Ghana is noted for many things and blessed with talents such as hard working actors, such as Chris Attoh. Known as one of Ghana’s finest and married to one of Nigerian movie sweethearts, Lola Adegbite, Chris agreed to share with Encomium Weekly info on the upcoming movie project for MNET, One More Day.
When did you start your journey into acting?
My journey into acting brings me back to a very interesting part of my life where I used to sit in an office, just like this as a TV host for Charter House which is one of Ghana, leading events companies. And I often said maybe I would do a little acting by the side, but my passion was for directing and I kept saying I don’t think we are there yet. A lot of the directors in Ghana are not there yet, so I don’t want to put my face in it. But I kept getting scripts every week on my desk. And they just don’t seem they were there. So I ended up going to film school to learn directing, but how it really happened was when I met Shirley Frimpong Mansu, who was an old friend. She requested to meet me and she showed me a script. This was the script for Life and Living it, starring Adjetey Annan. So, that was my first picture in Ghana. And it’s been one good story after another. I have tried to be careful and not end up doing too much.
Did you get the necessary support from your family to go after your passion?
Emm…I think I’ve been blessed with the kind of family that will always encourage you, one way or the other. My mother has been very encouraging and she is quite proud of the work have put out there. My father is a retired entertainer, so one way or the other, I think it’s been a good combination. They took it very well.
What does acting mean to you?
The interesting thing about acting a lot of people don’t know is that acting is exact opposite of what it is. Acting is not acting. Acting is not trying to be like a true actor… for me as an actor, it gives me the platform and advantage to touch on so many issues, real issues that are going on. Every day issues and emotions, and also it gives me the platform to delve into somebody’s story. Stories have lessons, people and the situation and to give back to the society, especially now that I have just become a father. I would want to give something back to the younger generation. As an actor, we would like to hold up a mirror, and ask everybody, do you see yourself, can you relate with what is going on with this person, one way or the other. That’s what acting is.
What you will say about actors that preach good morals, while they live the exact opposite of the good morals they preach to the public?
There is always a huge difference between acting and personal life. What you do at home is different from what you do in the office. Then again, I wouldn’t judge them harshly because this is a difficult industry. Even when you are not looking for trouble, trouble is rubbed on you. It also shows that we are human beings like everybody else. They too go through their own struggles; they don’t have a perfect life. So, my take is, we are all trying. But as long as somebody gets affected by that actor in whatever movie they watched, playing the good person or encouraging good morals, then yes, that’s good. That’s another happy day.
How much do you draw on your own experience when you are acting?
As a trained actor, it is very important to be able to draw on your experiences; I think that’s what also sometimes cause people to term actors reckless. Because we are looking for the experience, the truth of it, is the reason why we even research before acting a role. One, because you need the experience, and it has to come from somewhere. And if you have no experience, then do some research, ask questions. You will be getting into the lives of whoever you are looking at. The kind of character…so one way or the other it will be important to kind of reach down for some experience. When you’ve been there before, it’s easier to show on screen what those emotions will look like.
Can you share the differences and similarities between acting and directing?
The director drives or pilots the ship. The actor paddles, so, if the director has no one to paddle the ship, then there is nothing to direct…
Which of them do you enjoy more?
I think I’m in a very good place where I enjoy both of them. Equally to their capacities, and in terms of differences, I don’t see many differences because I love them both. I’m passionate about whatever I am doing. I’m excited now about the project I’m doing. You heard it here first, I kept saying I want to direct, and finally this will be my second feature. It’s called One More Day, and it’s for MNET Africa Magic. So, people can look out for it. It stars me, Chris Attoh. And that’s a difficult thing, acting and directing. It also stars Prince David Osei, my wife, Damilola Attoh, Naa Ashokor and a host of other actors.
When are you completely satisfied with your job?
I think when you rap at the end of the day and you know that you gave it your all. I feel better when I’m going to set and I know I am prepared and well planned. So, at the end of the day, you ask yourself did I hit all the marks that I put down this morning, and if it’s a yes, I’m cool with it.
If you weren’t acting, what would you have been doing?
Interesting. I’ve often said I might end up as a policeman and (laughs) I don’t know. I think if I wasn’t acting, I might find myself still in the entertainment world. But the fun part of it is, because of acting, I get to experience all the other possible professions without having to be them, a lawyer, a policeman and all.
What has been your most challenging role?
I recently did a job in South Africa – Love is a four letter word. And I think I challenged myself extra because whenever I’m doing something foreign, it’s very important for me to represent both my country and the continent and be the best that I can be. So, I put a lot of pressure on myself, for that. But I also will definitely say that, every role that I accept to do, I usually find it challenging, or else I won’t be interested in the first place. I try to challenge myself with everything that I approach.
Tell us what happened when you met your wife, Lola Adegbite on Tinsel location which you both starred in?
It was the best day of my life, now that I think back. She made an impression the minute she came in and if someone told me that was my wife, I would have said, oh! you joking. But it was magic at first sight. Damilola knows how to steal attention when she needs to and I think we hit it off right from there. We were great friends. We went through friendship, then working as colleagues, then being involved. So, I’ve seen many interesting sides of her that I’m grateful for today. That’s the woman God has blessed me with, and I love every single minute of being with her.
But what really gave her an edge out of the many admirers that wanted to be Mrs. Attoh?
