can study any course at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, you can do anything, except you don't have the interest.
My first degree was Business Administration; I was awarded a certificate for Academic Excellence, to tell you that I am not a dunce.
I believe in a meticulous system of learning; that is, you keep learning until you die. So, I didn't stop at Business Administration. I also went to theological school. I did my Masters in International Law and Diplomacy, and it may please you to know that I am in my 400 level as a Law student.
To be honest with you, when I came into the movie world, I didn't consider it a profession, and that was why I never read Theatre Arts.
Just as I was (and I am still) a sports guy, I wanted to take drama as my hobby.
The first movie I did created an impact in Nigeria. So, what was a hobby, became a profession; and my profession, hobby. That was what happened, I can no longer wish it away.
Are you fulfilled as an actor?
Yes, I am because I am getting more than I expected. If you want to know, I must make it clear that I am contented with what I earn as an artiste.
Can you count the number of movies you have acted in?
Above 50 or below 60. I can't really say. As a matter of fact, I have always been very careful about the kind of movies I take part in.
There was a time you took a break...
I didn't take a break. When we started, I felt that one should be very careful. Like I told you, my initial thought was to take drama as a hobby.
But I was working and I didn't want to stop. So, I decided to do something about it. I was now coming out, like once or twice in a year.
But the pressure from my fans was too much. I am still overwhelmed by the outpouring of love, and by their sincere yearnings for more. I had to increase the number of movies I act. I never really went away. I cannot remember any one year that I did not come out.
Does it get to your head that you are among the pacesetters in this industry?
I have a dream and I know where I am going. I know I am not there yet. Being a pacesetter, to me, is simply a starting point. How can it get to my head when I have not even started? I have just begun. I am universal in my thought and in my belief.
So, you aspire higher than Nollywood...
Absolutely. It is not as in stepping out of Nollywood to do something, but to do something in Nollywood that will step out and influence the whole world.
You cannot lay a foundation and it gets to your head when your aim is to build a skyscraper.
When you did Living in Bandage, did it have any spiritual effect on you?
This world is spiritual. Spiritual challenges do not wait until you do Living in Bondage before they come. They have always been with us.
I did not see anything outrageous or different after the movie, aside from the normal spiritual battle that everybody should be prepared for, right from birth. I just knew that with the added impetus that I am now a celebrity, there would be added challenges and that was what happened.
If the challenges are still there, how do you cope with them?
They will always be there. They will remain there forever. I will now learn to accommodate them as part of what I have to do, as part of what I have bargained for by being an actor.
How do you cope with fans?
It is just like the normal thing. They are my fans, they expect me to be their role model, they expect the best of attitude from me and they expect me to plant a smile even if somebody punches me.
It is a case of measuring to their own standard of love towards you. They are doing this because of love. You feel more challenged because you want to return love for love, very unconditional and very real.
Are you satisfied with the way things are in your industry?
You should remember that we are not even up to 20 years yet, so you should find a place in your heart to be satisfied with us. We are still in our teens.
But movies are churned out in large numbers everyday…
You should expect that. That is still a sign of the growth we are talking about.
When something comes out and it is successful, it has this natural pull in a capitalist nation, to attract a whole lot of people to it.
If you don't have this influx, you are not doing anything that is good. Along the line, nature would select those that it chose for the job and they would keep moving.
Do you choose the kind of movies you feature in?
Obviously, I do. I do that with every sense of responsibility and with every sense of realisation that if I started it, I owe the industry a duty to set a standard.
Is there a particular role that you cannot play?
I should ask you that. You are my mirror. The role is not the first thing I look at; the first thing I look at is the script, if it is a great script, then I also like the role to be challenging.
It mustn't be a good guy, it must be a bad guy. It mustn't be a boyoyo. I find myself playing every kind of role and my fans always appreciate them.
Are you really comfortable kissing in movies? How far can you go while playing love scenes since we are still Africans?
I cannot deny that we kiss in movies because it is the truth. Let us put it this way, I can go to the level of convincing you that I am doing what I am supposed to do in that movie to make it look natural.
If you kiss somebody in movies, it is not really a big deal. Kissing means different things to different people. Even in the Bible, there is a holy kiss.
But I don't see kissing as a sin. I have not read it in the Bible. You can educate me on that.
Remember, it is a make-believe world.
The ability for you to convince somebody watching you that this is real, when you are not really doing it, is what makes you an actor.
Certainly, I am not going to go nude in the movies and I am not going to allow a girl go nude in movies.
But, if there is any way we can make the world to think we are nude when we are not, I can do it. That is the beauty of it.
I am not going to “commit” in the movie. That will not be make-believe any longer.
But does it matter, if a carrot is dangled in front of you, can you take it?
No. That carrot is a snare. I could enter it and may not be able to escape from it. The issue is that what we are doing is make-believe. I do not enlist to act a pornographic movie. I am not going to the level of committing anything with a lady in the movies.
I will not go nude, I will not 'commit'
Actors are often associated with scandals all over the world, but your own seems to be much; the latest being the issue of your 'second' marriage. The lady said you got married to her, and we read somewhere that you never got married to her. Which one is true now?
I don't really want to go into it.
But are you really married now?
You are in my house. As you can see, it is clearly evident that I am not married. I have only had one marriage and I am divorced now.
But we learnt you got married again?
Like I said, I don't want to go into that, but I just want to state that I have only been married once in any life.
Are you now in a relationship?
I am searching. If you are single, there are many waka pass people that come into your life. That does not mean you have to get married to them.
So, is there a 'waka pass' person in your life now?
No, I am not really good at waka pass, so that you don't get into problem.
I like to go for 'major' roles since I am used to major roles in movies.
