They say accidents are unexpected occurrences that bring you to events and situations you didn’t plan for. For the longest period of time, accidents have always had a negative connotation. However, what happens when you get involved in an accident that places you on the spotlight to manifest your destiny? Providence, some have called it; coincidence! Others have opined but be it an accident or providence, or even coincidence, nature have used some accidental occurrences to mold people into whom they are today, and for some who are so smart to sustain nature’s ‘accident,’ the result have been a life of many rewarding achievements and of course, influence, impact and income.
Daniel Kanayo Daniel, the screen god who has graced so many television screens, couldn’t have believed he was going to become a screen god! Well, unless you were referring to being screened in an airport as a pilot! But that memorable day in 2009 when he followed his friend to an audition, his fate changed. He was transformed from just a young lad, modeling in the hope of a better tomorrow, to a superhero, taking his life into his hands and determining the course of his years. He has become a multiple award-winning actor, producer, two-time African Actor of the Year, and a husband and father. Daniel’s story will definitely give you something delightful to read:
“I was modelling before I left school,” he began. “Nnamdi Azikiwe University, UNIZIK, Anambra state was the campus where I studied. I was swinging modelling with school doing a few gigs for Zandas Cosmetics and some other companies, it’s been a very long time ago you know. Well, that was before I moved to Abuja during my youth service and linked up with some of my old friends from school who were into movies. I didn’t care much about movies at that time, I seriously couldn’t be bothered. It’s funny because when I was much younger, my dad used to let movie producers use our house in Enugu and our house in Port Harcourt. My mum lived in Abuja, so we had three different residences in Nigeria. But then after my dad died in 2004, we just maintained Abuja as our primary residence.
Anyway, I continued my modelling game in Abuja and did some Moroccan fashion shows for a while before linking up with a friend, Steiner Eunice Opara, who talked a lot about movies. One day she told me to drop her off at an audition venue and when we got there, she begged me to walk her into the venue because she was shy. I hesitated because like I already mentioned, I wasn’t interested in any of those movies stuff. After I walked her in and was about to leave, I heard someone call my name and naturally, I knew that I needed to respond to that call. I hesitated again especially after learning that the guy was the director of the movie my friend had come to audition for. He convinced me to rehearse one of the roles he had, because I had the look of the character he wanted. Reluctantly, I read the script and it appeared I had impressed both the director and his crew because he handed the script over to me and asked me to read it in my convenience and probably consider if it was something I would like to do. I left the venue with my friend who was really excited for me and later I got to realize that the director’s name was Kabat Esosa Egbon. That was the beginning of my movie career.”
Winning the AMVCA and AMAA Awards in 2016 and the Big Career Break:
“Before I won the AMVCAA and AMAA awards in 2016, my brand was already on the rise as a result of consistent good work. I was a very busy actor filming across the entire nation and even in England, but winning the AMVCA and AMAA gave my career a boost, a very timely boost. It exposed me to a lot of needed publicity. A lot more people in Africa and other continents got to know about me. I would say the awards were as a result of my hard work with the rest of the crew on the movie – A Soldier’s Story. I am grateful to everyone who worked on the project. Wow! It was such an important movie.”
From our Icon’s story, it is obvious that he didn’t plan to become an actor. He sure had other dreams, and he didn’t hesitate to share one of his childhood dreams when we enquired. “When I was much younger,” he said, “I really wanted to be a pilot. I had two uncles and a foster grandfather who were fighter pilots. I always found that fascinating. I got to fly in their helicopters at a very young age.”
“Pilot? Great!” we asked, “So do you still have any desire at all to fly a plane someday?”
“Yes, I still do and I will.” Daniel replied. “When I have a lot of time, trust me, it’s still one of my heart desires. I know I will enroll at a pilot training school at some point, God willing.”
He then goes on to discuss some of his proudest work and other relevant issues.
“All my jobs and films are special to me, because every one of them was a stepping stone and also challenging in various ways. But if I had to pick one off the top of my head, I would say, 76, for a fact that it took us six months and a lot of dedication and hard work to film.”
