As the line, “And the winner is…Stan Nze!” was uttered by the hosts at the recently concluded Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards (AMVCA), rapturous cheers befitting a true star tore into the night sky – and thus encapsulating the astronomical work of Stan Nze in the past year – especially on the much acclaimed reboot of Amaka Igwe’s Rattlesnake.
Since making his acting debut 13 years ago in “Private Sector”, a popular TV series; and scoring his first major role as a serial killer with bipolar disorder in a blockbuster feature film, Murder at Prime Suites, Stanley Ebuka Nzediegwu, now professionally known as Stan Nze, has not taken his foot of the gas.
The alumni of Stella Damasus Arts Foundation, continues to wield his charm on screen with his acting dexterity and modelling charm; while also pulling the strings behind the scene as a producer, a role he’s come into full circle as evident in award winning projects such as; Bad Drop (2015), Colorless (2016), Anita (2017), Mute (2017), Within the Shadows (2017), Split (2020) and most recently, Everybody Wants Alvin.
In this sit down with Moses Adeyemo for SIMPLE, Stan Nze talks about his path from passion to infamy.
Read more below;
Congratulations on your award, how does it feel winning the award for the best actor in drama at the 8th AMVCA?
It’s hard to really explain, because I think its best experienced. It happens to be one of the best moments in my career so far, every actor works tirelessly to make sure his or her work is being recognized.
The AMVCA is like the greatest platform in Africa that recognizes talent and people’s work, and it’s not just that I won the AMVCA’s; I won one of the most prestigious awards of that night. What was more exciting about it for me is fact that people were genuinely happy, I saw the uproar in the hall when they announced me winner, and it felt like if I was not given there would probably be commotion. It made me feel really loved, accepted and I am grateful to God for it.
Take us back on your journey to becoming who you are right now?
I started acting professionally in 2009, prior to that time I had an inclination towards it and just wanted to do it. When I finished from secondary school in 2005 I knew I wanted to act but I didn’t think it was something anyone could do professionally. I always thought it would be a hobby or a supporting profession to one’s main profession.
I got into school, doing a prescience program then at the Nnamdi Azikwe University then I joined a theater group Champions Theater, and whenever I had to minister every Sunday I just did it with extra vigour and extra attention, and one thing that always happened was after every ministration people will come up to me and commend my acting and encourage me to go for it professionally – and this is how the vision was born, the enthusiasm grew. I started attending auditions, attending my first in 2006, I got the role but I was schooling in the east and it was the end of the long vacation meaning I had to return to school in Awka and I auditioned in Lagos. Eventually, when they were ready to shoot and contacted me I told them I was not in town, they asked me not to worry and that’s how the opportunity passed. I could not do anything until I was on my industrial training in 2009, I attended some other auditions, got on these series, it was a really small role, short appearances, I’m grateful to God it was small but it helped my journey.
I actually started with a lot of television series because it was easily that was what was obtainable at the time for up and coming actors, nobody was ready to give you one lead role on big film. It just got me thinking if everyone will ask you “what have you done” before giving you a role, if they don’t give you the opportunity, how will you have something you have done, but you will have to just figure it out. So, one thing led to the other, I got on Tinsel in 2011, and that sort of gave me something I could show for being an actor until Tinsel happened in 2011, after Tinsel I got my first lead on Television, the Benjamin’s in 2012.
Different things happened on and off, moved to Asaba in 2014 where I got to do some regular inside market films, and in 2015 I produced my first film as a film maker ‘Backdrop’ and the ball has sort of kick rolled since then.
How much will you say you’ve evolved as an actor, looking at your career from 2009 till date?
I won’t say I have evolved a whole lot, I never used to be comfortable watching myself act, not like I’m not comfortable but I will cringe so much watching myself because there are lot of things I see and I feel like I will have done that differently. Right now it’s easier to watch myself because I know that I have improved, I know how to work with the camera, I understand my angles, I know when the character is goofy, when the character is a bad guy, I’m more comfortable, I have been doing this and with experience so you just kind of relax and be genuine to the character. I think starting off there was so much pressure to do it right and impress, right now I deliver and act from a place of relaxation and comfort, I’m not trying too hard anymore, I’m not trying to impress, just being true and genuine to every character I get to recreate and be. There is still so much work to be done no man is an island, once in a while I try to get training, of course one of the first training I got apart from getting training from theater I registered with the Stella Damasus Heart Foundation where I was trained for a couple of months, in 2019 I went to Delyork Creative Academy, I went to train for cinematography, I’m a certified cinematographer by the way, I do these things to learn more, for cinematography just to understand how the camera works, how it will help my acting, how to interact with the cameras. Any training I can get my hands on just to improve my skill I just get on it.
