How Pete Edochie got the “Things Fall Apart” part

Veteran Nollywood icon, Pete Edochie played the lead role of Okonkwo in the NTA adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s best selling novel, Things Fall Apart.

He spoke passionately about his life as an actor in this interview with Vanguard as well as the role he played during the civil war and how he got to play the famous and iconic Okonkwo in ‘Things Fall Apart’. 

He said:

“When I did Things Fall Apart, I was 38 years of age. That was thirty years ago. I am 68 years now. People still call me “Ebube Dike” and before Chinua Achebe died he was calling me Ebube Dike. He never called me Pete, and we were very close.

Each time people visited him in America, he would ask them about me. He created the character and because he thought I interpreted it perfectly, he named me after Okonkwo- Ebube Dike. So, a lot of people still see me and refer to me as a Ebube Dike and I answer them.

When the script was handed over to me, I said to myself. This is the opportunity for me to read the script since we didn’t read the book while I was in school. I was delighted to read it. Before then, I’ve not read the novel, Things Fall Apart. I knew nothing about it.

Now, it was to be adapted into a screenplay. People were invited to come and audition for roles. Somebody who worked with me in the broadcasting House, Engr G.C Ugwu (now late) recommended me. He was the Zonal Director of NTA in Benin in those days. He had always watched me in the broadcasting house where I worked and the moment they decided to produce the play, the first name that came to his mind as Okonkwo was me.

But there were other people that came for the general audition. I was invited to the audition and the venue was the main auditorium of he University of Nigeria, Enugu campus. The moment I walked into the auditorium, the white woman who was invited to handle costuming and other things saw me.

She just looked at me as I was coming in, and screamed, saying: “if this man could act, that’s the man we want for the role.” She never met me before that day. I walked in, and was given the script. Other people were also given the script to read, and when I read mine, they shook hands with me and said, we are good to go. They said there was no point continuing with the audition; that the role is for me.

As at that time, I didn’t know the implications of being in that production. We went ahead and produced the play and I won an international award. I am proud to say that BBC flew into the country to interview me and Chinua Achebe too. Nigerians were phoning and congratulating me. It was a moment of crowning glory for me. I think it was a defining moment in my professional career.”

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