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From Mic to the Screen: Chike on His Debut Film Role in 'Gangs of Lagos'
The singer Chike talks about his dream roles and working with Jade Osiberu in Gangs of Lagos.
“I have always loved movies,” the singer popularly known as Chike tells me. He is in his car, parked somewhere on the streets of Lagos, so we can chat briefly before his busy schedule catches up with him.
He has been doing press for Gangs of Lagos, where he makes his film debut. The Jade Osiberu crime drama, which premiered on Amazon Prime Video on April 7th, is the streamer’s first African Original. After Brotherhood, many, including me, can’t wait to see how Osiberu delivers another crime-thriller set in the gritty streets of Lagos.
However, what excites me the most about the film is seeing how the singer, born Chike Ezekpeazu Osebuka, debuts as an actor. Chike first gained mainstream attention after emerging as the winner of the reality TV show, The Voice. His career has skyrocketed ever since, but he proves he can be more than the “Boo of the Booless” by starring in the gritty Gangs of Lagos.
The film follows three friends, Obalola, Gift, and Ify, who grew up in the tough Isale Eko and are trapped in it. Chike plays Panama, the least tough of the three, who dreams of a life where he is an Afrobeats superstar. Life has other plans though. It is an emotional role that demands something different from the singer used to playing a heartthrob in his music videos, and Chike enjoyed the departure.
“I could stop being me for a while,” the singer explains what he enjoys about playing other people. “There are days when being me is fun, and there are days when it is not.”
He wants to act more; he would like to taste onscreen villainy or play a public or historical figure.
“I’d also like to be in a biopic,” he says. “I would love to see what it’s like to be somebody else entirely. I’ve watched a lot of biopics that were amazing, and should that chance come, I will grab it with both hands.”
In a Zoom meeting, Chike and I chat about his experience on his first film set, his lessons as an actor, and other roles he would love to play in future projects.
Congratulations on Gangs of Lagos! Did you always want to become an actor?
Yes! I have always loved movies, and I imagined myself in certain roles, especially during the days of Silent Night and Black Arrow. Honestly speaking, my journey with being on a movie screen started with me seizing opportunities.
What was your experience like on the film set?
My first time was a new experience. I had to learn and unlearn a lot of things. I learnt timing, and working with many people at the same time and that involves managing relationships. It was a lot for me, but luckily I was around people who had been doing it for a while. I got to watch them and pick what I could.
Also, I’ve learnt to navigate human relationships even more. Before the set, I had not communicated with over twenty people at the same time. I can definitely say I had some people management skills impacted on me
Did you have any myth about acting or film that was demystified on set?
I used to believe some actors were actually like the characters they played, but it got demystified once I got on set. I realised that these people are just human beings that have been told to make you believe that they are that way.
You featured in Africa Magic’s Battleground, where you played Mayowa Badmus. In your experience, what are the differences between acting for TV and acting for film?
Acting for TV is more time-consuming than acting for film. As a result of the uncertainties with TV productions, you don’t just go around fixing other appointments because anything can happen, and your unavailability can ruin the production.
What was your experience working with Jade Osiberu?
Jade Osiberu is humane. While she [prioritises] her production, there is a part of her that still considers you as a human being. She takes into consideration your understanding, temperament, and your other engagements. I can tell you that is not someone you come by every time.
Gangs of Lagos is inspired by real-life characters. Did you interact with any of the real-life characters for insight?
To be honest, I didn’t do any research into knowing who the real people are. When I get a script, I always ask myself how I want to interpret it. If I already have a picture in my head of what the character should be, I feel there will be no spontaneity that can come out of that anymore. The script was descriptive enough for me, but if I was given the opportunity, I probably would have interacted with the real people. If I had run into difficulty with some scenes, I probably would have asked them questions to know how they really reacted in real life.
What do you enjoy the most about embodying a character?
At least I could stop being me for a while. There are days when being me is fun, and there are days when it’s not. It’s just an escape for a second or days or months, and it’s best when you have it on the bad days.
What roles should we expect to see you playing in future?
I like action roles; I like to play the bad guy. I’d also like to be in a comedy or biopic. I would love to see what it’s like to be somebody else entirely. I’ve watched a lot of amazing biopics, and should that chance come, I would grab it with both hands.
Who are the actors that inspire you?
I would give anything I have to watch Denzel Washington, Tom Hardy or Tom Hanks at any point. I’ve watched their movies a thousand times. In Nollywood, Saint Obi inspired me when I was much younger.
Gangs of Lagos focuses on three best friends in Lagos. What are your thoughts about Nollywood films often revolving around Lagos?
It might be a production decision. Also, the fact that Lagos is the entertainment capital is a huge factor. Try flying people to another state, and many of them might opt out. And the bigger the actors and crew, the more difficult it is to afford such expenses. I think it is convenient for the stories to be about Lagos, and Lagos is a combination of diverse cultures.
I think it is a matter of putting other films that explore other places in front of people so they know they exist. It is already being done, to be honest. It’s just that Lagos gets the largest billboards because it is the entertainment capital.
This chat has been condensed for clarity.
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