Is Kalu crossing over?
When X2 crew (interviewer and camera person) arrive at Kalu Ikeagwu's home for an interview session, we are relieved.
For one thing, the Lagos traffic proved particularly stressful that day. For another, the Nollywood star was refreshingly “normal” – no airs, no assumptions of grandeur – which, although commendable, is a bit surprising, as the 'For Real' actor recently returned from Ireland where he played the leading role in 'Rapt In Eire', working alongside Irish Hollywood actor Robert Goodman (Gangs of New York). Excerpt:
What was it like filming in Ireland?
It was absolute fun. The cast and the crew were absolutely lovely. Everyone was hands-on, friendly and hardworking … It was very hard work. In the two weeks that I spent on set, I didn't have a day's break. We worked from 8am to about ten at night. The only free night I had was the last day of shooting – we finished at about four and just went drinking at a pub.
Everyone was a professional. There were takes we had to do over and over again. Also, I had to do more work on my character. I didn't really have much time to get into character, so every night I got home, I still had to do more work on my own, which meant sleep at about 2am.
It was good work.
What role were you playing?
I played the role of “Dr. Onyema”, a university lecturer who for political reasons had to flee from Nigeria. He was recognized by the Irish government so he could work in the same capacity at an Irish university. However, there were a lot of challenges.
He was a very stubborn, very proud man who wouldn't go for any other job – he wouldn't take up a menial job while doing his applications – so he fell into difficulties. Eventually, he ventured into drugs.
Is it a Nigerian film or an Irish film?
It's a collaboration between the Nigerian and Irish communities. Galway, where it was shot, was very helpful. They offered us all the assistance they could … offices, churches, everything we needed.
It was produced and directed by Akhibo Emekan. Robert Goodman, who is also an actor ('Joan of Arc', 'League of Extraordinary Gentlemen', 'Gangs of New York') was the artistic director of this movie.
So you're now officially a Hollywood actor! [General laughter]. Okay, but seriously, which foreign actor would you compare yourself to?
Hey! Um, I think the question should be “who would I like to compare myself to?”
Three: Don Cheadle, Al Pacino and Denzel. He [Denzel Washington] blows your socks off every time. When you watch him in 'The Hurricane', 'Malcolm X' or 'Training Day'… he's just awesome. The roles become him and he becomes the roles. That's who I'm chasing after, big time!
I read on your blog that you don't like your family watching your films. Why?
[Laughter] I don't know! I'm just rather self-conscious about what I do. I don't know whether it's because acting wasn't meant to be my field. I was supposed to be some doctor. As a first son, [I was] to be responsible. I sort of rebelled… to do what gives me joy and had to go into some ne'er do well profession, as an actor.
Having said that, my family is very supportive of what I do. I think I want them to see me as “just Kalu”. Of course, that's all gone in the air because they now watch my movies and stuff. Oh yes, and I was afraid of them teasing me!
Do they enjoy your work? Do they think you're a good actor?
Yes, they do, very much so.
Has it ever crossed your mind to do Bollywood?
Take away the dancing and singing and I might consider it.
Are you going to take your writing to another level?
Good question! You know, I just found out I've been suckered into it by my manager. She said [He adopts high-pitched voice] “Why don't you just start your blog?”
Now, she's telling me that in future I'm going to have to start writing scripts. I've been wary of that because … I just write from my own perspective. I want to start with short 10-minute flicks and radio. If I can achieve that then I will venture into movies.
Are there any Nigerian writers that you are particularly impressed by?
Novelists, of course. Chimamanda. That's who I'm chasing, actually. I'd love to write like her. I started a novel ages ago and it kinda got lost along the way… I do short stories.
Will you like to be published?
[Laughter] When I have the guts to do so. I've got very good feedback on my blog; that is encouraging.
You've expressed the desire to work with NGOs. Are you in talks with any organizations?
At the moment, there's a body that I want to meet with to discuss on orphanages… visit and interact with the children and find out how they can be helped better, then I'll take it on from there.
I'm also looking for NGOs that deal with lepers. They are people that I feel very strongly about… they've been so rejected by society. What I want to do is create awareness and look for means to help them get on with their lives.