#BNMeetTheStar: Paul Nnadiekwe on His Acting Career, Role in Afamefuna & Being Born on a Leap Day

#BNMeetTheStar: Paul Nnadiekwe on His Acting Career, Role in Afamefuna & Being Born on a Leap Day

In this edition of “Meet the Star,” a segment dedicated to spotlighting emerging talents in Nollywood, Paul Nnadiekwe talks about his role in “Afamefuna,” “I Do Not Come To You By Chance,” and the most interesting thing about being born on a leap day.

For our previous feature, we had a chat with Teniola Aladese who talked with us about her career in the film industry, her roles in Nollywood titles like “Lara of Lagos,” “Love in a Pandemic,” “Little Black Book,” and shared how she manages her mental health. You can read it here, in case you missed it.

Paul Nnadiekwe is a Nigerian actor, filmmaker and entertainer. He made his debut film series release as lead actor in the teen series “Schooled” on Ndani TV, and his debut feature film release in “I Do Not Come To You By Chance.” In “Afamefuna – An Nwa-Boi story,” he plays the lead role of the teen Afamefuna, who is placed under the tutelage of Odogwu by his mother to learn the intricacies of the business.

For Paul, stories are a reflection of his mind and that is why he is selective with the roles he plays. “I want to touch people's lives and evoke emotions through my films. I want people to feel a certain type of way when they watch my films.” He says. 

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Please share your journey in acting and what inspired you to pursue it.

Acting wasn't always my path. In school, I was more focused on science. However, I did enjoy watching stage plays during social nights. One turning point came when I filled in for a missing student in a school play. Even though acting sparked an interest, it wasn't yet a calling.

As a child, I was known in my area as the “little boy who talks.”I also had some acting experience. I remember filming alongside Desmond Eliot and Rita Dominic. They played a couple and I played their kid. My parents, however, didn't see acting in my future. Years later, after secondary school, and while waiting for admission, I found myself creating comedy skits. Briefly, I considered becoming a comedian.

Around 2017/18, I collaborated with friends on comedy skits near Unilag. I discovered my passion for creating content that I enjoyed watching. This passion led me to filmmaking, with acting as one aspect. To hone my skills, I attended the AFRIFF training program and met Hilda Dokubo, who became my acting coach. I also enrolled in film schools. Now, after many auditions, my acting career is just beginning.

You've been acting for a while now. What's a standout memory from your career that makes you smile when you look back?

There are many moments from my early days that make me wonder how desperate I was. One that sticks out is from when I was 17 or 18. A friend told me about a web series opportunity, and I sent in an audition tape for a bit part as a client in a barber shop. It wasn't much, but for #5000, I was there at 6:30 am ready to go, even though filming was in Magodo Shangisha, far from my home in Apapa.

Filming dragged on for hours, and I was battling a fever, but I was determined to see it through. It was my first shot after all. Plus, I got to meet Okey Uzoeshi, who's become a big brother to me in the industry. We finally wrapped around 10 pm. I was worried about facing my parents, but that whole experience shaped me. It showed me the demanding nature of filmmaking, but more importantly, it didn't discourage me. I enjoyed the experience. That, and the 5000 naira and contract I got, are what I remember most. It was a tough but unforgettable experience that prepared me for the industry.

It also prepared me for more stressful jobs. Surprisingly, that was the first and last time I played an extra. Ever since I've focused on leading roles. Although I'm selective with the roles I play, it's because I believe stories are a reflection of my mind. I want to touch people's lives and evoke emotions through my films.

How did you prepare for your role in Afamefuna?

Before Afamefuna, my most Igbo-heavy film was “I Do Not Come to You by Chance.” It was my second Igbo role but with way more dialogue than my first. These two projects prepared me perfectly for Afamefuna in two ways: 1. Leading role experience, and 2. Sharpened Igbo language skills. By the time I got the Afamefuna script, it felt natural, thanks to those experiences. That's the beauty of film – each project builds on the last.

Afamefuna was also lucky because of the cast. Actors like Chuks Joseph and Kanayo O. Kanayo were fantastic teammates. We'd discuss scenes beforehand, with Kanayo even explaining the backstory leading up to them. We talked about the “nwa boys” and the Igbo apprenticeship system. The talented cast and director, Kayode Kasum, who was open to questions and helped me understand my lines, scenes, and role, all made a big difference.

Is there a specific actor who has influenced your approach to acting?

Absolutely. Christian Bale inspires me. He completely transforms for each role, becoming a different person every time. That's something I admire because some actors just play themselves onscreen. I, like Bale, believe in changing my appearance to embody the character. It helps me truly step into their skin.

Discipline is another key for me, and Bale exemplifies that. He'll gain or lose weight to fit the role. It reflects my belief that challenges lead to better art. Bale embodies this dedication, and that's what I strive for in my career – to constantly push boundaries and avoid stereotypes. Variety and fresh storytelling bring me the most satisfaction.

For confidence and character ownership, Denzel Washington is my idol. He commands the screen with an unmatched aura. He's like the Beyonce of acting. I study how he inhabits his characters and try to bring that same level of ownership to my roles.

A concrete example of how I draw inspiration is from my work on “Everything Scatter.” It was my first lead role and a demanding one at that. To prepare, I watched films like “Grown-ish” and “Equalizer” which had similar scenes. This is how I tap into inspiration to grow as an actor.

“I Do Not Come To You By Chance” was a big hit. What was it like working alongside actors like Genevieve Nnaji and Blossom Chukwjekwu? How did you prepare for your role?

Landing the role for “I Do Not Come To You By Chance” was a funny story. The audition script had Igbo lines, and I sent it to a friend for pronunciation help. Her brother surprisingly recognised them from the book. I immediately paused the audition process to read the novel. Understanding the story beforehand proved invaluable during the second audition with a new scene.

Meeting the A-list cast at the table read was nerve-wracking, especially when Genevieve Nnaji entered the room. But during my screen test, she offered incredible advice. She pointed out that while I delivered my lines well, I wasn't truly reacting to my fellow actors. This was a major acting breakthrough for me. The entire cast was inspiring, especially Blossom Chukwjekwu and Jennifer Eliogu. I fed off their energy. Whatever emotion they needed to show, they did not hold it back. I gained experience from that set of different people. It was like a training ground for me more than anything. 

Apart from “I Do Not Come To You By Chance,” what upcoming roles are you excited about?

I'm particularly excited about “Everything Scatter.” This film by Jade Osiberu, is coming out at a perfect time considering the current economic hardship in the country. It will be a powerful voice for the people, expressing what's in our hearts.

Beyond its social message, it's a fantastic film and my first major project. Jade jokingly told me this year that people might think “I Do Not Come To You By Chance” was my breakthrough, but she “found me first.” During the audition, I knew I was up against established actors, but she chose me based on my previous tape and the audition itself. It felt like fate. This project aligns perfectly with the kind of stories I want to tell, so it's a dream come true.

What's the most interesting thing about being born on a leap day?

There are two things I find most interesting. First, it's a special date, like a birthday with extra attention. Second, people's reactions are priceless. They try to do the math and figure out your actual age.

What has been consistent for you throughout your film career?

Growth. Every project brings growth in experience, knowledge, and craft, which builds confidence and extends to other areas of my life.

What projects are you working on next?

As an actor, there are things in the works, but details are under wraps. In the meantime, I'm focusing on self-improvement, taking courses on filmmaking and the business of film.

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