The thing is that most people get to do these things and nobody hears of them; but once Kenneth Okonkwo does it, everybody gets to hear.
Do you regret that your first marriage did not work out?
No. I tell you what, I wrote a book, I sent it to Oxford University for them to start using it. It was an English Dictionary. They sent it back to me, they rejected it. I was hurt because I knew I did a great job.
I queried them on why they rejected the dictionary, I was told they did not find the word 'regret.'
I told them it was not a mistake. It is true. In my own dictionary, there is no word like 'regret' and I mean it.
I acknowledge that I made mistakes in the past. Those mistakes contributed to making me who I am today. I don't regret anything that happened in the past, I learnt from it. I believe that maybe, I won't repeat those mistakes
Is there any likelihood of your getting back together with your former wife?
If you have been to a theological school, you would discover that the word 'Never' does not belong to man. The way I cut out 'regret' from my dictionary, I am not cutting out 'never'. But it belongs to God in my dictionary.
I cannot say what will happen tomorrow with 100 per cent certainty. Let us leave that to God, But as at today, I am not married.
For somebody who went to a theological school, who is even sounding very religious, is it not curious that your marriage did not work out to the extent that you went in for a divorce? Didn't you hand it over to God?
You are ascribing to me what I don't have. You are ascribing divinity to me when I am not one.
In anything you are doing with somebody else, you can be responsible for your own actions, but you can't be responsible for that person's actions, no matter how close that person is to you.
Naturally, you should submit all things to God. Of course, on daily basis. I submit all things to Him.
Certainly, it is possible that we didn't do what we are supposed to do on our own part as men, maybe that's why it collapsed.
But I was the man in that relationship, so I take full responsibility.
It will be wrong for you to say because I am a Christian, I am now immune to the same level of agony that other people experience. I am not immune to that.
When I say I love a woman, I mean it. She hurts me even when she is hurting herself.
Did you ever beat your ex-wife?
I cannot imagine beating a woman, I would rather leave her. For me to hit a lady, I can't imagine it.
The only way I can hit a lady is when I am defending myself, if she is now the one hitting me.
If somebody wants to slap your face, by instinct, you would tend to block your face. That is the closest I can be to having physical combat with a lady.
If a lady tries to hit me, I will defend myself by disenabling her from doing it.
The Christian level is for you to turn the other cheek for her to slap you again, but I have not reached that level yet in Christianity.
If you slap me on one cheek, my reaction will be simply based on how I woke up that morning.
If I had so much anointing that morning, I would just look at you and go, but I will not give you the other cheek. I am not going to leave my face to be a punching bag.
When things go wrong in a relationship, blackmails always come out. But, if three ladies can come out and say I hit them, then I am guilty.
We also learnt you were (are) very promiscuous …
My profession is not advantageous to me in this defence.
I tell you something, since I gave my life to Christ, I have never cheated on any lady.
So, you did not cheat on your ex-wife?
I cannot imagine doing this, not for one day. I am not a saint, I told you I have had relationships. But I tell you, if you can establish any one lady who would say I cheated on my wife because of her then I am guilty.
The relationship lasted between 1997 to 2002. If there is any one lady in the whole world who can prove that I had anything to do with her while I was married, then I am a liar.
Your parents are still alive?
My father is late.
How long were your parents married?
They were married up until he died.
How come you didn't aspire to live the kind of life your father lived in terms of marriage?
His name was Francis, my name is Kenneth. We are two different persons. He has a different mother, I have a different mother.
I cannot be him, no matter how much I aspire. His thumbprint is different from mine.
Did you give it your very best to make the marriage work?
I don't think there is anybody who will go into a relationship and will not want to make it work.
We separated 2002, and got divorced 2006. We have a son, so we are bound to talk to each other. It is not a choice, it is a must.
Are you going to get married again?
I am not a reverend father.
Help me pray so that the waka pass will leave me alone.
Definitely, one day I will be married. But it is not my priority now. But you never can say. In anything that has to do with emotions, you can never say.
Is it not time you left this industry since it seems to have an effect on your marital life?
Where else do you think I will go and it won't have an effect on me? If I were a cobbler, I would still be a celebrity.
You don't need to be in the movies alone to be a celebrity. Being a celebrity is a gift.
I was having good relationship with women even before I became a movie guy. I think it is just, maybe; because one or two things have not been done right.
So, will everything work out in your next marriage?
I cannot promise you that. It takes two to make it work. You can be sure of yourself, but you don't know who your neighbour is. I cannot speak for my neighbour. But whatever happens, I take it.
So, if your next marriage does not work out, will you walk away from it?
Let us cut out hypothetical questions. God determines everything. But I don't think I will be in any situation at all costs. That I have had two setbacks in life does not mean that if I enter another marriage, I will be blackmailed to stay in so that people will not say ehee, obiakwa ozo (he has come again).
I am a Christian. I hate divorce with a passion. You don't expect 100 per cent comfortability. You don't expect to marry an angel.
So like I said, you must put in your best and it must be good enough. You must not stay in something, and do what you are not supposed to do and give an excuse that why you are doing it is because it is not working.
The degree of my endurance is not as elastic as it is supposed to be. I am not a pastor. A pastor has the ability to absorb shock. He tolerates everything. That quality is not in me. I will tolerate one… two… three… and the fourth time, I cannot.
I tell myself the truth. I am praying to have a good success in relationship, I pray to God to give me somebody whom I can tolerate.
What is your vision?
I want to entirely be fulfilled that I am serving God and that I am serving humanity. I want to be able to use part of what God has given me for the benefit of humanity.
In Nollywood, I am comfortable with the height I have attained. If I maintain it, I will still be cool.