Challenges in the Industry:
“When it comes to challenges, every stage of my career have had its distinct challenge. At the beginning of my career, I had to always prove that I was worthy. I started my job in Abuja and there wasn’t a lot coming from there. Most of the jobs came from Lagos and its environs. Most times after auditioning and actually getting casted, the executive producer would come in – maybe during shooting, and attempt to discredit me because I wasn’t popular at that moment. Most times they would vehemently demand a more popular actor, ousting me from the role. Honestly, I found that very discouraging. Most of the time, it made me feel like I was digressing even when I was actually making progress. I got a few roles taken away from me just because they felt that I wasn’t popular enough to carry those roles. It was discouraging because there was no way to get popular if not by doing it and I saw clearly that most of the executive producers weren’t willing to give me a chance. They wanted a popular face to sell their movies and as long as I wasn’t popular at that moment, nothing else mattered to them. It reminds me of another similar scenario where as a fresh graduate, you are looking for a job and your employer says they want someone with five years’ experience. How exactly would you get that experience if you weren’t even given the opportunity to prove yourself?
In my case, I am grateful to have gotten a few directors and producers who took a chance on me and so I had to work extra hard to prove worthy of their time. Kabat, for one, gave me a chance to shoot such a big movie such as 76 at the beginning of my career and that movie is still making waves on Netflix today and has gone ahead to win awards.
After I overcame the challenge of constantly having to prove myself because I was a ‘nobody’ at the moment, I was faced with the challenge of finance. I realized that the pay in the industry wasn’t that great to make a living. Sometimes you get almost no deal from people who think they’re casting you to make you a star, even though you definitely have bills to pay. I am truly grateful that the scenario has changed and now I am being chased by those people who didn’t believe in me then.
There was also the challenge of becoming someone else, which is actually very interesting to me as an actor. You have to wear different characters at different times and that is very challenging. People don’t know how challenging that is. Some people have ended up having PTSD because they had to wear different characters every day, but for me, it is a challenge I like to encounter because an actor is someone who has to be different people at different times. I do not like being fixed into a particular role so I like the diversity that comes with acting. It’s a challenge but I love this kind of challenge.”
Opinion on Nigerian Film Industry:
“The Nigerian Film Industry has come in leaps and bounds. It is the second largest movie industry in the world and that goes to show what it is. I have been around a lot of Hollywood actors and they are always fascinated when I tell them that Nollywood is one of the largest movie industries in the world. Nigerian movies have come a long way. It shocks me to know that I have friends all over the world, people write me from places I can’t even imagine, I’m talking about Australia, Asia, etc. I’ve gone on holidays in Dubai and even the receptionist of the hotel I slept in recognized me, and that makes it all worth it. Nigerian movie industry is doing well and we are very proud of it and very proud to be part of the story. You see how big we’re getting on Netflix, a lot of Nigerian movies are on Netflix, gaining global recognitions. The Soldier’s Story, part 2, for instance is one of the first films to be distributed by Lions Gate, one of the biggest distribution companies in America. It’s so beautiful when I put on my Amazon TV and see that even people from North America, South America and different corners of the world watch our movies. If I were to summarize that in one word, I’d say it’s intriguing.”
Combining Acting and other Careers:
“I combine acting with modelling, compering and being a voice-over artiste and this isn’t difficult at all because I was modelling already before I became an actor. I like to stay fit, go to the gym, watch what I eat, you know, so I can model people’s outfits and do advertisements. So it is pretty much easier to joggle them together. For event compering, I don’t do that as often anymore because I really don’t have the time but when I did it, it wasn’t that difficult because they’re all under entertainment and I love doing what I do. An actor can easily be a model because even while acting, you are modelling someone’s brand either in what you wear, or the hotel you lodge in or even what you eat. You are always modelling something at some point.”
Opinion on Marriage and Family Life:
“There’s this nasty assumption that actors find it difficult to sustain a thriving career and family life and I find it really unreasonable. Take a look at all the actors that have families, it’s really a nasty assumption. It’s not even just about family life alone, people have many nasty assumptions about actors. I’ve had someone come up to me and say, ‘what is even wrong with your industry? People are always dying.’ And I’m like, no! There’s nothing wrong with the industry. People are dying generally. Every day, people die, right now as I’m talking to you, someone is dying, someone is giving up the ghost but we won’t hear about these people because they’re not popular. The only reason it seems like actors are dying so much is because every actor that dies is news, but death isn’t something peculiar to the entertainment industry. The same applies to marriage and family life. Marriages are made and broken every day. There are actors who have lived a successful life with their families and there are marriages that have also been broken. That’s not because they were actors, it happens to everyone. People no matter their status or social standing, get into divorces when they feel they can no longer handle their marriages.