Would you say life made you an actor or decision you made yourself?
I think that God orchestrated it; God already knew I was going to be here. Not everything you are going to become you know, most things you want to become are by the influence of what people around us are doing, what you think is popular, I hear people are making their children learn to play football because there is money in football. We are all driven by financial benefits and what’s obtainable. Before I started acting I didn’t know people could make money from it, I just thought it was going to be a hobby. I think God sort of orchestrated my step, put me in theatre, put me around people that helped me discover what I really had in it, one step after another and things started falling in place and we are here today.
What excites you most as an actor?
The character, I like really interesting and endearing character. I want to be reading a script and be excited about bringing the character to life. Like when I was reading Rattlesnake, we couldn’t shoot Rattlesnake exactly the way it was written because it was during Covid, there were some really intense scenes we were supposed to film in South Africa because we don’t have the wherewithal to film them here, we couldn’t travel because of Covid restrictions and it was really painful but those are the things that really excite me when I read, all the razzmatazz, the cars flipping, the emotions, the different places – one of my favorite scenes reading in the Rattlesnake script was where I went to rob my mom and her new husband and we had finished robbing them when we were supposed to leave, we had masks on and something had happened that made me speak after I had tried not to speak throughout the journey so they don’t recognize it was me, but I got angry at some point and spoke, I tried to change my voice but they knew it was me, she recognized the voice and called my name. Reading scenes like that I visualize it and I cannot wait to bring it to life because it’s really exciting for me and I will say that the way I visualize it was eventually how it came to life just a few tweaks here and there. That’s what excites me about being an actor, recreating, being different people at the different times and the excitement of creating these characters.
What was it like playing your role in Rattlesnake?
Ahanna happens to be one of the biggest roles I’ve played in film, I wouldn’t say it’s the most challenging because I think I’ve done some other very challenging roles as well but it just happens to be the film and character that got the most recognition, most eyeballs. It was in the cinemas at a very peculiar time during Covid, it got buzz, promotions, then eventually got on Netflix last year then it was in the mix for the AMVCA’s, won four awards, best director, best actor, best actress, best cinematographers, four of the major awards, more people have gotten to see.
On preparing for the role, when I got the call that I was going to be this character and then I read the script it kind of blew my mind because it felt larger than life, it was bigger than every other thing I’ve read, in fact I sent the producer a message immediately asking how we are going to do this, and that I was really privileged and honored to be considered to play this. There was also a lot of pressure on me because Rattlesnake is a remake, meaning this film has been done before and people loved the people that played this character, Okechukwu Igwe and Francis Duru, they were known for this character, and I’ve heard people say ‘please do not spoil our childhood memories’, so I kept thinking of how to do the role and impress the audience, that was the pressure I was on until we started rehearsing and one of the things I did was to disconnect from the characters that Okechukwu Igwe and Francis Duru have played, I didn’t want to be basking in their own euphoria. I wanted to be original to this character that has been created on paper and do it as well as a good actor would. I wanted to be true to that character that Amaka Igwe of blessed memory created so I disconnected from whatever I’ve seen and I tried so much to forget what was in the first film. It’s a remake so we are not bound by any law to make it exactly how it was, we are creating genuinely to what we’ve found on paper and that’s what I did, and I’m confident that people loved the interpretation, I got tons of messages every week complimenting my acting on the film – thank you guys for all your messages, I really appreciate it.
What do you consider before deciding to work on a film?
The script, there are a couple of questions I ask, the script has to be really good, I know that we don’t have a lot of great scripts in Nollywood but to an extent, good dialogues, diction, good story, am not asking that we blow a skyscraper, or every film has to be like Rattlesnake where we are jumping off the plane, skydiving, but I believe that the strength of our film is not even in the razzmatazz but in the very simple stories. Let it be entertaining enough, engaging enough, so people don’t watch my film and be dozing off, let it just have a good story that can carry people along, that’s one of the things I watch out for. The sort of actors I will act with as well, I believe that acting is action and reaction, you need good actors to interpret so if I get characters that will need energy from other actors I’m going to ask who is playing this, is it an actor that I will have a bond with, is it an actor that is willing to sacrifice as much as I would – those are some of the things I consider before taking on a role.
What kind of script interests you the most?
It depends on my state of mind at the time you send me the script, like right now am trying to do more intense characters, I want to be seen as an action man, that is what am doing. Last year I was doing a lot of comedy with Aki and Paw Paw, Charge and Bail, because I felt like I have cried too much, I have done a lot of deep characters, if you send me deep it’s either I charge you so much or I don’t take it. I try to evolve, rebrand and I don’t want to be stereotyped.
