I saw Ramsey Nouah as a movie god -Stan Nze

NOLLYWOOD actor Stan Nze is on top of his game at the moment, though he says his best days are yet to come. From playing Ahanna, the iconic character in the remake of the classic movie, Rattlesnake to producing movies for the big screen, the actor still has his sleeves full of surprises. He speaks with SAM ANOKAM on his next move in the Nigerian film industry.

We are two months into the new year, how has it been so far?

Two months into the year, it’s been great to be honest. The year kind of started on a high note for me. It was pretty much a smooth sail from last year into this. Of course, towards the end of last year, I was promoting ‘Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story’ up until the last week of November and I wasn’t thinking of doing any jobs anymore. I had a lot of offers as I was moving to January but at a point, I was done promoting Rattlesnake and it wouldn’t be bad to make more money. So I took a couple of gigs from December, It was quite a lot that I couldn’t finish everything, so I had to roll over to January. So from the beginning of the year, I started with a job I didn’t do in December and it’s been basically from set to set to be honest, even though I deliberately trying to take a couple of days in between to rest. so yes, the year started on a high note and I’m grateful to God for it.

With all that happened last year, how did it go with you?

With all that happened in 2020, it was still my best year ever. I’ve not had a year that was close to 2020 for me. It literarily just confirms that word of God that says ‘when they say there’s a casting down, you will say there’s a lifting up.’ 2020 for me was my year of lifting. It was from glory to glory. Prior to last year, I had never travelled out of the country, even though people think I probably had travelled a lot, but last year, I travelled twice. I was in Dubai in February and then I was in South Africa in October to film Rattlesnake. It was work and play because it was a fun trip. I did my biggest job yet; ‘Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story’. I did a lot of really remarkable films. I did ‘Imela’. I had a lot of growth in the same year. I cannot overemphasise it. It was a beautiful year. It was just a win-win situation. I moved houses, I got my first endorsement. I’ve not had a year that was close to it. When they talk about blessed people, I feel like I was the most blessed person in the world.

You starred in one of the biggest movies from last year. Would you say that was a dream role?

Absolutely, Ahanna is every actors’ dream role, not just for me as Stan Nze. It is that character that every young actor would have wanted to play. There are not a lot of male leading roles in Nollywood, let alone something that is as strong as Ahanna. So yes, it is of course a dream role. Prior to that time, I know that people will always ask me, Stan, what is that role you think you want to play? And to be honest, I think I pretty much played a lot of roles already so I wasn’t sure what exactly I would want to do but I know that I always said to people, ‘if I see that role, I would know’. I had played a cripple, I had played mentally deranged, I had done some really mentally tasking roles, action flicks so it was almost like, ‘I’m not sure, until it comes.’ So when they started auditioning for Rattlesnake, initially, I just wanted to be in the film. Rattlesnake is huge. It was huge at the time, it is huge right now. all I wanted at the time was to just be in the film. But as God would have it, they started auditioning. They sent me lines for Ahanna, I read, did a video and sent back to them. They sent me for other characters, but at some point, I just had this faith, this knowing that this thing can be me. I just believed it and prayed about it and voila, it happened. I’m grateful to God for it.

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Stan Nze
Stan Nze

How challenging was the role?

Playing Ahanna was quite challenging in the sense that I was new to that terrain. I had done lead roles before. I had done major films, but this was the first time I was in a remake. in fact, ‘Rattlesnake: The Ahanna Story’ is the first remake in Nollywood. ‘Living in Bondage’ was a sequel in the sense that it’s like a continuation, so it is off what they had before, but Rattlesnake is remaking what has been in existence. For me, I was becoming a character that people had loved, so I knew that it could go wrong. First of all, I was frightened by the thought of me playing a character that people had loved because off the top of my head, I’m thinking “Stan what if you don’t do it well? What if the film is not as nice as the former one or people don’t love you as they loved Okechukwu Igwe or Francis Duru. You are a new actor, there is more competition now”. Just so many thoughts in my head. So it was challenging. And then, having to work with a director like Ramsey Nouah. I saw him as a god and I kept wondering if I would be able to please him. I just had fears to be honest. But from my auditions, Ramsey made me feel really comfortable. When I read the script, it because worse because the script felt larger than life and I wondered how I would be able to pull it off. But when we started the work, we started training, we started rehearsing, I started getting comfortable, started getting into character. Ramsey started guiding me on what he wants and what I shouldn’t do. I started feeling safer, I started becoming more confident. When I started becoming the character, I started losing my fears. it became something I really embodied and became comfortable playing. The good thing is Rattlesnake is out and people love it. People love the character. People love Ahanna and yeah, I might not have done what some people imagined I would have, but I know that I gave it my 101 percent and I think people saw it.

