Frederick Leonard: It’s Been a Struggle for Three Years Without My Mom
Even as the new movie, Void, produced by popular Nollywood act, Frederick Leonard, goes to Cinema, there are areas in his personal life where void exists. In this interview with Chinedu Ibeabuchi, he speaks about the void that the demise of his mother created, the void in his relationship and also snapshot on the excitement that the movie, Void, offers
Your name, Frederick Leonard, sounds foreign?
I am a Nigerian from the Eastern part of Nigeria. CEO of Cineworx Entertainment, a filmmaker and lover of Nollywood. I am from a family of four but now we are two. My parents are late. I am left with my younger sister who is a student of Yaba College of Technology. I am pretty lucky to describe myself as someone who is doing what he loves very much; you know when your hobby puts food on your table. My greatest hobby, which happens to be what I love doing is film making and it is business for me as well.
Your new movie, Void, hits Cinemas February 22. Tell us about it?
Void is my second movie as a producer. I am quite excited to have gotten on the project. Void is a thrilling love story that will catch people’s fancy. No matter what we go through in life, there is a void to be filled. Void is a love story told from a very unusual perspective. So, I will like people to go out there and have a good time. They will not be disappointed at all. My first work as a producer is my movie titled Grey, a romantic comedy, in summer 2018. I just love to tell love stories because no matter how much we try to form strong and firm, we all need love in our lives. Grey tells a story of a woman with a terminal disease but finds love in her dying days. Void is my second work. I am really excited about Void. It’s written by a very brilliant writer, Doris Chinasa Ariole. She did a wonderful job. So, I said to myself that I must do even a better job when translating the script to motion picture.
What should fans expect from the movie?
Fans should expect to fall in love again after seeing Void. Fans should expect a lot of captivating camera movements unlike what we are used to in our films where you have lot of still shots. Also, expect to see where a director tells a story through camera movements, we also don’t get to see that in Nigerian films. You see that a lot in Hollywood movies. Within the first three minutes in Hollywood movies, through the camera movement, you can tell if it’s a horror film, a psychological thriller or a romantic comedy. So with Void, you can tell through the camera works that there is something not right in the male character played by me. The director, Chris, who translated the script to screen did a fantastic job in telling the story through camera works. You should expect a fantastic acting in Void. I did the casting and I focused on getting actors who are very good, not just actors for the glam, but actors who understand the essence of role and character interpretation and making it quite believable. So, I have Chioma Akpotha who has great antecedents. There is fast rising actress, Lota Chukwu; a veteran, Ayo Adesanya; Empress Njamah and myself. It’s a movie of few cast but good acting and role interpretation. #Voidwill joggle your emotions.
What makes Void unique?
What makes Void unique is a love story told from a different perspective. Usually, a love story can either make you or break you. A love story can either excite you or bore you. In Void, we ensure that you are not bored, starting from the script to casting to interpretation. There is something else to look out for in Void, it’s the sound track. I co-wrote some of the songs. I went to the studio and sat down with the artistes that did the song and they did a tremendous work in ensuring that the music carries your emotions. The moment that the movie opens, you can just feel it.
In your personal life, what void exists?
Can you see while the movie Void is essential to all because we all have a void to fill (laughs)? I have areas in my life that I am working towards satisfaction. I have certain areas that I need to fill up and there are certain areas that I have filled up over the years.
The absence of your mom, is that an area that you have filled?
That is a void that I don’t think anyone can fill. My mom had me in her early 20s. So, it’s pretty more like we grew up together. I didn’t just lose a mom, I lost my best friend, I lost my gossip partner, I lost the love of my life, I lost the center of my world. I do not think anyone can fill that void. People say when I get married I would, but let’s see. I don’t know if it will be possible because my mom was just my rock. It’s been a struggle for three years to live without my mom. The death of my mom hurts more than any other thing. Whoever is reading this should know that the death of a mom hurts differently. It’s been hard and tough living without her but I am happy she saw a bit of the stardom. I am happy she saw a bit of what she worked so hard for. She saw me sign autograph for people who walked up to me at different points. She saw me buy her a couple of things when I travelled abroad. I remember when I was jumping Molue and Okadas, she told me to hold forth, stay focused and remain consistent. But I just wish that she was here to see more. So, I miss my mom terribly. It’s not a void that I have filled. It’s a void that I don’t think will be filled. Sad to say, but it’s the truth.
As a single celebrity in his ‘40s’, do you feel any void?
I will like your newspaper to help me correct this. I am not up to 40 yet. I don’t know how bloggers came up with that figure. I am in my late thirties. However, I still think it’s about time that I got hooked. But we live in a time where marriages are ending every week for the wrong reasons. Let’s just say that I am being very careful. I am looking for someone who understands family values. I am looking for someone who understands what keeps partners in marriage. What makes a relationship work is not just love. Love is not enough. What keeps you going is the decision to make it work. I am looking for a square peg in a square hole, someone whose life is patterned the way mine is patterned as well because it just makes it a whole lot easier. So for me, love only doesn’t keep relationship going, love is just a by-product, something by the side. Don’t get me wrong. Yes, it’s important. That’s why I create love story. Love is something that creates that bonding, affection and the condiments that help relationship to flourish, but what keeps both of you together is the decision to make it work. That decision gives birth to humility, understanding, tolerance and compromise. Valuing your partner is important but you rarely find that in this generation. We used to have that in Olu Jacob and Aunty Joke’s generation. Because of enculturation and imbibing the western culture, something has shifted and that’s why we have a lot of broken marriages, baby daddies and babies mama all over the place. So, I am praying to God fervently because I do not want to fall into that hole, hence the delay. I am very careful because I do not want a broken home. I was brought up in a very beautiful family and I think that’s how God plans it to be.
What drives your fashion sense?
I have always been a fashion kid. I think it’s my mom’s influence on my personality. I remember as a kid, she used to take me to Lagos Island and she would tell me, ‘Emeka’ which is my native name, ‘point what you want.’ Sometimes, she guides my choices by telling me, ‘oh, pick that colour and match it up with this colour’. So, I am pretty much a fashionable person. I don’t live above my means and I don’t care what societal pressure or social media says. I try to live within my means but also look good. Looking good doesn’t mean you wear the most expensive outfits but once I can afford them, I go for them. It just comes naturally to me to put on the right stuff and step out there looking good and putting smiles on people’s face so when they look at me, smile and say, ‘you look good’ and I would reply, ‘I’m humbled, thanks very much mahn!’ (Laughs).
As a handsome and tall actor, naturally you are ladies delight. How do you manage admiration from opposite sex? And how do you satisfy that void – their urge for you?
I think it creates a void for attention which I give to them. I try as much as possible to respond to thousands of direct messages on my Instagram handle. I shall be doing meet and greet for Void movie at the cinema. That’s part of filling up the void. As it relates to the urge to meet Frederick Leonard, I am out there and I relate with them. I ensure we have cordial relationship. You can’t get intimate and marry all your female fans.
How do you relax when not on set?
I stay indoors. I am not the party type. I don’t fancy drinking or smoking, it’s not my style. I have very small cycle of family and friends. I just relax indoors, go to church, visit family and friends when necessary. Filming is just very stressful and tedious as much as it’s fun. Pretty much, I am one who likes to be indoors, relax and have a good time with people that are very close to me before work takes me again because I am really always on the move.