Initially, my mum didn’t think it was going to be something a career could come out of, the same way, she was skeptical but when I did my first jobs, they said ten thousand naira but paid, five thousand naira, you know. I used to collect one thousand Naira from my mom daily to go for auditions.
Q: Stan Nze is a short form of your name. What’s the full name?
Stan Nze is coined from Stanley Chukwuebuka Nzediegwu. It’s still the same really.
Q: You studied Computer Science but now we all know you to be an actor. How did that happen?
Computer Science for me was just to get an education. When I was in secondary school I was already studying sciences, I didn’t want to switch to art when I discovered that I’d like to act, so I just went through with computer science.
I was looking for an easy course that’d take me to the university, it turned out that Computer science wasn’t as easy as I thought, because it had a bit of mathematics and statistics which I wasn’t very good at but, yeah, I tried my best to pull through.
Besides, I didn’t want to have to study the same thing I’ll be practicing, just you know, to have my eggs in different baskets.
But as at the time I started acting, I didn’t think it was something one could make a career out of, for me, it was a hobby at the time, I’ll just get to do it. come out of school and I’d get a regular job. But it turned out that it’s my job now and it’s paying me.
Q: So, how did your parents react when you decided to make it a career?
They were kind of indifferent. They didn’t think it was going to happen the way it happened, because for them I had gone to school and when I was in school, I tried as much as possible not to let the acting get in the way of my studies so I’ll be in school and then try to go for a couple of auditions.
I didn’t really do any acting while I was in school. I did my first movie before I left school but it was while I was on IT, industrial training. So, for them, I was in school and I wasn’t distracted.
When I got out, whilst I was waiting for service and all that, I was still going for auditions, you know, keeping busy.
The way the acting gig happened, it started yielding fruit even before I had to leave for any job or anything. So, they were quite supportive. Initially, my mum didn’t think it was going to be something a career could come out of, the same way, she was skeptical but when I did my first jobs, they said ten thousand naira but paid, five thousand naira, you know. I used to collect one thousand Naira from my mom to go for auditions.
I was finally able to start going to the auditions myself after a while.
Q: When did you start acting?
I started acting professionally in 2009. It was a series called Private Sector. It was produced by a production house called Nobian house.
I don’t know what they are doing now I don’t know where they are, but yeah, that was the first thing I ever did. I auditioned for a small role then
I.. even the main character now is late. God bless his soul. So yeah, that was the first thing. It was about two scenes I did because I joined them in the second season. You know all those kind of roles you do, before they even call you, “Stanley Stanley you’re on TV,” before you’re out, you’re out of screen.
But for me at the time I just wanted to be on TV, I didn’t care how much the role was, how big the role was, I just wanted to be on TV, because prior to that time, I’d been saying Oh! I’m an actor but I didn’t have any screen job I had made. There were time before 2009 when I went to sets and I was begging them, please can I just do anything, even if it is just to walk past.
I didn’t mind, you know, just to be in a film. So, yeah, in 2009 I finally had my first screen appearance…professional screen appearance. Prior to that time, I was acting on stage back in school.
I was part of the theatre group in church in school so I did a lot of stage plays, I did even a film then, one that one of our school mates produced. So I was just trying to be on anything film just for the passion and in 2009 I finally got something professional to play.
Q: It is said that you’re best known for your role in Tinsel, 2011; two years after you started acting professionally. So, how did you get the role and what was the experience like?
Well, I don’t think I’m best known for that anymore, cause I have a couple of things that I’ve done now. But Tinsel is one of the easiest things on TV, so at the time, after I’d done my first film in Jos, started doing sitcoms, I got my first lead in a sitcom in – after Tinsel.
But prior to my Tinsel days, all I was doing was one scene, two scenes.
So Tinsel was huge, I wanted to be on something really good, I wanted to get really premium experience so I was like let this opportunity not pass me by, I auditioned in 2009, I didn’t get in, I think I tried again in 2010 or so.
Finally, I auditioned for 2011 which was the fourth season, and then I got a role which now eventually evolved.
So people knew me from Tinsel because my character was comic, people loved me, you know. It was a role that was regular at the time but it was coming off and on.
