Today we shall be focusing out attention on those Nollywood actors that paved the way for the current set of male actors now running things in the industry.
Without them it would have been impossible to have Nollywood as we have it today. These Nigerian male actors are the pulsating structure upon which the industry was built.
They carried their belief in building a movie industry through decades of struggle, telling our stories the best way they could. Even though their methods of filming were mediocre at the beginning.
Sometimes the stories were as simple as the everyday realities on the streets.
They spoke the language of the people and the message of their struggles, hopes and frustrations became the constant theme of movies that we just cant help but reflect on.
Today the industry is a beehive of hottest Nigerian male celebrities and now more than ever the movie industry is becoming a strong source of economic value to the country.
They paved the way!
Even for the most handsome Nigerian actors today whose face and body aesthetics has seen their influence reach a global dimension. The fact remains that this old Nollywood actors paved the way for them.
Some are still relevant today.
Shining bright despite the longevity of their reign. Blending into a new era of show business that is more about the superficial than the craft itself and its mission like it was, back in the early days.
These old timers deserve some kind of mention. They deserve to be known and remembered even though age and youthful appeal may have subtracted some value from their acting capacity.
Today we talk about them!
1. Pete Edochie
Born March 7, 1947
We all know this face and the many traditional roles his movie career has portrayed on our TV screens.
Pete Edochie was already a name to reckon with as far back as the eighties. At a time when i was still a child playing naked with my age mates in Ajegunle.
His rise to fame all started in the 1980s when he played the lead role of Okonkwo in an NTA adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s all-time best selling novel, Things Fall Apart.
In fact to this day people still refer to him as Okonkwo.
2. Olu Baiyewu Jacobs
Born July 11, 1942
Olu Jacob’s career as an actor of immense value is just too obvious, not just in Nigeria but in Africa as a whole.
The man and the myth was trained at The Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts, England. Where he worked with various repertoire theaters.
This foreign influence on his craft would afford him the chance to participate in some international movies like John Irvin’s war film The Dogs of War, Roman Polanski’s adventure-comedy Pirates (1986) and the family-adventure film Baby: Secret of the Lost Legend (1985).
This man right here, just like Pete Edochie is in a class of his own. And no one can argue the fact that he is one of the best role interpreter (if not the best) in the industry. An art that he expresses through a beautiful rendition of the English Language.
3. Chiwetalu Agu
Born 5th of March 1956
The sad truth is that the Nigerian movie industry was erected on films best described as ritualistic and fetish in Nature.
And men like Chiwetalu Agu made sure we had an ample amount of both physical and spiritual wickedness on TV that many of us began to wonder if the veteran actor is not a killer outside of movies.
And even if you can hardly interpret a single Igbo word, the actor has mastered that art of use Ibo phrases that were exciting to listen to.
Actors like Chiwetalu Agu all started with Soap Operas. One of which is NTA Channel 8 Enugu’s Ikoro, produced by Joe Onyekwelu and the famous Ripples produced by Chico Ejiro.
4. Fred Amata
Born 18 May 1963
He is among those Nigerian celebrities that studied theatre arts and has also contributed heavily to the growth of Nollywood.
I actually became aware of Fred Amata through the movie Mortal Inheritance (1995) that Also stared Omotola Jalade Ekeinde.
But as far as becoming famous, it was his 1986 role in the film titled Legacy that got him started on that journey.
There was a time when men like him played the roles of lover boys and actually were the sexiest in the industry.
But like everyone else, time and season is that change that alters us all forever.
5. Kanayo O Kanayo (Anayo Modestus Onyekwere)
Born 1 March 1962
When you talk about blood money and the many Nigerian movies that imprinted the possibility of such barbarism in our minds then there is no way that you can remove Kanayo from that list of actors.
He is one actor that made sure the world became aware of the different types of rituals involved when it comes to making money in Nigeria through the help of the occult.
