If you were born in the 1970s and 1980s in Nigeria, one movie that you'd probably still remember even if not vividly, is 'Living In Bondage.'
'Living In Bondage' which was released in 1992, birthed our today's Nollywood which has gone on to become the second-biggest movie industry in the world. The main character in that movie 'Andy Okeke' played by Kenneth Okonkwo shaped not just the career for the veteran actor for a lot of people who later began a pursuit in Nollywood.
Pulse played host to Kenneth Okonkwo and Swanky JKA (Who plays Andy's son) in the sequel and we got to talk about the journey to the remake of one of the greatest movies to have come out of Nollywood.
For the first time since I started interviewing celebrities never for once have, I envisaged that we would have a prayer session before the commencement of the business of the day. Kenneth Okonkwo made everyone in the studio pause for four minutes as he committed the interview session into God's hand...I liked it.
To the business of the day, I asked Kenneth Okonkwo how he felt about returning to the set of the movie that propelled today's Nollywood.
"It's a fulfilling experience. You know when you did something when everybody was not giving you a chance that decision but you stuck to your guts because you knew that this is what you were called to do and it came out so resoundingly well that it sustained the temple of the industry for 27 years. And after 27 years people are still yearning to see more of that, so it is a very fulfilling experience, it is a very interesting experience that whatever you are convinced in your mind to do, do it.
"It has been wonderful and seeing Living In Bondage remade and being a part of it as a continuation after 27 years with the old cast still there to push it with the new people who someone of them were probably not born when we did the first one, it shows that Living In Bondage holds a particular historical relevance to itself. It bred the first generation and it is breeding the next generation. I feel very fulfilled," he said.
Even though Swanky JKA might not be a very popular actor, he certainly is going to become a force to reckon with once the movie is released in the cinemas. We asked the award-winning actor how he felt when the script was given to him to play the lead character in the movie.
"Living In Bondage is huge. There is this OG director, I think his name is Pat Nebo, he should be in his 70s...so the very first day I was told 'give him the script, he has gotten the role' i was excited but then he said something. He has been in the Industry for maybe forty-something years and he looked in the eyes and said do you know the capacity of what you are about to do.
"So with all the experience he has at that age and for him to tell me that he is scared, that was when it dawned on me that 'what have I signed up for?' So getting that script, I felt like a sense of commitment, knowing that there is work to be done than being excited. You know that it is one thing to be told that you've been awarded a contract and its another thing to prepare your mind that excitement won't cut it," he said.
For Swanky JKA he wasn't tensed when he got to the set for the movie. According to him he only had one moment he was worried about which was meeting Kenneth Okonkwo.
For those who aren't familiar with the first 'Living In Bondage' the lead character, 'Andy Okeke' became wealthy after going into a relationship with an occultic brotherhood. However in the sequel, 'Andy Okeke' plays a role far different from his previous role. We got ask Kenneth Okonkwo how he felt about not reenacting the 'Andy Okeke' the wealthy occultic man.
"You know, you sign up to be an actor so you know you are not going there to play yourself. The test of a good actor is that you can do well in all roles that you are signed up to play. But if you are conversant with the first Living In Bondage then you will know that it ended where I was converted. So I was already converted in the first one so it's just a continuation of that. And you know I hold my faith very seriously, thank God. When I did the first Living In Bondage I wasn't this spiritual but now I have become quite spiritual, so it was quite sweet to handle being a man of God in the sequel," he said.
He went on to say that it is more interesting to act now because there are more resources now unlike the time the previous movie was made. Kenneth reminded us that the script for the first Living In Bondage was shot in vernacular which is usually harder to shoot. This according to him made the actors go the extra mile to interpret the roles.
Even though a lot of people had prayed for the sequel of Living In Bondage, not many thought it would see the light of day. So we asked Kenneth Okonkwo if he ever envisaged the sequel happening.
"When we did the first Living In Bondage, that was the first Nollywood movie, and off course, nobody was thinking of a sequel because Nollywood was not born. But over a while, we started thinking about it. As a matter of fact, the actors of the movie were already gathering together to do something like that before one great guy, Charles Okpaleke from nowhere just got the inspiration. You know businessmen act more swiftly and immediately he worked on it, started calling people together. When he met me, I think that was the first time he brokered the idea to me at an artistic exhibition at the American embassy. He told me about it and I told him that 'Its just God that revealed this to you." he said.
Obviously a young man in his 20s, I was curious enough to ask Swanky JKA how old he was when the first Living In Bondage was released and you'd be shocked at his response.
"He was three months old,(General laughter)" Kenneth replied. "There you have it (General laughter)," Swanky said.
Kenneth Okonkwo believes that the sequel of Living In Bondage is going to blow the minds of Nigerians. For him, since the first movie was accepted by everyone then the new one is going to be accepted by even the angels in heaven.
Living In Bondage - Breaking Free will be showing in the cinemas from Friday, November 8, 2019, in all cinemas across the country. The movie has the likes of Ramsey Noah, Kanayo O. Kanayo, Bob Manuel Ndokwu, Eyinna Nwigwe, Nancy Isime, and Munachi Abii in its cast.