Yeah, I was in Tinsel for six years, left in 2016 because I got busy with film and all but I just got back on Tinsel again and my episodes are airing already, my character is back.
Q: You studied Cinematography at Delyork Creative Academy. Why Cinematography and not acting or directing?
OK! So, when the opportunity for training came, I just knew I wanted to do training last year, I wanted to go brush up on my skills, acting, directing, anything, just to scale up my skills in the film industry.
I thought acting was going to be cliché, so I just felt like, let me do something different, let me try my hands on something new, and I thought, okay – so, it was a bit of confusion, I wasn’t sure exactly – directing, yes, but before I made up my mind that I wanted to learn to direct, I knew I wasn’t ready to start directing films so to say, but I wouldn’t mind getting the knowledge and the thing about it is, once you know how to direct, it kind of gives me a directive of what the director is expecting of me, I kind of start seeing a better perception of how to look as an actor, how to deliver as an actor, you know.
But the directing class was full as at the time I was going to register, so I was looking for something close to it, something to work with the camera, camera angles, and director of photography was the next thing which is cinematography.
So I went for that and it was the most amazing moment of my life last year. It was so fulfilling, it was so intriguing. I learnt so much. I’m a better actor right now because I understand how to work my angles. I understand how different lenses work and how not to react to some sort of or kind of lenses.
So, yeah, it’s all technical for me now but it was the best thing that happened to me. I enjoyed every bit of it; the knowledge I got, my lecturers, the bonding, the relationships I built, Abai(Founder Sequl Africa) for instance, I met in class, you know, so I got to meet a lot of people, got to experience something different from just coming to act on set, shared new ideas with people, got new ideas.
Basically, I evolved and I must say, I think I’ve become better as an actor.
Q: You’ve been acting for over a decade now, what role would you consider the most challenging role you’ve ever taken?
The most challenging role I’ve ever taken – there are quite challenging roles, but – Operation Last Dance which I shot last year September has to be it, in the sense that it was quite stressful. It was commissioned by the Nigerian army and we had to go through the rigour of, you know, the rigour that the Nigerian army goes through.
We went through their trainings, their gun drilling, their Man O’ War drilling. We were under the sun for countless hours, I got darker, it was emotional, it was culturing.
It took a virtue from me basically. So that’s like the most recent challenging thing that I’ve done. I’ve done some really challenging roles too, there’s Just not Married, there’s Colourless, there’s a lot of them but this Operation Last Dance has to be, so far, the most challenging.
Q: Talking about Just not Married, it was the movie that got you your first major awards nominations. What was the experience like for you?
It was amazing! In fact, I’d like to say that Just not Married was the way my career started. You know that point in your career where you feel like, Yes! I have started acting. Prior to Just not Married, I’d been on Tinsel, I’d been on series, I’d done some movies, maybe I was playing supports, but I’d not really felt anything stretch me so much.
Just not Married, everything was on point; the story was amazing, when I was reading it I was like wow!
The producer, Judith, when she sent me the script I was like, “how did you get this script? Can you achieve it? How did you even think of me to play it?” I was overwhelmed.
It was a privilege for me and I’m glad that I was able to pull through. I learnt so much. It had such an amazing professional set, the crew; the crew was very professional.
It was one of the films I became an advocate of. I mean, I’m an advocate of every film I do because I want people to see it but Just not Married to me was different.
It’s an experience that I can never forget. The cast, the chase sequence, it was beautiful and then it even came out more beautiful.
Little wonder why it was nominated for screening at the Toronto International Film Festival. So yeah, I totally enjoyed it.
Q: About actors, are there any actors that you’d really love to work with but haven’t worked with yet?
Genevieve Nnaji, anytime, any day. I still want to work with her – I love her acting. I think she’s very subtle, she’s very natural and her acting is something I admire when I see her on-screen. I would love to work with her before she finally retires
Q: You also produce?
Yes, I produce. I made my first film in 2015 just before we shot Just not Married. It’s called Bad Drop.
Q: …How’s that for you?
Producing for me, I stumbled on it. I wasn’t hoping to start producing anytime soon. But a friend of mine based in Scotland right now, his name is Tobe; Tobe Umeh, he wanted to produce a film and wanted me to act in it, and he sent me the script at the time and I was not really…so, for me, anytime I have to do a film, the material makes me want to do it.