And we are grateful for that because it made us aware of such possibilities which in turn made us more suspicious of our environment with a ready made plan of how to act should any suspected occult person come too close.
He made his film debut in Living in Bondage in 1992. And the sequel is currently the talk of the town as i write this piece.
6. Saint Obi (Obinna Nwafor)
Born November 16, 1965
This is another lovable and very talented actor that suddenly just disappeared from our screens.
It was shocking to say the least.
But the fact is, a lot of these Nigerian celebrities that we no longer see on our TV screens as we would have loved to. Are currently the producers and directors responsible for the amazing cinema-graphic projects coming out from the industry.
Saint Obi started his journey to fame in 1996.
7. Tony Umez
Born 23 August 1964
Sincerely he is one of the few Nollywood actors whose roles on TV gets me pissed on a constant repeat.
How can any man be so comfortable playing roles that allows the female characters to slap him silly, especially his love interests?
He is easily the victim of love charms.
But as an actor he is good and actually perfected the acting blueprint of weak men which younger actors are now building on.
His rise to fame started with the movie Died Wretched in 1994. And like the many at that time, he made no money from that movie nor the one after that. Which would prompt his exit for a while. This is exactly one of the sacrifices these Nollywood actors paid in order to pave the way. These days younger actors are paid well.
8. Hanks Anuku
Born 27 August 1960
When i look at some of these images i am reminded of the fact that it is indeed true that the Young Shall Grow.
We were kids when most of these Nollywood actors reigned supreme over the industry and Hanks Anuku was one of them.
Sadly the rumors of his whereabouts and well-being is not exciting especially when it is a known fact that people like him helped build the industry and can really benefit from its current progress.
These days i hear he is more a Ghanaian than a Nigerian which is not bad at all. Nigeria is becoming inhabitable for us all.
9. Gbenga Richards
10. Gentle Jack
Born November 20, 1970
Not many Nigerians have the physique of Gentle Jack. And he is currently the only one with such size in the industry. And also among the few Nigerian celebrity actors that consider themselves as Action Heroes.
Which means he is very particular about action films.
It all started for Gentle Jack in 1997 when he featured in the movie Blood Money. And after then would come the very movie that would cement his name in the hearts of many Vuga.
11. Same Dede
Born 17 November 1965
This man is a thespian by profession. Not just as an actor in Nollywood but as a teacher of the dramatic arts in the University of Port Harcourt.
He is actually responsible for a twist of the ritualistic killing narrative in the industry with films like Issakaba which although was also about the fetish theme was more about light against darkness or rather judgement day for those sort of evils.
He is among the few in the industry that actually does have a manly voice that many might describe as SEXY!
And we all enjoyed it.
12. Ejike Asiegbu
Born 8 November 1959
There are some Nollywood actors that are a great source of Nostalgia. You see their images and the memories are unleashed.
It is amazing how people become part of our lives without actually standing next to us.
This is the power of fame that celebrities world wide enjoy without truly understanding the full impact.
If you remember the 1996 movie Silent Night then you should be aware that was his film debut that opened doors for him in the industry.
And another interesting fact about Ejike is that he was the personal assistant to former Biafran leader Odumegwu Ojukwu during the 1994 National Constitutional Conference in Abuja.
13. Ernest Obi
Born 21 of June 1970
One would have thought that Ernest Obi would have remained in front instead of behind our TV much longer than he did.
He is now more of a director and producer and as an actor there is nothing left for him to prove.
He has been right there at the centre of the industry making sure the center holds, just like the many old heads playing one role or the other behind the scenes just so that the road they paved can remain open.
He became quite popular after acting in the 1994 movie Glamour Girls.
14. Nkem Owoh
Born 7 February 1958
Few men in the industry can be hailed for their massive contribution in making comedy movies in Nigeria worth the while and if you have been quite the movie lover in Nigeria then you would agree that Nkem Owoh sure did make us laugh.
