Nine Most Popular Typecasts in Nollywood
The recent spike in “Kanayo O. Kanayo” searches and “sacrifice” memes in the Nigerian social media space has brought back the recognition of a notable aspect of Nollywood films: typecasts and stereotypes. Ask anyone –well, not anyone, Nigerians specifically– the phrase “I make sacrifices,” and they would instantly tell you the origin. Ask anyone who the wicked mother-in-law is, and you will get a near-unanimous answer.
Not that Nollywood is devoid of professional actors, but the casting directors’ steadfast insistence on placing them in identical roles has certainly affected their creative range and oftentimes practically give away the entire movie without even watching it. This trend is so severe that any slight departure from their recognized roles by these actors suddenly feels unsettling.
Taking this into account, below is the list of nine exceptionally talented actors who are famous for repeatedly playing the same type of character in Nigerian movies.
When on screen, you can bet some doses of wickedness are bound to be served
If you anticipated the one and only “Mama G” being at the summit of this list, you’re darn right! Her notoriety as a fiercely diabolical woman on film stands shoulder to shoulder with that of Kanayo. Wicked mother-in-law? Check. Brutal step-mother? Check. Jealous second-wife? Absolutely! Ozokwor has acquired an unmatched on-screen persona for transforming a once-harmonious home into a harrowing nightmare to the point that people actually question if such characteristic doesn’t spill over off-screen.
The wisest man in the room
Few actors are as revered in the industry as Pete Edochie. Aged 76, the veteran actor has taken on many roles during his seasoned career but the ones that will stick with Nigerians are the authoritative figures of a king, elder or strongman –a role he plays with a commanding presence. Coupled with his highly educative proverbs, Edochie, who began his career playing roles such as “Okonkwo” in the NTA adaptation of the Chinua Achebe special “Things Fall Apart,” is seen as the sage of Nollywood. There’s no beating that.
John “Mr. Ibu” Okafor
Do you want natural folly and comedy? Here you go
Popularly dubbed “Mr. Ibu,” John Okafor has made a name for himself as a specialist in drama-comedies. It is easier to count the non-comedic roles John Okafor has featured in than those he has not. His very presence in a movie, together with his hilarious facial expressions, imbues laughter and his acts of folly and imbecility have made him one of the highest-paid comedic actors in Nigeria. The name “Mr. Ibu” has become synonymous with clownery so much so that it is usually given to people who exhibit natural folly. This, though, may have led a few in the public to brand him as someone not to be taken seriously even when he is out of character.
If you need a crying partner, you’ve come to the right person
No one (really, no one!) cries quite like Chinwe Owoh. How effortlessly lets the tears flow still bewilders even directors. She is always portrayed as being in one misfortune or another that warrants drawing the empathy of the audience through her soulful eyes and rivers of tears.
Olu Jacobs not playing a king in a movie? You’re watching the wrong one!
Another highly respected veteran, Olu Jacobs embodies the typical Nollywood monarch. He also has a very distinctive and commanding voice that rivals that of Hollywood actor James Earl Jones. His kingly appearance and gravitas has made him Nollywood’s favorite pick for roles that demand insight and experience.
When you see Tom Cruise in any movie, you know you’re in for top-end badassery. In the same vein, our very own Gentle Jack in any movie is a clear indicator that some shooting and action is about to go down, albeit in a lesser-choreographed manner. Far from being gentle on screen, and with biceps glistering under the unforgiving sun, Jack is your typical militant type-cast. His imposing physique makes him a popular pick for roles that require an unrefined show of brute strength.
Olaniyi “Sanyeri” Afonja
The most hilarious character in Nollywood
Being the subject of many memes, Olaniyi Afonja (aka Sanyeri) is famous for his roles as a comedic character, mostly as a gateman or troublesome friend. Just like Mr. Ibu, this has led to folks tending not to take him seriously and even going as far as criticizing him for picking the same roles. To these criticisms, Sanyeri responded: “Anybody that criticizes me for making only comic movies is actually blind.”
Margaret Bandele Olayinka
If there’s any woman in the world you don’t want to mess with, it’s the Holy Mother of sorcery
When not playing the grand witch of the underworld, Margaret Bandele –or Iya Gbonkan as she is often called– is a calm woman. But on screen, not so much. There, she ditches her tranquility to take on characters not quite known for being calm. Whether it’s devouring the private body parts of her victims or slurping the blood of her own offspring, Iya Gbonkan’s depiction of an occultic woman captivates audiences to this day; her strikingly menacing stare sufficient to give audiences a cold grip.
The one and only “Babalawo”
Ganiu Nofiu popularly known as Alapinni Oosa is an industry veteran popular for his roles as an herbalist or one deeply connected with the spiritual realm. He has held a fetish calabash more times than we can count. When he comes on screen, be prepared for some divining and incantations.
Meanwhile, Nollywood has also gained infamy for stereotyping groups, demographics and ethnicities. Look out for “The Nollywood Reporter’s” analysis of this trend.