The cult following movie celebrities like RMD, Ramsey Nouah and Jim Iyke receive may arguably not define Ifeanyi Kalu’s present status in Nollywood. But he’s sure on the streak of success with offers coming his way as he tells Ferdinand Ekechukwu in this encounter
He is quite acceptable – cool, calm and convivial – in appearance. With a distinct look that stands him out from the pack, Ifeanyi Kalu represents a new hue on the canvass of Nollywood actors. Knowledgeable too and soft-spoken, he cuts the image of one born with silver-spoon. At first exchange, his character and charisma could leave you guesstimating. At some point during the conversation, he would chuckle. Sometimes he laughs out loud, like one catching up with an old friend especially when the subject touches on juicy spots. His vocation in the arts cuts across fashion, modeling, compering and acting, his main stay. “I actually started out as a model though I did TV adverts/commercials and billboards.
“That’s where I started from before I got into acting. Also, I’m a fashion designer that’s on the low right now. I’m pretty much doing a lot of movies these days. At the moment I’m trying to balance both so none would suffer for the other. So, I do fashion alongside acting and once in a while, the modeling gigs come but not like before. Also I compere events as well,” he revealed.
With a second class upper degree in Computer Science, he just could not see himself sitting on the system writing computer programmes and all of those codes. Not even with the added qualifications from NIIT that certified him in Java and Oracle as well. So he quits. “I did come out with good grades, but it just wasn’t my thing. I just couldn’t see myself sitting on the system writing programmes. I was just trying and trying and trying. It just wasn’t me,” he sighed intermediately and laughed. “But that was me just trying to do a different thing. I stopped and went to a fashion school.”
He would later enroll at the Royal Arts Academy run by renowned filmmaker, Emem Isong. Remarkably, Kalu’s foray into acting has been a fulfilling one that created his moment. All thanks to the filmmaker whom he described as a veteran. “I got introduced to her by my sister. This was in 2010 or there about. I had to enroll at her academy. And then this particular day there was an audition. I just did the audition and I was selected for the role after the audition and I got the role.”
While at the film school he honed his talent and prepped his acting skills. Same year, he was cast in his first movie in a television series. Shortly after that came his first major appearance in the movie ‘Kokomma’, also from the academy. The film school is known to have churned out classy Nollywood movies like ‘Reloaded’, ‘Kiss and Tell’, ‘Weekend Getaway’, ‘Lagos Cougars’, and so many other movies. Kalu starred in the latter.
“From there people started to look out and say ‘okay I think I like this guy, I think he can do this for me, he can do that for me’. I was also in ‘Tinsel’ for like a season or two. And then from there it just started coming, coming, and coming,” he crooned. “And here we are today and I’m very hopeful for a better tomorrow.”
How far can the passion for acting take him? He took a deep breath and answered: “That’s a very broad question. Sometimes you never know how far you can go until you are told ‘okay we need you to do this or we need you to do that’. But with the much I know, I can go really far. Because for now I don’t really think, apart from taking my beards and everything off, there’s nothing I have done farther than that really. I think I would go far for it even to jump from a skyscraper all the way down for the movies I will do that as long as my safety is assured.”
Speaking of passion, in a movie he starred recently, the handsome dude was made to take off his hair, beards and eyebrow everything just to tell the true story the way it ought to be so as to depict the real character. Inspired by true live events, the emotion-laden movie could have taken away from him but as it is for the job. “I think if one is professional and you have the passion for this work you should be able to go any length. It wasn’t an easy thing for me to do because you know when you are known with a particular look and then all of a sudden you are told to have a completely different look it’s not very easy. You don’t know how the acceptance will be like from people. And then you don’t know how much it would probably have fetched at that particular period. You know your chances to land other roles because I didn’t just take off the beard even my eyebrow went off, but then, the love of the job was paramount. It was more important than my looks; I had to take it off completely.”
He would reveal the movie Lurikos is actually his debut production.To him, “It’s my movie and it’s going to be out pretty soon, it’s going to be really big. It’s called Lurikos; is a Greek word for poetry. So the job like I said was more important so anyway I looked I did not care.” All he cared was just to get the job done; to fit that character…just to get into the character to fill every part of it. “It was more of me being a method actor on that set because it’s actually pretty difficult. A lot of people talk about being method actors in Nigeria but it’s very difficult to be a method actor in Nigeria. Because being a method actor requires that you are in character from the very start to the end of the movie. But you know on our set here in Nollywood there are a lot of things that happen on set, a lot of distraction and all that.
“I dare to say it’s different but not totally. Some of the things I set out to do I wasn’t able to achieve a 100 per cent. But I dare to say it’s different. It’s something that when people see it, they will know it’s a Nollywood story/movie but it goes like a notch higher than the regular. We did so much to making sure that the set could interpret what the story is about. Everything just entangle …interwoven and it brings life to the story and makes the feel connect when people watch it.”
To some extent, Kalu is very familiar with his face pretty much in the open. But may not be enjoying just yet the cult following superstars like RMD, Ramsey Nouah and Jim Iyke receive to want to appraise it with the acceptance he gets in public like being mobbed by fans and stuffs like that. “I cannot be compared to RMD or Ramsey Nouah,” he said laughing. “I think the demography comes to play, it’s a factor to this. There are some places you would go to and people do not know you.
“While there are some places you go to people know you but they don’t want you to feel like you are a ‘star’. The place that I am most recognised in Nigeria so far that I have gone is Abuja. Anytime I’m in Abuja I have lots of recognition. In fact, there was a time I was doing a photo-shoot on the street of Abuja.
“This wasn’t even main Abuja; this was Karu in Abuja and then just on the street and before I could know what was happening, some kids that were being carried by their parents I think from school had to stop their mum and they all rushed out of the car then I was even surprised like these 4-5-7 years old kids and felt really humble and grateful for that and just after they did that I took pictures signed autograph, they went and another set came. That day was like 4-5 different sets of kids I think I was shooting close to the school. And then at the airport in Abuja and every other part of Abuja, I get that much recognition. In Lagos, I also get the recognition but then again you know in Lagos we have different kinds of people.
“The thing with Lagos is a lot of Lagosians know who the celebrities are but a lot of times they don’t want to act like they know who they are.
“But then again sometimes too, the scene of the place matters that you get to some places they want to be pretty much appreciative and some will just like okay…stare and quick glances and all that at you and just get going. But when it comes to recognition, it’s not that crazy like you would have an RMD or a Jim Iyke or Ramsey Nouah or all of those our senior brothers, it’s not that crazy. The acceptance people do know who I am,” he explained.
For the fast rising actor, there’s this fondness he has nurtured for long. And that is to work with that one actress that makes Nollywood look good. Aside just wanting to work with the super actress, Kalu nurses more! “I have never worked with the female actress. If I had to work with one that would be Genevieve. I mean everybody crushes on Genevieve. I crush on Genevieve. I have never worked with her before. I hope too, I pray for that arrangement from God,” he confessed, albeit wittily. “I think she’s just in a class of her own; she’s defined a class for herself and she’s super attractive. And now I don’t mean bodily, I mean her personae. She’s pretty attractive to me and I love to work with her someday.”