Zack Orji remains one of the best actors in Nollywood. He was one of the pioneers in the industry and his consistency has won many accolades for him.
In this interview with ADUNOLA FASUYI, the graduate of Estate Management from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, spoke about growing up, life in general, declaring that he did not leave acting for evangelism as many think. Excerpts:
Can you tell us about yourself, growing up and your educational back ground?
I was born Zachee Ama Orji in Libreville, Gabon in the 1960s. However, most people call me Zack. My first movie, Unforgiven sin, was in 1991.
I hold a B.Sc. (Hons) Estate Management degree from the University of Nigeria , Nsukka. I graduated in 1984. Fine Arts was where I made one of my best grades in secondary school. The aquarium market was dull, so I moved on to shoes. Back in my secondary school days, my principal used to call me an all-rounder. I was the senior prefect, I was speaker in senior debates, I was in the drama society, I was school champion in shot putt and discus; state champion in shot putt (1978) and went on to represent my state nationally.
I think the acting and speech-making talent had been with me all my life right, from childhood. Apart from Gabon and my fatherland Nigeria , my formative years; primary and secondary education were in Cameroon, Benin and Togo where I attended both French and English schools. This accounts for my being bilingual. Before becoming an actor, I used to design and make aquariums for sale. I am married to Ngozi Orji and blessed with three lovely children and of course we live in Nigeria.
Donít you think your being bilingual is an added advantage? Have you thought about acting in a French movie?
You are right. I would like to act in French movies. In August 2002, I was in Kinshasa , Congo, where alongside my Congolese colleagues, I did a 5-minute promo in French for Vodacom to promote their short mail service in that country. I wouldnít mind acting in a French movie though.
It was everywhere at some point that you have an album that you are working on, but for a while now, we have not heard anything about it, how far?
I havenít had time to complete the album. We are almost done with it. We are just waiting to do the final mixing and mastering but itís almost ready. And then, my son is on it too, we are actually working on that in the studio right now as well. He has more than ten songs ready but we are working on the two promotional songs that will be sent to radio stations and Dee-Jays.
What is your genre of music?
I am doing Gospel music, but my son is doing the normal DíBanj, Tuface kind of music.
How come you are just discovering the music talent in you, is it not rather late?
Itís never too late to praise God. The music I play right now is to praise God and the bible says Ďlet everything that has breath praise the Lordí. So, itís not a question of age. I am not doing it because I want to be known as a musician. I see it as part of my responsibility to praise God continuously for the rest of my life for everything he has done for me.
There was a rumour that you left the movie industry to become a pastor, how true is that?
I am not a pastor, but I am an ordained evangelist. And I have not left the industry.
Is it true that part of the reason you are not seen in movies nowadays is because of the standard of todayís movies and poor quality of script?
That is not true. Itís far from why I stayed away. Even if I did, my staying away would not solve the problem. You have to be there to work out these problems. Staying away is a defeatist attitude and I am not a quitter and I am not easily defeated. I am still very much involved.
You said you are an ordained evangelist. Are you practicing evangelism?
Yes I am. I just came back from a preaching engagement in Shepard House Assembly in Markudi, Lafia and Abuja . Itís a church pastored by Reverend and Mrs Joshua Telina. I practise what I preach.
So you are a born-again Christian?
A true believer in Christ Jesus and a practicing one indeed.
How did your dream of evangelizing start, did it start before the gospel music or which came first?
First of all, I am a Christian and every Christian has a responsibility to preach the word of God. Whether ordained or not. So, itís not a question of starting at a certain time. Once you are a Christian, you can use your own personal experiences to minister to other people and encourage them to embrace Christ. Itís a responsibility that everybody has. The singing and the evangelism are both ways of winning souls for Christ, so it does not matter which came first.
Have you always had the calling before acting?
As an ordained person, I will say that I started acting before I became an evangelist. I was actually ordained an evangelist by Bishop Emma Isong.
Can you tell us why you stayed away from acting for a while as we hardly see your face around the industry or movie these days?
I have not stayed away from acting. I will just say that I have not been as active as I used to be. I worked in 2005 till 2009, but I am not as active as I used to be. The other two callings are obviously taking my time, but Iím still into acting.
What exactly is responsible for your inactivity?
I am doing other things. My wife and I are working on completing our musical work. Basically, I am into other engagements as well.
Does this mean that you want to be focusing more on your gospel music and evangelism than acting?
No. It just means that a lot of things are occupying my time now. Things like training programme for the youths, training in the area of music, my work in evangelism, my musical project and some other businesses that I am doing. So, I find myself travelling very frequently, both within and outside the country. So, sometimes when I get offers to star in movies, I am not able to honour these offers because I am not available.
How do you manage being an actor, a father, an evangelist and a musician?
Everyone has his own time and place and in life, you discover that everybody is multitalented. Itís just that on a scale, there are areas that you are more talented than other areas. Those areas are what I call your zone of strength, but I believe that everybody has the responsibility to be able to explore all the ramifications of his talent and gifts. That is precisely what I am doing.
Your son is a singer too, how does this make you feel?
I feel great because its all a part of the expression of the creativity that runs in the family. You know, like father, like son. Itís a good feeling. Even before he started singing, he used to act, when he was much younger, here in Nigeria. Currently he is in England where he is studying Television and Media.
What is his full name?
His name is Leonel Emeka Orji. He is at the University of Bradford in England. Soon, his music will be on the radio and in the clubs.
What is your take on Nigerian movies taking the lead among other African movies?
I see the role of Nigerian movies as a pioneering one. Other sister African nations will follow in our footsteps and begin to do their own homegrown movies.
There will be more collaborations than we have already done with Ghana , South Africa , Cameroon and Sierra Leone , transcending language barriers.
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