FULL NAME: Okechukwu Chukwudi Ukeje
DATE OF BIRTH: 15 July 1981
OCCUPATION: Film actor, model, musician
MARITAL STATUS: Married
OC Ukeje is Nigerian actor, model and musician. He came into prominence after winning the Amstel Malta Box Office (AMBO) reality show. He has received several awards including Africa Movie Academy Awards, Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards, Nollywood Movies Awards, Best of Nollywood Awards, Nigeria Entertainment Awards and Golden Icons Academy Movie Awards. He has featured in several award winning films including Two Brides and a Baby, Hoodrush, Alan Poza, Confusion Na Wa and Half of a Yellow Sun.
EARLY LIFE AND BACKGROUND
Okechukwu Ukeje was born in Lagos State, Nigeria. He is the second child of a family of three.
He attended Federal Government College Ijanikin, Ojo, Lagos. He began his career in acting from his first year at the University of Lagos, Yaba, with a lead role in a stage play. He went on to pursue both music and acting, focusing mainly on acting in stage plays for the first four years of his career before attempting and winning a reality TV show, Amstel Malta Box Office (AMBO).
He actually stumbled into acting. It was purely by chance. He was working with an organisation in the university at the time and he was focusing a lot more on music whilst studying Marine Science. There were concerts and special shows that he was always a part of or was involved in, especially with the music. Then the organisation decided to do a play one semester and they asked him to audition for the lead part. He wasn’t keen but it turns out they thought he would fit the part and so he stepped up. And when they put up the play, a bigger organisation saw his performance and asked him to join them. They ran plays for about four years non stop.
In all that time, he went through self-discovery and by my final year, he was certain he was going to be doing acting and music and what was left was [to figure out] how to go mainstream. He eventually partook in a reality TV show after he graduated and that was his first attempt at being on-screen.
His first movie, White Waters, came off of the show in 2006. And he’s been at it since.
CAREER AND LIFE
His first screen appearance was in White Waters (2008) with Joke Silva and Rita Dominic. The film was directed by Izu Ojukwu. He won the African Movie Academy Awards (AMAA) for the Best Upcoming Actor (2008) and the City People’s Award for Best New Act (2010).
He continued to write music, collaborating with a few Nigerian musical artists and producers and working on radio jingles for corporate organizations. He has worked in movies and television between 2008 and 2012.
He has been a member of cast of the TV series that was presented at the International Emmy World Television Festival, Wetin Dey (2007) produced by the BBC World Service Trust and played lead and supporting lead roles in films like Comrade, Confusion Na Wa and Awakening. He also featured in Black November (2012) by Jeta Amata with cast members such as Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger, Sarah Wayne-Callies, Hakeem Kae-Kazim, Vivica Fox and a host of others. He was also on the film adaptation of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s Half of a Yellow Sun (2013) with Chiwetel Ejiofor and Thandie Newton as lead cast, directed by Biyi Bandele. He was on the repertory team that showcased 3 stage plays for the Nigeria House at the London Cultural Olympiad (2012). He also acted in the BFI sponsored film, Gone Too Far. He was in NdaniTV’s series Gidi Up with Titilope Sonuga, Deyemi Okanlawon, Somkele Iyamah and Ikechukwu Onunakuhttps. In January 2015, he was listed by Nigerian Cinema Exhibition Coalition as one of the highest box office grosser of 2014.
In 2016 he was invited with Somkele Iyamah to attend the Toronto International Film Festival as “rising stars”.
Ukeje lives in Lagos, Nigeria. He got married to Senami Ibukunoluwa Togonu-Bickersteth on 8 November 2014.
OC TALKS ABOUT HIS LIFE&CAREER:
What about your family? Did they support you in your artistic career?
I’ve been very lucky with my family. My mom has been supportive from
day one and had only expressed her concerns after I finished school. She
wanted to know when things would be ‘in shape’. And my siblings, yeah,
they had no choice. So it’s been a pretty okay journey on that front.
And this one time, my mom was going to let me defer a semester to go to
London to do some theatre. Suffice to say that that was the most
definite sign of her support.
Anyone else gave you significant support in your career?
I haven’t done this alone. My first trip ever out of Nigeria, all
expenses paid, Peace Anyiam-Osigwe [former CEO of the African Movie
Academy Awards] did that for me and that shaped my mind further on the
need for an international career. Sola Olubi [VP of Citibank Nigeria]
took time off work to listen and share counsel that helped me keep
going. Entrepreneur Ayo Otuyalo was the voice behind my left ear that
kept me adamant but the money in my right pocket that helped with
training. And there was actress Stella Damasus and TV executive Wangi
Mba-Uzoukwu who introduced me to people. It all added up. And of course
there was my friend Lolo Ernie, who made sure I always had some money to
spend through very many difficult seasons.
In some of the movies, the actor has had to kiss some of his colleagues because it was part of the script.
Even though it’s all an act, OC
confessed the scene actually affected him and, he became aroused while
kissing the actress on the set.
OC said, “It has happened to me before
that I was moved when acting a romantic scene but when it happened, I
was involved with the actor in real life. I cannot speak for other films
I am going to do later. You can find a girl super attractive and when
you guys are kissing, blood starts flowing south ward. But I generally
just try to remember that it is a job and I do what I have to do and
leave the place. Fortunately it has worked for me so far apart from the
one time that it happened.”
He added that he’s blessed with a supportive wife who has not frowned at any of his romantic roles yet.
“I have the responsibility of making
sure that whatever I do is tasteful because what we are doing is not
easy for our spouses. It is important to make sure that anything you are
doing is tasteful enough so that whoever sees it likes what it looks
like and that is what your wife gets to see. That it also adds to the
story is important otherwise it would be an excuse to be kissing in
films. My wife has been very supportive and I don’t think she has
frowned at any one yet. I am just a lucky guy.”
Even as he is a popular actor, OC hardly features in the normal ‘home videos’ that have flooded the industry.
In his reaction, OC said it wasn’t pride that has made him not to feature in those movies.
SPEAKING ON HIS MARRIAGE
You recently got married, leaving many Nigerian women heartbroken. How do you manage to balance your hectic schedule with your life as a newlywed?
Laughs. I really wish I had a manual to help me with this phase of life but it’s a good thing that my wife has been really understanding with the schedule so far. The brilliant thing is we’re open to going on some of my trips, depending on the nature of the journey and the distance, depending on her availability outside her work schedule and of course, depending on how affordable some of the trips are for both of us. She lives and works in Canada at the moment, so we are constantly updating each other on schedules so that we make plans for our planned visits and other chance visits that come up due to my travels. It is difficult however, because the schedule can be unpredictable and sometimes even after plans are made, we have to keep that window of flexibility open, just because the work trip may be really beneficial to my career at the time. Yes, it is something but we try.
AWARDS AND ENDORSEMENTS
He has received several awards and accolades including Africa Movie
Academy Awards, Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards, Nollywood Movies
Awards, Best of Nollywood Awards, Nigeria Entertainment Awards and
Golden Icons Academy Movie Awards. He bagged the African Movie Academy
Awards (AMAA) for the Best Upcoming Actor (2008) and the City People’s
Award for Best New Act (2010).
|OC and Wife