• Monday, July 15, 2024
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BusinessDay

Meeting Forest Whitaker, John Legend changed my life – Uche Ben Nwaezeapu’s

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Uche Ben Nwaezeapu‘s victory on Nigeria’s pioneering reality show propelled him into the spotlight, opening doors to a flourishing acting career and international recognition. He also gained significant recognition after winning the Gulder Ultimate Search in 2009. Some of the movies Uche Ben has featured in include “Fate’s Scribble,” “Impaired,” “Clandestine,” “Complicated,” “Mac and Muna,” “Love Cycle,” “Thicker than Blood,” “Out of Sight,” “Made for More,” “Ogadi,” “Destined,” “My Older Kids,” “Broken Glass,” among several others. In this interview, he speaks on how he has consistently grown in his movie and music career and what inspired him to venture into movie production, amongst others.

You gained significant recognition after winning the Gulder Ultimate Search in 2009. How did this victory impact your career and life overall?

Winning Gulder Ultimate Search changed my life. It was the first and biggest reality TV show in Nigeria, and being a winner brought me fame, money, and an amazing platform where all doors were open to me. I was approached by the biggest movie directors that I admired back then to feature in films with top movie actors I always wished I could act with. I began acting in movies and different opportunities kept coming my way. I met with important personalities and I was invited to top events that included governors and notable men. I had higher tastes and the downside was, I couldn’t park by the road to buy corn and coconut like I used to do. Since I was driving a branded car, I would always get a crowd of people asking me to share out of my Gulder Ultimate Search prize money. (Laughs)

It took you five years to finally make it into the Gulder Ultimate Search. What kept you motivated, and what lessons did you learn from this journey?

Yes, it took me five years to get into the show, and I finally won it. I kept myself motivated during the entire five years; it was not easy. In fact, it was very painful because I kept getting closer every year, making top 40 from the whole country and never getting into the show. I was mocked for always escorting people in and never going in, and I cried at some point. But I kept telling myself I can do it, I will make it into the show, and I would win it. A friend of mine even had a dream about seeing me on a billboard with the Gulder Ultimate Search crown. When I won, I was driving around and I showed him my billboard. His dream. I was self-motivated.
I learned that for everything, there’s a time and season, and I kept my eyes on the prize until I had my 7.5 million Naira and an SUV worth 10 million Naira.

After the reality show, you transitioned into acting with roles in “Eagle Eye” and “Secret Act.” How did you prepare for these roles, and what challenges did you face?

I have always loved acting; I discovered my passion when I was very young, in primary school, and I joined a drama group with my church in the year 2000. So, I have been acting and interpreting roles, so it wasn’t a new thing to me. All I do is take off Uche and wear the person I am meant to play. I put myself entirely in that character, physically and psychologically, that you would think I have been that person before, but the reality is I am only depicting that role.

You’ve worked with many notable actors like Pete Edochie. Can you share some memorable experiences or lessons learned from these collaborations?

I have worked with many renowned actors like Segun Arinze, Shaffy Bello, Monalisa Chinda, Yul Edochie, Kunle Remi, Alex Ekubo, Desmond Elliot, Stan Nze, Yvonne Jegede, and many others. One actor that I would always appreciate is the Legendary Pete Edochie. I was excited to be filming with him, and he prayed for me on the movie set that I would grow bigger, and I was so happy. I guess you can see the effect of his prayers…

Besides acting, you have a music career with singles like “No Be Today” and “No Dull Me.” How do you balance your passions for both music and acting?
Oh, I balance them quite alright. I am blessed with both talents, and I enjoy doing both of them, though I took a pause on my music career, which hurt a lot of people because I had two amazing singles “No Be Today” and “No Dull Me,” and fans wanted more. But I had to go back and strategize on the best way to take the music industry by storm. So, we will keep our fingers crossed on that one.

As the CEO of Star World Films, you’ve produced movies such as “Complicated” and “Fate’s Scribble.” What inspired you to venture into production, and what have you enjoyed most about this role?

A movie producer brings all aspects of production together: the pre-production, the production itself, and the post-production. This is the role I took on as I embarked on producing my own movies. It was so much fun because I had always wanted to produce my own movies. Sometimes I see not-too-good movies out there and wish I could make a change, or when I am filming for someone and see something going wrong, I wish I could make a difference, but I can’t because I am not producing the movie. With my own production company, Star World Films, I am able to make good movies, and fans love the films I produced.

You’ve had significant international exposure, such as meeting Forest Whitaker and John Legend. How have these experiences influenced your career and perspective on the entertainment industry?

I met Forest Whitaker at the Africa Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) that happened in Lagos. I was not just acting; I was working as a show anchor for Showtime Africa and I wanted to get an interview with him. It was so hard and everyone kept making it difficult for me, and he got upset and said, “He’s been trying to get an interview all day; I want to talk to him.” And that’s exactly what happened; we talked, I interviewed him, and we talked about his career. He encouraged me to believe in myself and never stop dreaming big. That changed my life. Meeting one of my favorite R&B singers, John Legend, and his wife in California, USA was also life-changing. We talked a bit and took pictures. He was happy to have a huge fan in Nigeria. It was an awesome experience.

You played a role in the web series “Sandra’s Cross,” which tackles issues like gender-based violence. How important is it for you to be involved in projects that address social issues?

I love projects that address social issues like cancer, gender-based violence, etc. That’s why when Potter Films in conjunction with UNFPA called me to be part of the cast of a story on sexual and gender-based violence with emphasis on ending female genital mutilation, I agreed. Stories like this educate society on social issues. By the way, my character “David” was really hated. (Laughs)

You’ve been a brand ambassador for companies like Vodafone and Gulder Beer. How do you choose which brands to align with, and what do you enjoy about being a brand ambassador?

As long as the brand has a direction, a mission, and a vision to benefit the lives of the customers out there and to offer something good, I am game. Not with a brand that’s out to rip people. Being a brand ambassador gives you the opportunity to interact not just with the company but also with the customers, and it takes you to the field sometimes to meet with the real consumers of the products. If it’s a well-loved quality product, your fan base will increase. Another thing I enjoy about being a brand ambassador is the money and the freebies that come with it. (Laughs)

You’ve had a dynamic career with numerous roles and projects. What upcoming projects are you most excited about, and what can your fans look forward to in the near future?

My fans should expect more and more movies to be released by producers who featured me. I will also be producing more world-class movies for the audience. Fans should also expect my role in an international movie coming out this year.