Ahanna is one of the most iconic characters of Nollywood. How did you feel when you were called to reenact the role?

it was just that feeling of anxiety about whether I would deliver because it was a character that was preexisting. Of course I was really excited. My excitement was off the hook. I knew that it was something iconic and it was something that’s going to change the face of my career, that was going to set me on a pedestal and what I do with it would either take me steps further or take me backwards. Roles like this can go good or it can go wrong if you don’t do it well.

Career-wise, how would you say you are faring?

Career-wise, I think I’m living my best life. It’s been amazing. Prior to Ahanna, I don’t think I was doing badly as an actor. I mean, I enjoyed the craft. I love working. I try to do my best. I work hard but Rattlesnake has just put me in the mouth of people but its hard for people to say they don’t know me now. It has launched me on another pedestal. One thing I’ve always had in my mind for my career is to cut across all borders. I don’t like when people say of ‘you’re an Asaba actor’, or you are a TV actor, or you are an Enugu actor. No, I’m an actor. I don’t even want to be classified as a Nigerian actor or as a Nollywood actor, I want to be known as an artiste that can perform anywhere in the world. Any platform, Hollywood, Nollywood, Bollywood, Kannywood, Chinese films, anywhere in the world as an artiste. So what Rattlesnake did for me is that it has launched me into another pedestal. People now see that I’m good for big screen, not just for TV or for the online platforms. I can do big screen too and deliver. Prior to last year, I did something on stage. It was really tasking. I just always love to take new challenges. Two years ago, I also went for training where I studied cinematography, so I’m a certified cinematographer. So yes, it has helped me diversify, it has put me on a pedestal where nobody is saying that I’m limited to a certain character or a certain platform.

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Are you working on any project presently?

Yes, I’m working on a couple of projects. I’m working on a personal film. It’s called The Perfect Love Story. I’m floating a new company, Love Story Studios and we are going to be making faith-based films basically, films that will change the society, films that will encourage people to start a business, help heal their broken hearts, heal marriages, make relationships work, kingdom-based films, societal based films. Asides that, I’m working on something with a big studio in Nigeria. I’m not sure it’s something I can talk about right now, but I’m filming in March and I’m filming in Asaba. Toka Macbaror is Directing. I think that is the much I can say. It is produced by Darlington Abuda. I don’t think I’m allowed to mention the name of the project yet, but it is huge. It is brilliant. It stars some of Nollywood’s best. So something big is coming. And of course I have ‘The Prophetess’, a new film coming to the cinemas April 2nd. That is something I’ve been working on. It is directed by Niyi Akinmolayan of Anthill Studios. It centres around football and religion. I think this is the first time I would see anything like that in a Nigerian film. But it is hillariousl full of drama and I’m sure people will love it.

Looking back at where you started from, how much grounds would you say you have covered?

Looking back from where I started, I think I’ve covered grounds. Even though I felt it would have been faster, but I do not regret anything. I remember sometime in 2014 when I was working in Asaba, a certain producer said to me, “guy you dey act o. but your blow no be now. Your blow go reach like five years.” That didn’t go down well with me, but he said it from a good place because he understands how these things work. It’s a ladder. You go wait your turn. But for me, I wanted to become a star immediately. My career has just been one step at a time. One particular movie will do some certain things for you; give you a particular fanbase, the next will come and help you build on that. I was on ‘Tinsel’ till last year. ‘Tinsel’ did what it did for me at the time. After that, I had the short film era. I had my Asaba days where I did a couple of movies that gave me a fanbase in that era. Did the Toronto International FIlm Festival movie, just Not Married. Did my own film that went to the cinemas in 2016. Started producing in 2015. At different times, I’ve just had different things that have helped me build on what I had the last time. So, I think my career has been colourful. It’s not exactly where I want to be, but to be honest, I feel like 2020 covered up for all the wait. All the years of waiting because I had so much speed. In one year, I had a speed of five years, so it kind of collapsed my career and collapsed the journey for me and I’m really grateful.

Other than acting, what keeps you busy?

Other than acting, I produce on the side and I have a management for kids, The Kids Can Act project, Element 47 management is a project I an running for children. So the Kids Can Act project is a project where we discover young and budding talents. We train them and eventually launch them into Nollywood. We didn’t do it last year because of COVID, but it’s coming back this year, bigger and better. I’m floating a new business that I wont talk about as well. Apart from my production studios, it’s something I do on the side, but it’s almost all entertainment-related.