Zack Orji: Nothing compares to the big screen

Zachee Ama Orji, popularly known as Zack Orji, was born in Libreville, Gabon. He holds a BSc. (Hons) in Estate Management and fell into acting quite by accident although he had always loved it. In this interview adapted from nigeriafilmsonline, he talks about his passion.

Zack Orji started out as an interpreter for Nigerian businessmen who travelled to Benin and Togo for business and their francophone counterparts. But he had an interest in the shoe business so he eventually began designing special shoes of snake and alligator skins. After his business was robbed he became a Salesman and while making a delivery stumbled on a group of film scriptwriters.

“These [guys] were writing a movie script that they were about to produce at that time. I told my friend that I was interested, and after these guys interviewed me, they gave me a script and I eventually got the leading role in the movie The Unforgiven Sin, an Igbo film subtitled in English.  I went on to get nominated for best Actor in the Movie Awards (Thema Awards) the first that was organized in 1995.

Have you always wanted to act? Do you have any Role Models?

I have always wanted to act.  I grew up going to the theatres a lot, watching Clint Eastwood, Bruce Lee, Jimmy Wang Yu, Yausaki Kurata, Sean Connery, Lee Van Cliff, Jim Kelly, Fred Williamson Tamara Dobson, Sidney Poitier, Amitabh Bachchan, Dharmendra…. I also read whatever I could lay my hands on about them.  I truly desired to be like them.

Most of the films I have watched where you are a principal actor, you are always the victim, the good guy so to speak. Do you choose this roles?  Is that in keeping with your religious faith?

In our line of work, we are usually put in a box.  You deliver a role creditably, and a lot of such roles keep being offered to you.  Sometimes one has to turn down some offers because the fee is not okay, or the script is lacking in depth and coherence, or you want some things built in or altered and the producers do not agree, or for some other reason.  Only once in 100 times do I choose my roles.

Have you thought about doing movies for children?

I would like to do movies for children if I have the opportunity.

You are happily married with kids. But as you well know, there are some female fans who would still want to get you in spite of that. How do you handle these advances?

I try to be as polite and friendly as possible, while keeping them at arm’s length.

However, there’ve been times when I’ve had to be rude to some pestering ones. Some times I’ve warned some to stop calling my number. Some ask my wife’s permission to hug me in her presence. Some would just rush and hug me and hope she would not mind or say that much. I am always momentarily embarrassed and do really feel for my wife.

I understand your wife is an actress, do you select the roles she acts? Does she influence the roles you play? Are there many couples who are both in the industry?

My wife is an actress. No, I do not select her roles. Sometimes we discuss my roles, depending on the type of role. She does influence the roles I play. There are few couples who are both in the industry. I can count them on my fingertips. About 2 are divorced.

Tell me about your children

I have three children – Lionel Emeka Orji, Princess Laura Chiamaka Orji and Michelle Chidimma Orji.

Which are your favourite Foods?

Rice (in any form)

Which are your all time favourite films?

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, The Good The Bad and The Ugly, Sound of Music, Sarafina, The Unforgiven Sin, Tenterhooks, Web, Return To Kazondia,Games Women Play, All my Life

What is your take on films made on celluloid and filmmakers like Sembene Ousmane or Basek Bakobio?

Nothing compares to the big screen. It is awesome, it captivates and it is the ultimate created world. My recollections of the big screen, watching movies like The Good, The Bad and the Ugly, in my very early teens, are still very much vivid. Celluloid gives you the “feel” of the big screen.

However, recent breakthroughs in digital technology have given birth to digital video cameras with very high definition. You can shoot your films with these high definition cameras and watch them on wide screens, enjoying the same picture resolutions.

George Lucas used such high def cameras and said “I will never shoot another film on film”. Filmmakers like Sembene Ousmane or Basek Bakobio are torchbearers who have inspired a lot of Africans and people of black descent. They have made indelible marks and therefore occupy a pride of place. However, we must strive to traverse their footprints and leave something behind, in order to build up on their foundations.

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