“Actors can’t spend the time that is needed to focus on their character because they have to make ends meet by doing other things,” Ifeanyi Dike Jr tells me matter-of-factly on this week’s Conversations with Chude. “When more attention is paid to equipment and actors are offered peanuts for a role, it hurts to know that the talent doesn’t matter. Here we don’t even have the chance to pick our roles because (people) are so hungry.
“We need to get to a point where the talent is what matters.”
Dike, also a medical doctor, is clearly one of the leading young lights for Nollywood, or at least New Nollywood (a label he finds tenuous, preferring the former) – with TV credits including Tinsel and Desperate Housewives Africa and movie credits including Green White where he plays lead, and which is screening at the Toronto International Film Festival next week.
And to personally get to that point where he can do work where talent truly matters, he has crossed the seas – this year emerging at least the first Nigerian to be accepted to study film at UCLA.
“I want to be able to go to an audition and find a Lupita from Kenya, a John Boyega from England and be able to know that… I have as much training as both these guys have…” he says, acknowledging that these are big dreams. “And in that regard, I am able to walk in that room and know that I’ll probably give as much as, or even more than these guys because I have theatre training.”
And he says it is not about Hollywood: “It’s about going off to get an education and being employable to any ‘Wood’, whether it’s Bolly, Gholly, Kannywood or Nollywood… I’m not looking to break through the glass ceiling; I’m looking to do good work.”
And of the industry he is leaving behind, even if only briefly, he believes the potential is massive – if it will double down on what makes it special, rather than trying desperately to ape Nollywood.
“Those much-criticised native-doctor scenes is what attracted the world to Nollywood films,” he says. “People across the world want stories they don’t already have. I think Nollywood should do the things first that make us stand out, which is the things that the rest of the world don’t have access to.”