What do you think of auditions for acting?
I don’t think auditions are meant for up and coming actors or ‘wanna-be’ as you say, that’s not accurate because I still audition, when I tell people that I auditioned for Rattlesnake they are shocked. Proper films will do auditions, even up to this year, I did a film with Ink Block Studios I had to come in for an audition or a read which is a form of screening to be sure you look like what they want to cast you for and that you can deliver the role. However, I know that a lot of people still hold auditions without having any roles or they finished casting their leads and major roles and only searching for extras, that happens but I guess what I will say to up and coming actors is develop yourself, work on your craft, put out videos, do monologues put them on Instagram, the world is a global village right now, you don’t need anybody’s audition to make it into their film. I’ve had people that reached out to me on wanting to be an actor and when I go to their page I cant find anything like acting there. Now you have your mobile phone, make sure that the lighting is right, make sure there is enough light on your face, do a really powerful monologue and if it’s good any reasonable producer you send it to will want to hire you.
I’ve given people roles just by seeing their monologues, be different, don’t do the regular what everybody is doing, stand out, its hard to standout now because there is so much, a lot of people want to act. In acting there’s no hard and fast road to making it to the top, I am still figuring it out, a lot of people are still figuring it out, even the ones at the top because it is an evolving industry and it is growing by the day. We are all a work in progress; figuring it out as we are growing and the sky is big enough, just do what you have to do.
What’s the toughest part of your work as an actor?
It’s really not conducive to film in Lagos, its very difficult to film in Lagos if you have to do outdoor scenes, we also don’t have a lot of studios, there are very few studios in Nigeria so you cant create a suitable ambience. Like I walked into this place, sound was great, no generators on, and I don’t have to shout or over project and I know that power went off before we started rolling so you have to project, so all these stuff. It the ambience for me, sometimes you have to be in a deep emotion, and there is so much noise in the environment you are filming. There’s this time I was filming in Enugu and the director practically drove us round to find a place that there was shade just to get into character, while we were shooting, boy and girl lovers are supposed to be holding hands trying to cry and we would have to cut because of a vehicle passing by, after it passes then you restart action – you are going in and out of character because we don’t have studios to do this. If you see any Nigerian actor give them handshake as they are really doing their best, people can overly criticize but we need to give actors kudos because we are doing a lot.
Asides from acting what occupies your industrious time?
I have an academy for children, there is this project I do called Kids Can Act project, we train children and manage them afterwards. We launch them into Nollywood and they can make a career for themselves out of the industry. I make films as well; I produce and am working on a film at the moment, its faith based. I have totted a new studio Love Story Studios, and our vision is to tell life changing stories, stories that will develop, enhance and reform the society.
What impact has the movie industry had on you as a person?
I fed off the energy of the people that have been here before me. With play networks, doing a lot of remakes, that is a lot of impact on me too.
The industry has evolved, we have great picture, great sound right now, and those are the things I have picked up and I usually will incorporate in my own productions when I do them.
Do you think that actors of old differ from modern actors in terms of skills and finesse?
Acting is timeless, the medium might be different, the devices which are being used to shoot might be different, I don’t think anything has changed, we had actors who were really deep in the past and we still have very deep actors right now is just the modus operandi has probably changed slightly but the acting is still same so I wouldn’t want to put any dichotomy between the two eras.
What is your perspective about the modus operandi in the movie industry?
Growth. We are growing with a lot of speed. Back in the 90s to early 2000’s you will hear people saying I’m pushing for a Nollywood career, am trying so that we will go to Nollywood, but right now, Hollywood is coming to Nollywood, we have a lot of collaborations, people coming here to invest, likes of Netflix, Amazon Prime, these are foreign studios coming here to invest and tell our stories. A lot has evolved from what the country used to be and there is so much room for growth, there is so much that is still happening there is so much that will still happen. It’s a good thing to be in the industry at such a time, as this and I cannot wait to see what the future holds.
How much impact will you say the digital space has had on the industry?
It has brought Nollywood to the palm of everyone’s hands, gone are the days when you had to wait to rent a film and watch before giving your neighbor, now everything is in the palm of your hands. Now we have movies on the go, it’s a whole lot that has changed and I know that its going to become more global, entertainment will be cheap, it will be affordable, everybody will be able to enjoy it once you have a device – that’s the advantage of technology and we are embracing it with our full chest.
What don’t you like about acting?
It’s an offshoot of being an actor, it’s not every time I feel like smiling, it’s not every time I feel like taking a picture, it’s not every time that I feel like greeting you when I see you on the road but I cant help it. Even when I’m hungry I still have to smile if not you will say I’m not a nice person even though you met me on a day when my mood was not right. You sort of lose the right to be yourself, you have to be happy at all times, and you have to be ready to take a picture. You lose that right to be yourself, but it’s the life we signed up for so we are here.