When you are choosing a wife you pray about it. It’s something that you ask for God’s guidance. All I can say is, that is where my compass led me to (laughs). In terms of what was so special, I wish I could say to you in one sentence, but I think it will take the rest of the paper (laughs).
But did she give you a hard time when you approached her?
Interesting enough, I think I gave her more hard time (laughs) but one way or the other, we both shared times when we felt the other wasn’t ready. And then, I think finally when we both were ready, things came together.
How do you manage the spot light as a celebrity couple?
Like everything else, you manage. It’s what to do and not what to do. You manage your affairs.
But why do most celebrity marriages crumble under slight pressure?
I wouldn’t know. I think that every marriage is separate, special and unique. Whatever the problems are, they are unique. And I said, it’s not an easy environment or industry, but as to why, I don’t know. That will be up to individual couple. I also don’t think that it is true; I think people just presume it. I give you many celebrity couples that have are enjoying blissful marriages to date. Without mentioning too many names; Denzel Washington and his wife have been together for many many years. But I think what is more important is that you recognize that it has to be managed, and all comes down to management.
How is fatherhood treating you?
Wonderful! Fatherhood is one of the most amazing things that have ever happened to me. Am also quickly finding out that it’s one of the things that the more you put in, the more you get out of it. So, I love every minute of it.
What was your family’s reaction to you marrying a foreigner?
Like how any other family will take it when you are introducing a foreign partner, you know. They say you marry the family, you don’t marry the individual. So all we needed was time for both families to get to know each other, and soon after that, everything was okay.
But was it a hard time convincing them?
No, like I said, they’ve been an encouraging family from the start. Whatever it is that I showed interest in, they encouraged me.
And how was it from Lola’s end?
Oh! Lola’s end, I won her mom’s heart right from day one. I mean, she liked me the moment she saw me.
What do you miss from your bachelor days?
To tell you the truth, I miss nothing. It was very lonely and empty…
You sound so happy that you are married.
I am. I believe there is a time for everything; I had my fun as a bachelor. It was good, I can’t tell you about it here, because the children will read this (laughs) but it was. There is nothing to miss, it was time to get married and move on and be more responsible and I’m ready for that. So, I can’t say I miss anything.
What advice would you give to couples out there probably going through some marital issues right now?
For myself, who is just newly married, I’m also still learning. I’m learning, it’s not easy. Like everything else it needs a lot of commitment. The more you put in, the more you get. I will simply encourage that marriage is exactly what it is, because marriage doesn’t mean it should change anything. I think it important for a couple to communicate and remember the friendship factor, and yes! I think we should take it as it comes.
Which of the Nigerian actors have you had the pleasure of working with?
I’ve had the pleasure of working with so many, and looking forward to working with the likes of Genevieve. I have a project coming up with Omotola and I saw that to be interesting. But, my colleagues on Tinsel have been some of the most fascinating actors to work with; Gideon Okeke, Gbenro Ajibade, and going further, Funke Akindele is also an amazing actress and I think she is also a great comedian. These are just to mention a few of the many. Ireti Doyle is also a fascinating actress, truly deep. And I also had the pleasure of working with Yul Edochie recently, who is just climbing up the ladder. I think the industry is very blessed and it’s going to be amazing in two to three years.
How will you compare Nollywood and Ghallywood based on your experience with both?
I think they are growing industries, and in Nollywod you have more practitioners, everything is on a slightly bigger scale, while Ghallywood is on a smaller scale. But that also has provided the opportunity to concentrate on much quality as against quantity you find in Nigeria because of the demand, but by the number of people that enjoy our industry, sometimes it becomes something of quantity over quality and I’m excited because we’ve come to a point in the industry where both industries are recognizing the fact that we have a discerning audience. You can’t fool anybody. You can’t just put anything up that is not healthy. So, I can say both industries are thriving and I can only see a beautiful future for the two industries.
Who are your role models?
I have many, my father would be one. I admire anyone who is in control of his feelings most of the time. Brand Treyson is someone I really admire, Steve Jobs, Kofi Annan, because he truly put Ghana on the map, which is one thing I am big about. One of the personalities I recently admire has become the President of Nigeria, Buhari. He is slowly proving the point that things can change worldwide. In terms of actors, I’m a huge fan of Robert diNero’s work, Martin Scorcese as a director. When you bring it down here, I think I’m my wife’s biggest fan. Damilola Adegbite Attoh, she is an amazing actress and I think the world will see what I see (laughs). Genevive Nnaji is incredible, and obviously some of the people I’ve enjoyed working with. AY (Ayo Makun) surprisingly, is also one of the people in the industry as a godfather that I talk to a lot. I look up to what he’s been able to achieve and stuff.
What advice would you give to up and coming acts?
For the talents out there still trying to find their way to the top, they should know that the problem is not the talent alone; you need to work on it. You need to polish it and be ready. It’s also to remind people that it doesn’t just happen. It’s not going to fall on your lap; you need to take things into your hands. You need to create the kind of person you want to be. And for anyone that is reading, it’s to remind them that they have to create what they want to be. And looking for a better environment and a better world starts with us.
When were your happiest and saddest moment?
One of my happiest moments was when my son was born, and every day that I look at him, it’s an amazing feeling. And in terms of sad, I don’t have too many, but I will rather leave you with the happy thoughts.(laugh).