Quick question. Where do child (prodigy) actors go when they quit/pause acting? Mars, Zamfara? A job at NNPC? oh, back to school? As a child actor, Uchemba Williams starred in scores of headlining Nollywood movies. He starred in movies beside Akin, Pawpaw and was praised and celebrated for his acting skills…then he altogether stopped appearing on our Tv screens. I was still a student at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka when I first met Uchemba Williams in real life. I had been a fan. Almost all my life. Then, I met him in CEC Restaurant at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, he was with company so I didn’t want to bother him.
It was alleged he was a snob, but the young man I met was very open and welcoming. We discussed film, religion and also, LOVE. He doesn’t talk about sex or violence. He mentioned to me that he is Born Again. I listened to him attentively. It wasn’t filmic anymore. He is my age-mate, 24 and he has done a lot for himself. He has appeared in over 80 movies (I am not sure about that). But I think so. He has also won various awards. Excerpts from our conversation follow...
Where have you been? No one has seen you on screen? What happened?
I’ve been in school and I just rounded up my degree program; B.A in International Relations at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka. I have always believed that anything worth doing, is worth doing well. So, I put so much of my time, energy and resources in my education.
Let us go back to the past. How did you start as a child actor?
I officially started at the age of 8 after I shot a music video with some African-Americans from the United States. That was my first appearance in front of the camera and after that, the producer who was is a Nigerian said I was good and he had to cast me in his next movie project, which is Journey of the Dead. It was my first movie and that was how it started.
For you as a child actor, what was the most exciting moments in your career?
The most exciting moment in my career would be when I won an award as the best kid actor in Nigeria for Oh, My Son. That was in 2002.
There is the emergence of New Nollywood…I am amazed that you are not part of it. Why?
(Laughs) What makes you think I am not? Of course, I am. I’ve just been doing a lot of home work on myself and my career to be much better than I was. And yes, I am ready to resurface onto the scene. That will make my fans happy again.
Most of the child actors had to leave acting to pursue their education. So, tell me, do you feel the need for that education or you just wanted to fulfill all obligations?
I believe everyone would have some sort of education. Whether you are in the entertainment industry or not. I did mine, because I saw the need for it.
If you are to return to acting, what actors would you like to work with?
I would go with Olu Jacobs. I have always wanted to work with him right from my early years in the industry.
There are so many directors making their mark on the centre stage at the moment. Who are the directors you really want to work with?
It should definitely be Teco Benson.
During the years when you started, did you ever feel that you will take a break from acting? Or was this just the way your parents wanted it to happen?
I always knew that there would be a transition in my acting career but didn’t know when.
Are you in a relationship? Does it distract?
No, I don’t have a girlfriend. I will have one when I see the need for it.
If there is anything you want to change about Nigeria, what is it?
Three things actually. Invest more time, energy and resources in movie production. Two, creating movies with good award winning story lines which would also make positive impact in the society and three, making actors that can be good role models for our younger generation.
Do you have hope in the political system of Nigeria?
Yes. I believe in the transformation agenda.
What are your dreams and aspirations?
One of my major dreams is to create platforms for the young potential entertainers in Nigeria and beyond to fulfill their dreams and aspirations. Also want to be a good role model to the Nigerian youth through the platform God has given me to impact the world positively, because I’ve always believed that people don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
Next on In Conversations: Onyeka Nwelue talks to Peter Bunor Jnr.