Ken Smart is one of the actors that the Nollywood, UK has thrown up in response to demonstrating the talent of Nigerians in the acting field. African Voice caught up with him recently and these were his responses to the questions fielded to him.
AV: Can you give us a history of your artistic career and the high points of it.
I started my acting career in 2006 by attending the London Academy of Media Film & TV London where I studied filmmaking, script-writing and screen acting. I quickly realised that I have great passion for acting and I attended Master Class for Shakespeare at City academy in 2008.
I started on stage in the early years playing the role of Kanye in ‘Anna & rose’ at the Buxton fringe festival. There was rehearsal for 3 months in Derby then and I used to travel 3 times a week for rehearsals then – that was insane – I won’t do it again. I remember was on stage for 7 nights which was a great experience however but I was unable to combine the day to day rehearsals with my medical practice so I decided to quit stage acting for the screening acting.
My first lead role was in ‘Moral Conflict’ as Pastor Chucks alongside Linda Robson of ‘Birds of a feather’ and this won me my first ever BEFFTA Best Actor award in the industry – that changed a lot of things and I remain grateful to Pauline Long and the BEFFTA team. I did a few commercials on the side including the DEFRA advert actually put me in a spotlight and got me some attentions. But my role as King Ade in ‘Kingmakers’ won me my second African Oscar Best Actor in Los Angeles. While my role in the TV series ‘Housewives & Girlfriend’ actually changed the dynamic of my followings.
I took advantage of my business look to do some corporate modelling on the side when I was accidentally discovered by a scouting agent. My best pay cheque to date was from photo shoots, not acting.
I decided to put my money where my mouth is and invested in 3 movies and ‘Captivated Movie’ was released last year and the other two are in post- production stage. God has been good to me so I can’t complain. I have been blessed with style and substance and the best I can do is to continue to strive for bigger projects and at the same time give back to the community because I’m nobody if I cannot make a difference to other people’s lives.
I graduated from the medical college of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Nigeria and came to UK afterwards. I practised in NHS for some years before he left for private sector about 15 years ago in order to create time and pursue his acting career.
AV: How do you see the growth of Nollywood as an industry in the UK?
Nollywood UK is a fast rising industry and there is no doubt that there is going to be a big explosion very soon. There are lots young and fresh filmmakers who are already on the international scene. ‘Osuofia in London’ was the greatest Blockbuster that has been produced from UK but you cannot but recognise the work of Obi Emelonye, Ruke Amata, Niyi Towolawi and the list goes on. Surprisingly we have more female producers than their male counterparts in UK but the reverse is the case in Nollywood Nigeria.
I believe that Nollywood UK will continue to flourish and there is room for everyone both in front and behind the camera.
AV: Which role has been the most challenging for you and what type movies would you say is most acceptable by the public?
I believe every role has its own challenge and I have tried over the years to be a versatile actor play different roles from Pastor to Gangster, lover boy to grandfather, detective to fugitive, powerful rich boss to destitute, all in order to take my career to a different level. The first constraint is that I still keep my day job as a full time medical practitioner and trying to juggle this with my acting career has never been easy, irrespective of the project – I’m always busy.
The first lead role was in ‘Moral Conflict Movie’ and the fact that you were on set with a seasoned actress like Linda Robson put you on your toes. Linda Robson played the lead female role while Mica Paris played herself .The whole process of auditioning and 3 recalls was quite challenging as you could feel the pressure that there were lots of interests from investors to put their man as the lead . What was more challenging was the circumstances because I was finally told that I got the part on a Saturday and filming started the following Wednesday (4 days later)and I had the full script of 130 pages to digest and memorise as well because improvisation was strictly not allowed for that film. The character itself was that of a pastor but preaching in a convincing way like a black Pentecostal pastor was hard work as I lost my voice at one stage, and we were filming till 3am on some days and that was physically and mentally draining. There was a scene where the pastor broke down and had to cry – that was not easy because I had to go deep on that one and I could not stop crying even when the director shouted ‘cut’ and the director was very worried .
I believe the public like the happy ending type of romantic film and others prefer the action packed thriller but I think Boy meets girl and they marry and their mother in law becomes a problem is what we like in Nollywood.
AV: If you were to compare Nollywood, UK and Nollywood, Nigeria what would you say are the strengths of Nollywood, UK?
Nollywood UK is still young and fresh but it has lots of infrastructure in place. The actors’ Guild & producers’ are well established and structured.
There no problems like energy failure or area boys and there is a lot of professionalism among actors.
Also there are lots of films school here for members of the industry to attend and train themselves because that is equally important – individuals should be able to master their craft in this industry. Most probably I would not be here if I was in Nigeria because you have to know people to even gain access and to thrive in there in Nigeria.
Their well – established relationship with Odeon Cinema for producers to showcase there at affordable prices. Also there are opportunities for actors and producers to network and attend various London film festivals.
Nollywood UK has been able to release films regularly and they are getting attention from the international entertainment communities including Hollywood and British Film Institute.
And there is a lot of support from the Nigeria High Commission here as they are easily accessible and they attends most of the London film premier- l believe that this is a big plus.
Overall I believe we have the crew and cast and the infrastructure here is solid, so it’s just a matter of time to get to where we are supposed to be, Of course there are well established actors in Nigeria and I believe that this will happen here very soon as long as we keep on improving our skills.
AV: Have you received any other awards aside from the African Film Awards otherwise known as Afro Hollywood Awards given by the African Voice newspapers? How and what premium do you put on the one you got.
I thank God for his divine favour regarding those awards. I have had numerous nomination and awards prior to the one I got from African Film awards by the African Voice last year. I have won the NAFCA African Oscar Best Actor twice – back to back in 2014 and 2015 in Los Angeles. And BEFFTA Award Best Actor was the first one in 2012 and you can never forget the first one because it opened the other doors for me and I’m grateful to Pauline Long and her team because that changed everything.
I have been nominated for various awards this year – you win some and you let go of others – life is too short to have sleepless night when you don’t win.
I cherished those plaques and they make me to be hungrier for more at the international level. It is more reassuring to be recognised for one’s hard work and one can reflect on those day as well as doing a self-appraisal. The plaques are well displayed in my living room to remind me of how far we have come and think of what future would bring as the drama unfolds and the struggle continues.
Thank you for the interview and God bless.