JAMES EMMANUEL: A RISING STAR
Maryam Garba Hassan James Emmanuel is a young talented accountant and a Nigerian actor who has starred in a number of movies among which is Mid Night Love. In this interview with NFC, he talks on the problems of the entertainment industry, the challenges new artists face, and the kind of roles he plays and lots of more.
In brief, who is James Emmanuel?
James Emmanuel is a 27-year-old graduate of Accounting from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I had my primary education in Delta State. Then I went to Delta State Technical High School in Warri. I am the first of six children and an upcoming actor.
How did you get into the entertainment industry?
I have always had a flair for acting right from secondary school, where I was a member of the literary and debating society. I have acted on stage also. I went into acting in 2002 about the same time I got admission into the university. An opportunity came when the industry came to the school and I joined. Since then, I have acted in a number of movies where I was sometimes given major roles to play.
How many movies have you acted in since you joined the entertainment industry?
I can't precisely say how many movies I have starred in but prominently I can say that I have acted in more than eight. I acted in Mid Night Love, Angel of Darkness, The Cat, Blood on Ice, The Wolfs and a number of them which I can't recall easily.
Which is most challenging among the movies you have acted?
Mid Night Love is the most challenging movie I have ever put up, because I had to play a role that completely contradicts my real character. In the movie, I played the role of a political thug who is always down with money; I did a lot of things some desperate politicians assign young people to do in other for them to achieve their selfish interest. I played dirty in the game.
But you acted so real in Mid Night Love movie, how did you do that?
Flexibility! An actor should be able to act any character given to him because
that is why you are an actor, to make an act look real in the eye of the audience. I have never been a political thug before and never will. The point is having an idea of what is expected of one. Initially, I was sceptical about accepting the role but after some motivation by some of the artists and the director, the late Ebere may his soul rest in peace, I was motivated to do it.
It was a big challenge acting as a political thug. When I watched the movie myself, I never believed I was the one who acted the movie because of how good I acted the role. I can say that was one of the best movies I have acted, because it has given me the chance to know that I can act even better if given the chance.
In most of the movies you have starred in, you acted the role of either a thug or cultist. Could it be that those are the characters you can act well or are they the roles you get from the directors and producers of those films you have acted?
One thing with the movie industry is that some times actors are not given the opportunity to select the character they want to play. Like in my case the producers see me as someone who can perfectly fit into that character.
The industry looks at those special hands in every role. So I can't come out to start contending with Ramsey Noah who acts romantic movies unless I am being given the opportunity to do it.
You have the stuff that good producer should have an eye on, yet you have not been frequent on the screen for some time now. What is the reason for that?
One thing that limited me was my studies; once school was in session, I had to be in school to concentrate on my studies to be able to come out with a good class of degree which I did. I believe I am still paying my due. By God's grace, I hope to star in more movies now that I have finished my youth service.
Another factor that made me scarce on the screen is that even when one wants to be part of a movie the opportunity may not really be given to him, and in that case what do you do? I believe that an opportunity, when given, can create more opportunities.
I know what I have to offer so I will wait for the right time to come when I will be given the chance to give what I have.
Again the producers and directors always want to use stars in their movies even when there are young actors who need to act in few movies to be famous. That is why we have lots of young talented artists whose talent is dying because they have not been given the chance to showcase what they have and perhaps because they have no godfathers.
You are an upper class product of Accounting and an actor. How were you able to combine your studies and your passion?
In the beginning, I told you that I joined the industry at the start of my university. I have one policy in life and that is “what is worth doing is worth doing well”. That has helped me during my school days to know my priorities and the determination not to trivialise them.
I was determined to make it in life academically and other wise so I made sure that I gave my studies enough time. Once we are in session I don't have time for acting because I know that my studies has limited time while the industry is there for me when ever I am through with my studies.
My studies never clashed with my passion and I am happy that I was able to plan my life well which has helped me graduate with a good class of degree.
Did any of the movies you acted win an award?
The only one that I know is The Cat, which I acted along side Jim Iyke, Inu Idu and Fumi Ogbedengbe. It was best film of the month it was released into the market. I don't know about the others because I had not been following the trend of awards when I was in school.
The industry is said to be a place where every actor or most starts with a merger amount as a take home pay. Would you like to tell us your first take home pay and your experience?
The first movie I acted was Rape of Destiny, a movie that did not see the light of the day due to some reasons but the first film I acted which brought me into the industry fully was the one I played the likes of an extra, the popular waka pass. I came on in crowd but I can't really remember the amount I collected then. Anyway it was a merger amount.
Some times the first pay one gets for playing minor role or the role of an extra in a movie then was not more than 1500 or 2000. Some people can even go as low as collecting 500Naira out of desperation; I was never desperate because I know what I have to offer and the point was not just the money but the contribution I made because at that time I found out that I spent more on transport going to the location of the movie more than what I was paid in the end.
Normally the first pay is always disappointing and this is what happened to most of today's super stars in the beginning of their journey to stardom.
What is your opinion of the industry?
The industry is growing and would have grown bigger than it is now if not for the problem of piracy, over congestion and sometimes half-baked actors even though we have good hands in the industry.
Again, the working condition is not good. Some times the way actors are treated is not encouraging especially when one is trying to get into the industry for the first time, he is been relegated to the back seat. At times you may be given a script to go through and after spending days on it trying to see how you can get it done before the day shooting will start, on getting to stage you will find out that the script is given to another person without any reason. The fact is, it is only when one is given the chance that the best will come out of him and he can be made a star in the end. More over the professionals today all started from somewhere in life.
Have you ever been dropped from a movie few hours before the commencement of the rehearsals?
Yes I have encountered that treatment and it is quite demoralising and unprofessional.
Are you working on any movie now that you are through with your National Youth Service Programme?
I am just back from Enugu where we finished shooting a movie with Francis Duru. In this movie I acted a different role. I can't tell you the title of the movie you just have to wait till it is released into the market. By God's grace I look forward to acting along side Richard Mofe Damijo, Amaka Igwe, Bob Manuel Udoku, Joke Silver, Onyeka Owenu etc
In the last few years some Nigerian actors have been arrested by the securities of National Drugs Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) in connection to drugs trafficking. Do you think that is good for the image of the industry?
That is bad for the image of the industry especially now that the industry is one of the fastest growing industry and it is generating income for the country's economy. Nigerian artists were recently rated as the best in music industry in Africa.
It is unfortunate that after spending years to make your self a star you will stoop low to engage your self in such an embarrassing act just to make quick money.
We are trying to sensitise the industry so, this should not be happening now.