It would amaze you to know that Nkem Owoh was also a part of the same 1987 Things Fall Apart that made Pete Edochie famous.
Sometimes we fail to understand that fame takes time. Its a journey and not all of us have the same bus stop nor starting point.
Today it is easy to become known but that wasn’t always the case with these old Nollywood actors.
15. Emeka Ike
Born 22 March 1967
Emeka Ike had so much on screen romance to the point where it became difficult not to associate his name to actresses such as Genevieve Nnaji and Omotola Jalade Ekeinde.
This man is one of the strong pillars of love stories in Nollywood and i kid you not when i say, he did a very fine job.
His movie career started with the 1987 movie Deadly Affair.
He marriage recently became the subject of domestic violence which rocked several news paper headlines.
The marriage would eventually pack up months after.
16. Kenneth Okonkwo
Born 6 November 1968
This is one Nigerian actor that loves playing the role of the poor man that ends up becoming rich either through legitimate means or through the back door which is often rituals.
In fact his break out role that really made him popular and greatly contributed to Nollywood movies as we know it today had the same theme of poverty and blood money.
And that 1992/1993 two part movie is Living In Bondage.
It is still common for old timers, calling him Andy Okeke. The husband in Living In Bondage who reluctantly agrees to sacrifice his wife for wealth.
17. Bob Manuel Udokwu
Born 18 April 1970
Actors like Bob Manuel are a reminder that people can actually abandon the best part of their lives and still have a fulfilled existence.
And by that i mean, he left the industry for something else and has since remained scarce, not until recently that he again featured in Living In Bondage: Breaking Free.
And funny enough Living In Bondage was his debut film.
And just like Kenneth Okonkwo the major themes surrounding his movie appearance has always been about poverty and blood money.
Born 6 July 1961
We all know him as one of the iconic Nollywood actors who has somehow managed to remain relevant despite the duration of his reign as one of the biggest names in the industry.
He was part of the late 80’s soap opera Ripples, as well as playing Segun Kadiri in Checkmate from 1991 to 1994.
This man is iconic as it gets. having shared sets with many, if not all of the known names in the industry. From those no longer with us, to those still around to reap the honors.
He is definitely one of the top players that blazed the trail.
19. Ramsey Nuoah
Born 19 December 1970
I believe that no matter the craft our passion might get us engaged with. It is important that we stay relevant as long as possible, reinventing ourselves with every new episode of life.
And that is exactly the story of both Ramsey Nuoah and Richard Mofe Damijo. Two men who intend to remain Nollywood lover boys for as long as possible.
It all started with the 1993 Nigerian TV soap opera Fortunes and since then he has grown to become one of the most successful brand in the industry.
He recently made his directorial debut with the film Living in Bondage: Breaking Free that has been in cinemas since November 8.
20. Clem Ohameze
Born 27 June 1965
The one trait that still comes to mind when Clem Ohameze is mentioned is the way he walks.
There is this heaviness behind him that can only be responsible for his unique pose. This man was really popular back in the day.
His movie career started in 1995 but his walk to fame started with the 1998 movie End Time.
He took a four years hiatus from the movie industry but has been back for a while now.
Participating in several movie productions since then.
21. Ofia Mbaka
Not every actor get to be famous as their contemporaries but all the same, without their contribution Nollywood would have arrived at its current level a bit too late.
It is like a typical classroom, the first three are selected and placed above others. But that does not mean those below are not intelligent.
Its just a system of gradation that favors those that come first. That is how best we can describe Ofia Mbaka. He is among the list of top Nollywood actors whose face and talent helped moved the industry forward.
Even though their names were not always making headlines as those Nollywood actors with real influence, making solid progress in the movie world, here in Nigeria and beyond.
These Nollywood Actors are not all there is. Which means there will be an update in the future.
So while we all wait for that update it would really make sense that you don’t just read but make sure you share this content to at least one friend or even more.