In spite of being one of the biggest film industry in the world and its nascent global acclaim, the Nigerian film industry has suffered much criticism for the singleness of its story and the constant typecast of it actors.
Recently, a social media user labelled one of Nigeria’s most respected film veterans Pete Edochie as a “bad actor”. Her reason being that Edochie has been “playing the same role his entire” acting career.
It is easy to see an actor as a typecast given the limitations in range of scope and one-directional method of storytelling in the industry.
“If I am given a script, I read it and if I don’t like it, I will return the money to the producer. I do that most of the time. If a script has a message for the people, I would accept it and if it’s purely intended to amaze people, I don’t star in such a movie,” Edochie said in a 2015 interview.
The Man vs The Roles
Edochie has featured in over two hundred films. With this bulk of work, Edochie has been able to express the fluidity of his art in diverse roles other than being an Igwe, Chief or rich man as critics are quick to point out.
Edochie possesses a physique and voice that radiates authority and commands respect. He is a seasoned broadcaster with an incredible command of the English language and the Igbo language as well. We can say these attributes are instrumental to his outstanding success in the film industry.
“When I sit down as an Igwe, I radiate authority. I am not saying it to flatter myself, but I know what I represent. There was a time I was cast in the role of a poor man, and I was trying to mend nets at the riverside, and people looked at my legs and saw that my legs were so smooth and big. I have a physique that makes it difficult to play me down. If all the actors audition for a big role, I will be chosen, because nature has denied me some roles.” [Nigerian Tribune, 2014]
Let us review a few of his characters:
- Things Fall Apart (1987)
Edochie first won the hearts of film lovers in the 1980s when he starred as Okonkwo in an NTA adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s classic best-selling novel, Things Fall Apart.
The then 40-year-old Edochie who portrayed Okonkwo – a warrior and clan leader – was youthful and energetic, qualities that the literal Okonkwo possessed and admired. Edochie’s brilliant interpretation of Okonkwo was what spurred the British Broadcasting Company to fly into the country to interview him.
- Lionheart (2018)
In Lionheart, we see Edochie as Chief Ernest Obiagu, the owner of Lionheart company and father to Adaeze (Genevieve Nnaji) and Obiora (Phyno) and husband to Abigail Obiagu.
As Chief Obiagu, we see a powerful yet ailing Edochie. He also put to good use his elderly age as a doting father and a loving husband.
His language dexterity also came to play in Lionheart when he met with Alhaji Danladi Maikano (Sani Muazu).
- Holy Cross (2006)
Holy Cross is a 2006 film about Cross (Jim Iyke) the leader of a secret cult on campus.
In Holy Cross, we see an Edochie is a judge and the father of a notorious cultist. We see him convey a man who upholds his values and reputation, the twist to the story came when Edochie had to try his own son in the court of law.
On-locked is an upcoming series in which Edochie stars as an old prisoner. Why would a man who is believed to act only kingly characters accept the role of a prisoner?
Did Someone Say A Bad Actor?
Be it as a commoner, an evil village uncle, a priest, a soldier, a policeman, a chief, a king or any of the hundreds of roles he has played, Edochie hits his role with extra-ordinary confidence.
In a 2015 interview with the Vanguard, Edochie noted this:
“I am a professional through and through and secondly, in all modesty, I am a role model to a lot of people who see me and believe in whatever I represent. I think it’s some virtue for me.”
We can’t deny the talent of the great veteran. Ebubedike as Edochie is fondly called is not one of the most revered actors in the Nigerian film industry for nothing. His skills, filmography and those characters he has played speak for him.