Like today alone, people have sent me scripts, I’ll only decide who I’m going to work with according to the script; the best script is what I need to choose.
I’m always very particular about the material I’m working with because that’s like the basic confirmation for me to be in the film. He sent me the script and I didn’t really like it.
I told him, “you know what, I’ll get you a better script.” One of my cousins – who is very good with movie ideas and stuff – brought this idea and I thought it was amazing and I put it down in paper and I sent it to a friend.
I sent the story to a friend in Jos who is a writer, we graduated from school together, he wrote it and it came out beautifully well. At the time I had put in so much creativity into the film not to be part of the producers, so I told him I’d like to be a part of it, not just as an actor or a writer, that I’d like to be on it as a producer.
And that’s how I raised some money, became part of the project. Afterward, I made a second film with the profit I made in that film. The next year, I made a film called Colourless.
Colourless has me, Judith Audu, Anne Njemanze, Chris Okagbue, Odera Orji, a host of others. That’s one of the characters people remember me for till now.
When people say “Oh I saw you on TV, you were so amazing”, 6 out of 10 times, it is Colourless. I played a bitter twin who lost his limb and was on a wheelchair, he blamed his twin brother for doing that to him.
I produced that. That was the second film I made.
Q: Now which do you prefer? Behind the scenes or on screen?
Of course, acting. Acting for me is almost effortless. I enjoy it more, you know, it’s my comfort zone. Producing is double work, producing is more creative work, producing is where you take more risks, you have to raise money, you have to beg people; come and support my film, you have to struggle with distribution.
Like I made a film last year and I’m still just selling it, it’s been a bit of back and forth, back and forth, you know, who to sell to, who not to sell to, oh how much are they paying, I can’t sell, my money is tied down, you know, a lot of mumbo-jumbo but in the long run, it pays more.
But acting, I just collect money, I move on to the next, easy peasy, I don’t care how they want to sell it; it’s their business, whether it sells or not.
But producing, it’s risky, it’s more challenging, you have to think thoroughly through it. I mean, in acting, you have to think about the character you want to play and how you want to play it out and all that but producing is more detailed, you’re going to hire people, you don’t owe people salary or they’ll be on your neck.
That’s a business angle which, obviously, is hard. But I enjoy both, to be honest.
Q: Should we expect to see you divert fully from acting in the industry?
I’m producing already, I’m always going to be mixing it, I’m not going to fully divert to producing or fully divert to directing.
But I’ll definitely produce more movies because I want to change the narrative – it’s one of the things that they taught us in Delyork – I want to be in charge of the stories told in Nollywood, instead of complaining; “oh our stories are not this, are not that,” you know, how about you help create the kind of stories you want to see on screen.
So, definitely, I’ll be producing more but I’m not going to divert fully.
Q: Asides being an actor and a producer, who is Stan Nze?
Stan Nze is a very cute, boisterous dude and a lover of God. I love God with all my heart, I love people because God loves me and gave me a commandment to love people.
I love to see smiles on people’s faces which is why I have a platform that is for children. I have this stuff I do every year, I started in 2014, where I bring kids, – so, it’s called the Kids Can Act Project – I bring kids together and I train them in acting basically and I discovered that I’m really good at it and in turn, afterward, we start getting them jobs.
I’ve gotten parents call me to say ‘God bless you, if not for this money we would have…’
So, it gives me joy to see that I’m able to do that for people. That’s who Stanley is.
Q: What advice would you give to a young and aspiring actor out there?
Okay, do not come for the fame, make sure you’re passionate about it because it can be a bit frustrating.
Work on your craft, do not be in a hurry to be on TV, do not be in a hurry to be known. Spend time and go deep, spend time, and hone your craft so that eventually when you show on TV, you’d be appreciated. So, that when that opportunity comes, you’d see and make another opportunity come.
The truth is if the first opportunity comes and it doesn’t look good, it doesn’t look like you know what you’re doing, it’ll take a while for another one to come, so get better.
Stay humble, the way up is down. Even when you get up, make sure that you keep reminding yourself that you are nothing without the people who have made you, so never let it get into your head.
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