What happens in my kissing scenes — Ukeje

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One of the graduates of the Amstel Malta sponsored platform, AMBO reality show, after a career kickoff that saw him nurse music and acting, has since gone to feature in many films and won many awards from his first film, White Waters.  Married to London based Senami Ibinkunoluwa in 2014, prompting him to shuttle mostly between London and Lagos. OC Ukeje is the second child of a family of three born on 15th July, 1981. EDIALE KINGSLEY speaks with this Nollywood workaholic about the nitty-gritty of his job, new film and matters arising in the industry.

ARE there any of your past jobs in any way like Remember Me? If yes, which of them?
I think some of the work I have done have their own unique messages. The themes are generally different. So I can’t say there’s any film like Remember Me. However I think that the weight I feel this film has is also the sort of weight I have seen in films like White Waters and Confusion Na Wa to mention a few.

Why did you choose to be a part of this production?
Some of the elements came together to help make the film, firstly I liked the fact that the script was written with a lot of dialogue. And it was good as well. On top of that a personal friend was producing her first film. So I was going to oblige Uru. It was cemented by the fact that Izu Ojukwu was directing which would be the second production with him since 2007.

You played the role of Michael in the movie; are there any similar qualities you share with the character?
I honestly don’t think we are similar in any way. I think I used more external influences than anything from my personality.

You have been a part of recent blockbuster hits in Nigeria. Do you think we are finally getting it right?
I have to commend how far we have come but I also think that there are elements that need work. There are more trained practitioners getting involved in every level but there are also more famous people posing as actors. There are glossier pictures but there are still sound issues. There are still proper scripting issues. And of course we are still battling with the distribution problem. Nonetheless we have been tremendously helped by the social media age especially because our work seems to travel easier. It may not always account for Naira and kobo but it is helping. So we are still on the journey.

ALSO SEE: I produce films on social change — Uru

At the past Headies Awards, you presented a category with Lilian Osoro and you made a joke about ‘Not having to kiss her again in movies, since she got married’. Was that just a line for the acts or do you really enjoy the kissing drafted in your movies?
What people do not know is that physical scenes are difficult to do. It isn’t fun and games. A lot needs to be in place. When it isn’t a proper (closed) set, there’s tons of people in the room anticipating the kiss and trying to judge if you’re a good kisser or not. So you just want it done and over with. You are also being conscious that it has to be a good screen kiss. So that it is tasteful. You have to worry about hygiene when you want to do those scenes. So much as it seems like some level of enjoyment, it has its sides that are tricky.

You have been on the front of the screen for quite some time now. Are you ever going to feature behind the scenes as a producer or director?
I intend to produce at some point. I think it is necessary to ask the right questions about it though. And I’m trying to do that now. So yes, in due time…

How is life as a responsible married man?
It is a tall order to stay responsible especially when you do the kind of work that involves all sorts. But I think that God has helped me so far. I think that I have also tried my best.

Let’s talk about money and figures what is the least and most amount you ever got for your job as a thespian?
What you get paid varies. It depends on a bunch of things. Time, location, relationships, mileage. And sometimes you do some jobs at no cost. So sometimes I have no lower limit. As far as upper limit goes, hmm…

AKSO SEE: O.C Ukeje, Chigul in Remember Me

Was it easy deciding you were going to be an entertainer? What were your parents thought about such?
I think it chose me. I thought I’d be a medical doctor. But I knew that singing was something I knew how to do. And I did it to the point that it opened the doors to acting and other avenues. So I didn’t have a ‘choice’ per say. And my mom has been supportive from day one actually. She let me do all I wanted to do.

How fulfilled are you thus far?
I’m very content with what I do. That’s the highest level of fulfillment. I’m at peace with what I do now. And I have gone past wondering if it is what I’m supposed to be doing. The other things that tie to money and influence are very subjective.

How many scripts do you get in a year or per week? (Just to know your demand frequency).
Oh my days! It is nonstop. I don’t take note of how many. I just know the feeling based on the fact that I have to read them to know if it is work I want to do. So I’m pretty blessed to be getting a lot of potential work.