Leading Nollywood artistes who now call the shots
A single road, as the popular saying goes, no longer leads to the market for most Nollywood practitioners. Most of them who started out as actors have taken up other roles in addition to their briefs as actors and actresses. While some act and double as producers, a few combine acting with production and directing. The spotlight is on Seven of the leading actors who rode into prominence as actors but today they are calling the shots and signing critically acclaimed productions as directors and producers.
Clearly one of Nigeria’s leading actresses, Nnaji today combines acting with directing and production. An actress of countless movie credits, Nnaji had, at the last count, featured in over 100 movies including her debut movie outing Most Wanted, Last Party, Mark of the Beast, Ijele and the award-winning film by Chineze Anyaene titled Ijé: The Journey. Reputed as the first actress to win the Africa Movie Academy Award (AMAA) for Best Actress in a Leading Role when the award debuted in Bayelsa in 2005, Nnaji, a one-album artiste, was awarded the national honour of Member of The Federal Republic (MFR) by the Federal Government in recognition of her contribution to the Nigerian movie industry. A multi-award-winning actress, Nnaji stepped up in November 2015 and produced her first movie called Road to Yesterday. The movie was voted Best Movie Overall-West Africa at the 2016 Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards. Three years later, Nnaji raised the bar with her directorial debut titled Lionheart, which had its world premiere at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival and which was subsequently acquired by online streaming giants – Netflix, as the first Netflix original film from Nigeria. Lionheart was also selected in 2019 as Nigeria’s entry to the international Feature film category of the Academy awards but the movie was disqualified for having most of the dialogue in English.
Notable Nollywood actress and later day director and producer Stephanie Linus is also one leading actress who has bold imprint on movie production and directing stable. Stephanie has signed and produced two critically acclaimed movies ‘Dry’ and ‘Through The Glass’. A movie on VVF and early child marriage, ‘Dry’ was voted Best Over All film of the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Award (AMVCA) 2016. Hailed as a diva with an infectious personality and who gets the kind of star treatment Hollywood actors receive, the English and literary studies graduate of the University of Calabar and head of Next Stage Production under which she directed her first feature film ‘Through the Glass’ has moved from becoming just an actress to watch, but also as a female movie director and producer of a note.
Ramsey Nouah Jnr
Leading Nollywood actor made his directorial debut with the film Living in Bondage: Breaking Free in 2019. Report has it that the actor who is a study in career growth and who enjoys wide respect in the movie industry is preparing for a follow up to be produced and directed in 2020. Unarguably one showbiz personality who enjoys mass appeal both within and outside Nigeria, Ramsey is adored by many and he has proven in no small measure that one does not have to come from oversea to be adored or to live like a star. His pretty face lights up several Nigerian love stories told in motion. An actor and later day singer whose stage charisma and kick has won him a growing legion of fans across the globe and whom most observers say has through hard work and determination gained prominence as a thespian of outstanding ability, Ramsey has featured as an actor in over 150 movies including ‘Figurine’, ‘Merry Men’, ‘My Love’, ‘Emotional Crack’, ‘30 Days in Atlanta’ and several others.
Clearly, one filmmaker who has maintained a gracious attitude toward her stardom and who is rightly respected for her consistency and professionalism, Uche Jombo is renowned as an actress, writer, producer, mother, wife and more recently, a director. She has featured in movies as much as she has produced. A warm personality, the Abia State-born actress started off as a scriptwriter nearly a decade and a half ago, but she has so far produced over 20 movies including the trilogy ‘Damage’. The Mathematics and Statistics graduate of the University of Calabar has equally featured in over a hundred movies and has written and co-written several scripts including ‘Visa to Hell’, ‘Games Men Play’ and ‘A Time to Love’. Born under the horoscope sign Capricorn, the Abriba born actress and star of some critically acclaimed flicks like ‘Adure’ and ‘Shakara’ recently joined the ranks of those who call the shots behind the camera. Uche signed her debut directorial effort, ‘Lost in Us’ in 2017 and she has since then been writing, producing, directing and acting.
Although best known as an actress and indeed blessed with a captivating screen presence, this Mosogha, Delta State-born leading actress has since joined the exclusive club of movie directors and producers who have proven that with hard work and determination, one can hit the right mark and maintain a steady lead. A disarmingly humble personality, the New York Film Academy trained digital filmmaker and French graduate of the University of Benin has shown, over time, she is remarkably versatile. Nearly every movie she has signed as a producer and director has turned gold. Her directorial debut (Being Mrs. Elliot) was a hit; so for her second (The First Lady). The third (Wives on Strike) was a blockbuster and the fourth one – Okafor’s Law had its world premiere in 2016 at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). A devoted disciple of the motion picture vocation, Omoni’s professional acting career commenced nearly two decades ago as an undergraduate, with a beatific performance in the urban telling ‘Not My Will’. She returned to the turf almost a decade after to stare in Emem Isong’s ‘Unfinished Business’. Since then, Omoni has not looked back. The wife, mother and star of several big-budget flicks including ‘The Figurine’, ‘Anchor Baby’ and ‘Render to Caesar’, has continued to sign projects as a producer, director and actress.
THE latest entrant into the growing list of Nollywood producers is popular Nollywood actor Mike Ezurounye. An actor of so many credits, Ezurounye is the production and directing force behind the comedy ‘Brother Jekwu’ and the love story ‘Divorce Not Allowed’. Ezurounye had explained that his decision to venture into producing was motivated by the need to breathe life into stories that appeal to him. Hailed roundly as an actor with convincing acting skills, Mike has featured in movies such as ‘The Mayors’, ‘Broken Marriages’, ‘Burning Desire’, ‘Critical Decision’ and several others. To date, Michael has featured in more than 100 home movies.