Chinedu ‘Aki’ Ikedieze sits with Chude Jideonwo, host of #WithChude to discuss having stunted growth, suicidal thoughts, why he hides his family, his legacy as an actor, and working with Osita Iheme.
“The first time I saw myself with people from different parts of the world celebrating me, I would not lie, I cried. I was like, ‘God, so this is me?’. It is wonderful. It simply means that all those times we were running up and down inside the sun and playing, we were really making a difference in a lot of people’s lives. I couldn’t even believe that someone who doesn’t understand my language, even the pidgin, such a person could be a huge fan. It just means that while we weren’t shooting in different languages aside from English, art is global, it is a function of the body language, and you are able to deploy the story and pass the message.”
Speaking about the onscreen chemistry between him Osita Iheme, “From the set of Aki na Ukwa, everyone was just laughing. I think that was the first time we had something like that in Nollywood. From when we were rehearsing, people were like, ‘Have you seen these two guys’. So, before we finished, the expectations were high. From the first day I met Osita, there was this chemistry. It was just there. If you see Osita from afar, you will think he is shy, but when you come close to him, he is not. He is more or less an introvert. He likes to be on his own. I remember trying to devour him when we met because I was an undergraduate back then. Even the way people were looking at us while we were discussing. I think people were surprised because it was like I was brought from Neptune and Osita was brought from Jupiter, and it was like two stars collide”
He spoke about growing up in a country that doesn’t understand difference, “It was tough, people taunted me in different ways. At age six, when I noticed that my younger brother had grown a little bit taller than me, I knew subconsciously that something was wrong with me. When I was 9 years, and six months old, I was taken to the hospital. I was sick, I remember the doctor telling my mum to stop worrying about it. I remember the man saying, ‘Madam what he has is stunted growth, and he wrote growth retardation in the paper he gave to us’. I was trying to find the meaning of the word let alone pronounce it myself. That was when I started hearing the two words ‘stunted’ and ‘retardation’. He spoke about how he knew he couldn’t do labour-intensive jobs, and his only way to conquer the world was through studying well in school. “So, while they were throwing all those tantrums, I cried. There was a time when I thought of ending it all. It was as if society wasn’t fair to me. Kids taunt me with reckless abandon. Sometimes when I have misunderstandings with my siblings, they use the same names the other kids they fight off use, to call me. It was hard on me, but they never knew. But, whenever negative thoughts come, I will remind myself of what my mum had said. That was what comforted me.”
Chinedu also shared his relationship with the late Ada Ameh and grieving her passing. “It was very hard. Ada was like a mother. She took that character off the screen. As in, even outside production. I have met her severally outside, and people will say ‘See your pikin’. You know that kind of thing. So, it was like losing a part of me. In fact, that was the least story, information or news I had ever wanted to hear. That’s the biggest shock of our lives. It broke all of us on ‘the Johnsons’ forever. We considered suspending the production, but I thank God that at the end of the day, we were able to calm ourselves down, and then we thought about the way forward. Losing Ada on ‘The Johnsons’, we didn’t even believe that the show would still go on. Because if you mention The Johnsons, you must mention ‘Emuakpor.’ It’s difficult to take away Ada, that is the character ‘Emu’ from The Johnsons.
On hiding his family from the public, he said, “I am the celebrity, not them. So, I put them aside. I want them to be free. If I put them out there, it will affect them and I don’t want that. My wife can go to the market without much ado.”
Watch the excerpt here