For me, to have a sustained marriage and family life, you must know how to keep both areas separate. I love and respect my family and I know I am doing this for me and I try not to blur the line between work and family life, because they are two distinct things and you should keep them apart. Marriage is a personal thing and I feel like if you want to make it work, you can, regardless of your status.”
Work Relationship with Other Celebrities:
“I have worked with many actors, directors, producers, both in Nigeria and internationally, and I am grateful for the opportunity. I can’t mention names because that would be inexhaustible but I always try to keep a cordial relationship with all the people I meet. Of course you are going to meet people with different set of values but I am respectful of everyone I meet.”
Current Projects at the Moment:
“At the moment, I am currently in Atlanta and before I come back to Nigeria towards the end of the year, I have three projects that have been keeping me quite engaged here. One, I’m filming already. It is a TV series which stars a lot of Hollywood/Nollywood actors. It is titled “Greener Pastures” and so far so good, I think we have two more weeks to go before we go into the next one. There’s a movie slated for next month titled “Couples Trip.” That one is a Hollywood production with one or two other Africans in it.”
“Well, the future is bright. We keep on working, pushing and getting better every day. I have won so many awards in Nigeria, in the UK and I also desire to take the industry abroad by storm. I want to make awesome movies here. Although I have produced one movie in conjunction with Andy Boyo in Nigeria titled “Fugitive,” I want to produce more movies, and that would probably be the next step of my career. I would also like to tell some of my own stories because well, I have many of them.”
Advice to Upcoming Actors Looking to Venture into the Film Industry:
“There isn’t a simple formula to success. As much as there isn’t a recipe or formula for success, hard work is one. You have to be determined, you have to know what you want. I wasn’t sure I wanted to do this for the longest time but when I got into it and I started enjoying it, I decided it was something I wanted to do. You can’t be halfway into something and expect to succeed. You have to throw all in. You have to give yourself fully to that course. The first step is to know what you truly want. The second step is to give yourself to get it. If you need to do some training or make sacrifices that will help you achieve your dream, then go for it. Work hard towards achieving those dreams. There’s also the place of grace because it isn’t always about your effort. I believe in the Supernatural and that is about grace. I believe that grace can change your story and make things better for you.
Another one that is not popular but I like to mention is be a good person. It is not difficult to be a good person. Treat people like you would like to be treated because some people always feel like they have arrived because they have been in one or two movies, but that is wrong. Treat people the way you would like to be treated no matter their status. Even if you are not religious, be a good person, it always count.
“What can Nollywood do better?” you ask and well, there’s a lot of things we could change. We should have laws to prevent piracy of movies. This will help everyone in the long run because producers will make more money and pay their crew better. Producers can’t pay their crew better because a large chunk of their money is going to pirates. So I feel piracy is a big issue that should be tackled.
On the other hand, there’s a lot for the government to do as well. I usually like to skip this part because it involves a lot of bureaucracy but now that we are talking about it, let’s just do it. In the past, some amount of money was earmarked for improving the Industry but it’s either the money is misappropriated or shared among a particular set of people, so right now, I’m not going to say the government aren’t doing anything to improve the industry. During the Goodluck Jonathan Administration, I was privy to some paperwork information, and I heard about money that was made available for the Industry and that was a lot of money but I really don’t know how they were used. Now nothing is as it used to be in Nigeria and it is not just entertainers, everyone is affected. The government can do better to assist and we entertainers can do better as well.”
Nigeria in the Next Decade:
“If I were a prophet right now, I would prophesy that Nigeria is taking over. We are so blessed with so many talented people, human resources, mineral resources, everything. We are a rich country. When I speak to people, I like to boast about how rich Nigeria is, regarding the problems. Maybe one or two percent of the population has all the money in the country but if we decide to be honest to ourselves, we will confirm that there is money in Nigeria. I see the industry taking over. Nollywood is going to be not too far from Hollywood in the nearest future.”
Genius Gist Media