Chimezie Imo, most known for his outstanding portrayal of the titular role in the 2019 film, ‘Nimbe: The Movie,’a film on drug trafficking and abuse, shared with ROSEMARY NWOSU, the story of his journey into Nollywood and the excitement of getting nominated at the Africa Movie Academy Awards for Best Young Actor. Excerpts…
How would you describe your journey into the film industry?
My journey into the film industry has been God’s grace, hard-work, perseverance and consistency. I remember coming to Lagos after school and not knowing anyone in the film industry, but I knew I wanted to be an actor. I remember going for auditions almost every other day and praying that someday it will all make sense.
What was your parents’ reaction to you acting?
My parents didn’t accept the fact that I wanted to be an actor initially. The entire family thought it was a waste of time. In fact, my mother wanted me to be a medical doctor. I did love the idea of studying science. So, I studied science and didn’t want to study Theatre Arts but I knew I wanted to be an actor. They didn’t buy that idea but because ‘I get coconut head and I no dey hear word,’ I went after what I wanted to do and with time, they came around. And I must say they’ve been the most supportive since then. They watch my movies. My mother tells her friends and sisters to watch my movies. They always call me and make screen recording of my project and they’ve just been amazing
You started out when you were still a student. How were you able to balance your academics and acting career?
Combining school and acting for me was a hard one. It was one hell of a difficult job. I schooled at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU), Bauchi State. You know Lagos State is the heart of entertainment industry in Nigeria. I remember taking a night bus from Bauchi to Lagos for auditions and take another night bus from Lagos back to Bauchi, to school. I would miss tests, assignments and sometimes I would get the job and would have to travel back to Lagos. All the while, I couldn’t tell anybody in Lagos, and sometimes they can’t really understand your dreams the way you do. I know if I had told someone or people about this, they would have discouraged me. But today, I can say that I’m glad that I took those risks because they are paying off now.
Describe your first audition…
My very first audition was in Abuja. I heard the audition notice on the radio and I decided to go and try it out. I had done some stage in church but for screen, I was a novice and I remember going for the audition and acting like I was on stage. The judges could tell, but then they could also tell that I could act but I didn’t have experience for screen and they asked and I told them, ‘I only do stage plays’ and they said, ‘okay.’ It was a leading role for a series called, ‘Learning Curves’. They put me through and trained me on one or two things for screen act- ing and to tone s o m e t h i n g s down, b l o c k – ings and all o f t h a t and i t w a s funn y but it w e n t well. I earned my first N20, 000 and it was big for me at that time.
How did you get the role in ‘Nimbe’?
In 2018, I heard of an audition notice, I attended alongside hundreds of young actors; it was for the movie, Nimbe. I didn’t know what movie it was at that time and I auditioned. It was a two-day audition, I went for the second day after church and I got a call that I got a role, not for the lead character but I got a role for another character in the film. But when we got on set in Ibadan, things took another turn and I had to play the role of Nimbe. It was major for me at that time; I went prepared and gave it my all. I never knew how big the movie would turn out and I didn’t know it’s going to be a cinema movie. All I knew was that I was part of a project and I wanted to give it my best, which I tried to but it turned out to be even bigger than I thought.
Who and what motivated you to put in your best in that role?
I’m grateful to the director of Nimbe, Tope Alake, who turned out to be my manager at that time; he ensured that I gave it my best because I was acting alongside A-list actors like Aunty Toyin Abraham, Uncle Odunlade Adekola, Broda Shaggi, Kelechi Udegbe. It was very easy for me to be swallowed. So, my director spoke to me before every scene, after every day of shooting to encourage me to give it my best. I would give him props for that.
What was it like to being nominated for the AMAA Best Young/ Promising Actor 2020?
It was huge for me being one of the only two Nigerians in the category and being my first AMAA nomination. I remember Jidekene A c h u f u s i , my friend who was also nominated alongside me, waking me up by 2am and saying, ‘bro, check the AMMA nomination out, you’ve been nominated’. It was huge and the biggest achievement of 2020 for me. I’ll forever be grateful even though I didn’t get the award.
From all the roles you have played from your first day on set till now, which would you say you’re very proud of?
It’s hard to tell because I am blessed not to be stereotyped in terms of characters. I have played a variety of roles. So, it’s hard to tell which I’m prouder of because every role has done one or two things differently, for me as an actor. I’m proud of every role and character from Shuga, Kasala, Nimbe, to Kasanova, Mustapha and every character. But I’ll say that Nimbe has done lot for me that I didn’t expect. So, it’s safe for me to give Nimbe that title because of what it has done for me in my career.
Would you consider venturing into other areas of filmmaking?
I definitely would love to venture into other aspects of filmmaking. I would like to go back to writing. I used to write, and also venture into producing and literally directing. I would love to get some training in producing and directing before venturing into those areas. So, these are the aspects of filmmaking I would love to venture into apart from acting but I’m still going to be acting till there are no more teeth in my mouth.
What kind of films or stories would you love to produce?
I’d really love to produce biopics. We don’t have much of that in Nigeria. They are expensive to make but these are the kinds of movies that I’m passionate about. I love movies with good messages and I want to say; I did not give up on you because of your movie and I want someone to say; I almost took my life but, I saw your movie and I didn’t do it anymore.’ I want someone to say; ‘your movie changed me, brought me to tears and made me happy. It gave me hope.’ Those are the kinds of movies I want to be part of, associated with and produce.
If you’re given a chance to change anything in Nollywood; what would it be?
Nollywood is a baby that is growing really fast, what we use to be 10 years ago is not what we are today. It’s just amazing how we are growing and having better stories, better pictures, amazing actors, great locations, more platforms to show our work. It’s just amazing how much we’ve grown. I pray that we have more backing from both our government and the private sector. Because when we have this, it will tell on every sector of the industry; actors and crew members will get paid better and we will lead better lives. This is what I’m hoping and praying that if I have the power, I would change.