Nate Parker’s Birth of a Nation premiered last week at AFRIFF in Lagos, Nigeria to an enthusiastic audience that had waited with bated breaths since the trailer hit television screens a few months ago. And besides the amazing cinematography, the compelling true account of slavery and the rich (almost poetic) dialogue, cast member Chike Okonkwo is another reason every Nigerian must see this movie.
Born in Kingston upon Thames, England in March 1982 to Nigerian parents, Okonkwo bagged a First Class Degree in Business Computing from the University of Surrey in 2003 after which he automatically kick started his acting career. He went on to feature in notable number of stage plays including A matter of life and death before venturing into the movie industry with cameo roles in television series Blood and Oil, Banshee and a host of others and in film – Treasured Island, Knockoff– thereafter landing the major role in Sundance selected movie – Birth of a Nation.
Okonkwo who plays the character “Will” in the movie, stares alongside major Hollywood actors, Aja Naomi King, Nate Parker, Gabrielle Union among others.
In a feature on the Evening Standard, Okonkwo reveals that his move to the United States (where he landed a role in the movie) was largely inspired by the likes of David Oyelowo and Chiwetel Ejiofor, big league Hollywood actors of Nigerian descent as well.
“Like Nate, they didn’t sit waiting for an opportunity, they went out and found and made their own stories” He said about them.
Okonkwo’s Mother was known to have attended the London Film Festival premiere of the movie in October 2016 alongside her son in her full Igbo attire and Okonkwo himself delivered a speech at the movie’s screening at AFRIFF’s gala night last week.
Producers of the TV series Being Mary Jane recently announced Okonkwo as a new cast member in the series. He plays Lee Truitt, a successful stand-up comedian from the UK who tests Mary Jane’s generic ideas about her needs.
Chike Okonkwo described the story presented in Birth of a Nation as important not just for America, “because the experiences of the African American is similar everywhere” He said.
Birth of a Nation officially opened to Nigerian movie lovers on November 18th in cinemas across the country.
Featured Image: Evening Standard