How will you define a successful actor?
A successful actor is one who has been able to read a script and interpret whatever character they’ve been given to play to the best of that character not to the best of their knowledge, to the best of whatever character they’ve been given is. If the paper says this guy is crazy and I’m able to do crazy and even more I think I have delivered, that’s who a good actor is.
A successful actor is not one who has won awards, because accolades are not just it, yes they come, great, but it’s performance, there are great actors that never won an Oscar, it took Leonardo DiCaprio like how many years before winning it few years back. In all, a successful actor is one who is able to interpret whatever character they are given to the best of that character they are given who is able to work with your director and other characters to create the vision of the film, not carrying on their own because it’s team work – team work makes the dream work.
Is there any such thing as over acting?
Yes there is such thing as overacting, you know that there’s a difference between happiness and excitement, if a character is supposed to be happy, if a character is meant to be happy and the actor is being excited it means that he is overacting at the moment. If the script says this guy is supposed to be happy like Stan and the actor is happy like Olakunle it means that the actor is overdoing it or under-doing it – there is also something as underacting, you are not giving the emotions that are required. I think one of the ways that can be curbed is by analyzing, thinking it through, who is this guy, what will he do in this situation, how will he do it, will he over smile, will he internalize – these are the things you should think about when you get your character.
What are your best projects till date?
Every project I have had to work on has contributed in making the brand Stan Nze, every project is a great project. I have been on really beautiful projects and it is such an honor, am grateful to every actor I have worked with, every director, producer that has given me the opportunity to work, however there are some that are quite memorable. Some that is hard to forget, Rattlesnake I cant forget that, I was nominated and I won the award for best actor, “Just Not Married,” this film was made in 2016 and it went to the Toronto international film festival, I remember it, it’s quite memorable. Imela, I did this film for the Iroko Tv platform in 2020 and its probably one of the deepest characters I have ever played and its given me a lot of notable recognition.
This is one of the characters that have helped people find healing. The most Colorless, I made that and I’ve got tons of messages from that film, my first film as a filmmaker. Backdrop, of course, my first lead role in a TV series, my first lead role ever it’s The Benjamin’s, there are a lot of them, I sort of have a journey for every film so it’s easy for me to connect and remember this project but for the sake of time, there is no way I can mention all the films I have been on so I’ll just mention a few.
As an actor that has played several characters in different films, is there any challenging role you look forward to playing?
When people ask me this question it’s hard to say, because I have played a lot of roles, to be honest there is not a lot available in Nollywood at this time, because what people are writing, some people have some scripts they have written but they keep saying we can not make it now due to different reasons so we are not there yet. For what is obtainable right now I think I have played virtually everything, there is nothing off the top of my head I think I want to play but when I read it, I will know. I am working on something right now, that is really action with Remote Studios; Tosin Ego is directing it and I’m really excited about it because it is really intense and they have great plans for it, maybe those things I couldn’t achieve with Rattlesnake I will achieve with this.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have of you?
It will probably be that I’m a bad boy, but I’m a church boy, a child of Jesus and a family man.
How do you want people to perceive you as a person onscreen and off-screen?
I want people to perceive me as someone who have values, someone who loves God, and somebody who can be oriented, it’s not by the things that I say, it’s by the things that I do. By their fruits you shall know them – I’m hoping I live up to the expectations by doing the right thing at all times.
If you were not famous what will you be doing?
I probably will be practicing what I studied, probably own an IT firm or be working in one, something in that line or maybe a pastor.
What advice do you have for anyone that wants to go into acting?
Put in the work, take on monologues, record, put them on your page, tag producers instead of coming everyday to say I want to act, let there be something evident on your page that you are an actor and you can hire a camera, invest in your craft, go for training, go on YouTube, get videos, keep soaking it in, do not be in a hurry to be on screen rather take time out and invest in your craft be sure that you will deliver when the opportunity comes. That will be my advice to you, there is so much attention on the entertainment industry now, everybody wants to act, sing, just be sure that you have talent and you are not in that balloon of people that just want 5 minute fame or one hit wonder and disappear.
You can also watch full interview on Youtube:
Interview: Moses Adeyemo @simplymhoses
Photography: Bolurin Visuals @bolurinvisuals
Camera: Ibrahim Olowolagba @scopevisualsng
Assist: Adetola Adebayo & Alex Edun
Creative Director: Rayo Kasali @therayokasali
Executive Producer Edun Adedamola @adedamolaedun