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Williams Uchemba: People call me a comedian, I prefer to be known as an actor

By Ijeoma Thomas-Odia
25 June 2022   |   4:03 am
Williams Uchemba is an actor, filmmaker, comedian, philanthropist and social media influencer. The indigene of Abia State is a graduate of International Relations from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka.

Williams Uchemba is an actor, filmmaker, comedian, philanthropist and social media influencer. The indigene of Abia State is a graduate of International Relations from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. He began his acting career as a child actor in early 2000, a United Nations Ambassador and an African Youth Representative. He runs Williams Uchemba Foundation through which he reaches out to the poor and less privileged. In this interview with IJEOMA THOMAS-ODIA, he speaks on his drive to champion young people’s involvement in the 2023 election and his acting career, amongst others.

You recently embarked on a PVC campaign tour in Enugu State. What informed this?
I feel it’s necessary and I believe that with the way Nigeria is going, if we have another wrong government there may not be a Nigeria again. I love this country so much. Also, when I found out the new voting system released by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), I was fired up to let people know that their vote now actually counts. What I mean by that is that come 2023 when you vote, the number of votes will be uploaded for the public to see.

There are no longer cases of ballot boxes being stolen and snatched like we used to experience. What that means is that if we can have just one per cent of the 1.2 billion BBNaija votes, go and vote and have a consensus of the person we want, we are going to have the Nigeria we desire. I want my daughter to come home to Nigeria and not be scared of insecurity and some of those troubles that we are going through. That is what I’m doing; I’m fighting for my kids.

You started out as a child actor. How has that journey been for you? 
It has been amazing. I got into the industry at the age of eight. It’s my 22nd year in the industry. At a point, I took a break, travelled out of the country to focus on my education. It has been a great journey so far.

What informed your movie ‘Mambas Diamond’ and do you intend producing more movies?
I have two more productions, but the reason I produced ‘Mambas Diamond’ is to let people know that doing the right thing pays. I shot it with the purpose not just to entertain but to teach young people that anything that is not given to you by God may be taken, and even your life may be taken. It was a movie I did to sensitise youths all over the world and it’s coming on streaming platforms very soon. It might be on Amazon.

What projects are you working on currently?
I have not gone public yet with it but there’s another one coming out, ‘Sugar rush 2’. That’s what is currently on my table but there are two bigger projects coming out from my production outfits. The aim is to further change the narrative of movie production using state of the art equipment.

You are quite passionate about philanthropy and it is evident. Does your background have anything to do with you always lending a helping hand to people?
I have been in a low place in my life. I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon and I know what it feels like not to have. As a young boy, I went hungry because there was no food at home. I tell people that to find your purpose, first you must find what you are passionate about and what they are very angry about.

In terms of choice of scripts, why would you reject one?
When I see a film that nobody will learn from. When the movie is promoting something that I don’t stand for, no matter the amount you give me. The money will finish but the movie remains. I have certain standards and morals that I keep and if that is not in the movie, I don’t do it.

How did you find your niche in the comedy industry?
It wasn’t planned. As a matter of fact, I have always been funny to the best of my knowledge. We are just a funny family; my dad, siblings and I never for once thought of taking it out of my comfort zone, because of my ‘status’. I thought when I go out there, I need to be cool as an actor but when I realised the power of being you, it changed everything. I started comedy when I was in California. I just tried out a video and people loved it and kept reposting.

It got a lot of views. One day, I received a message in my DM (Direct Message) from a woman who requested to speak with me. When she called, she was crying, saying ‘Thank you so much, you don’t know what you have done for us’. She said her mother had been sick with cancer for over six months and she had not seen any reason to smile not until she came across my comedy and she had been laughing all through. That it got everyone emotional and they thought they should call and thank me. That was when I realised that this is not just what I do for art but a ministry, especially in Nigeria where you have a lot of people who are going through so much. The least I can do is to release stress by humour.

They say laughter is a good medicine. People call me a comedian but I prefer to be called an actor, because an actor can make you cry, make you laugh, play around and that is what I consider myself to be.

You have various responsibilities on your table. How do you juggle them all together?
At this point, I would say the grace of God. We really don’t control anything. You wake up in the morning without knowing how. For me, I just prioritise and put God’s will before mine and allow that to play out.

What is your assessment of the Nigerian creative industry?
I think they are doing extremely well, I think Nigeria is one of the most creative and respected industries in the world. Of course our contents trend on the global markets, which means that we are doing something right. We have created jobs for a lot of young people that could have been doing something illegal, having depression or suicidal thoughts. It has been an escape for some of them and I just pray they use it to promote our culture and to have a better nation in general.

How do you relax?
I like to worship. I put on a worship song or piano instrumental that can play for three hours. I just sit there and take it all in. I also like to see movies, go on Netflix, look for the ones that are interesting, get a snack, sit in front of my TV and relax.