In this episode of #BNMeetTheStar interview, rising Nollywood star Chimezie Imo opens up about his journey in the industry so far, his AMVCA nomination, and the rewarding roles he has played in movies like “Choke,” “Nimbe,” “The Wait,” and more. He also discusses his recent involvement as a producer and shares insights into his personal life, including a surprising talent in the kitchen.
Get a glimpse into the life of this talented actor as he takes us behind the scenes of his career and shares his aspirations for the future. Enjoy!
First of all, congratulations on your AMVCA nomination. How did it feel to be nominated?
Thank you; I appreciate it. Honestly, I truly believe all forms of recognition for my work are a privilege. As a working actor who is conscious of their place in a growing industry, I never take any recognition for granted. It always feels surreal. However, AMVCA’s nomination was super surreal because I was nominated alongside giant actors who I grew up watching and admiring, like Chidi Mokeme, Richard Mofe-Damijo, and OC Ukeje. Also, Blossom Chukwujekwu is one of my favourite working actors in Nollywood, so sharing a nomination list with him was super surreal.
You’ve come a long way, but how has 2023 been for you so far?
I would say 2023 has been an expression of God’s grace in my career. It’s still unfolding, though, and things are still happening. I am grateful for it thus far and cannot wait for what the rest of the year brings.
Every actor’s path to this industry is unique. Take us through yours up to this point.
First, I would say God has held my hand through my journey thus far in Nollywood. I was based in the North, where I was schooling at Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University, and I had to take the night bus for auditions and whatnot. Sometimes, I would get picked. Other times, I didn’t. Then, as fate would have it, I was posted to Lagos for my NYSC, which gave me a chance to pursue acting squarely. Since then, it’s just been God holding my hand, like I said, and walking me through it. I mean, there was an AMAA nomination and a Future Awards nomination, both of which I never imagined would have happened that early in my career. And now there’s an AMVCA nomination, which I feel happened earlier than I thought it would as well.
What has been the most rewarding role of your career thus far, and why?
Frankly speaking, it’s important for me to first state that every role I’ve had has been a blessing and a reward. Although I’m currently yearning for more dynamic, fully fleshed-out roles in a well-written script, just being a working actor is a dream I live. So, I’m fully grateful for all the opportunities I’ve been provided and for not having been put in a box or typecast. And that’s not to say typecasting is a bad thing, but it’s not the path I hope to follow in my career. “Nimbe” particularly opened many doors for me, so perhaps I could call it my most rewarding role yet. However, there are also a few more in the works that I can’t wait to share.
You starred in “Choke,” a psychological thriller that touches on mental health, sickle cell, family, and love. How did you get in the right frame of mind to play a role in such a serious movie?
The first step in getting into the right frame of mind to play my role in “Choke” was to approach it in a very intentional manner. I was portraying a sickle cell warrior, which is a sensitive topic, so I had to do extensive research on people living with sickle cell anaemia. Then, I reached out to a friend from high school who lives with the condition to gain an understanding and firsthand information on what it feels like to be a sickle cell warrior. In the end, all I could gather was a surface understanding of their condition and their pain, which made me frightened. It took a lot of mental work for me to try my best to honour those living with sickle cell anaemia. Additionally, my character was a cat dad, so I chose to live with a cat for a period before filming began, which was a phobia I had to overcome. Lastly, I had to lose some weight to make the character as authentic as possible. Getting in the right frame of mind to star in “Choke” was both a mental and physical journey for me.
Wow, that’s impressive. Well done! You recently announced your debut as a producer for the short film “It Happened Again.” How long have you been working on this project? And what is it all about? How can people watch it?
My debut film as a producer, “It Happened Again,” came to be when my friend Dayo, who is a director, cinematographer, and writer as well, reached out to me wanting to tell a true story of his own life. His parents were shot and killed somewhere in the South by unknown gunmen. And it’s been hard for him to move on because he hasn’t gotten closure, hence his decision to make a short film to seek closure. He wanted me on board as an actor, but I wanted to be more involved in such storytelling and such a powerful message of grief because it was important to him. And to me too. So I asked to be a part of the producers’ team and helped put our heads together to make the film. The film is currently being submitted to film festivals and has just started its festival rounds, after which it will likely be released online.
Who are some of your acting influences? Both Nigerian and foreign?
Ramsey Nouah, Gabriel Afolayan, and Gideon Okeke are some of my acting influences in Nigeria. Internationally, I’m hugely influenced by Al Pacino, Tom Hanks, Leonardo DiCaprio, Denzel Washington, and Rowan Atkinson (Mr Bean).
Do any of the roles you’ve played spill into your everyday life, and do fans come up to you and approach you due to something your character said or did?
I think as actors, we often carry some part of our characters into our everyday lives, especially when we haven’t had enough time to mentally detox from a character or visit a therapist to shed the weight of a character. And to be candid, not many actors in Nollywood have the luxury of time or money to seek wellness. We often carry some part of our characters into our daily lives. So we just hope and pray that whatever we take from a character is good and not bad or ugly. And certainly, fans have approached me due to the dialogue my characters have said or their actions in a film.
What is one fun fact about yourself that I wouldn’t be able to find in a press release?
One fun thing you wouldn’t find about me in a press release? I’m quite a good cook (LOL). I’m not the biggest fan of cooking, but I know my way around the kitchen, and I’ve been told my cooking comes out just right (LOL).
When you’re not working, how do you try to unwind?
When I’m not working, I try to unwind by watching movies and television shows.