By Christy Anyanwu
Sunny Okonkwo is always in the midst of renowned fashion designers. At first, you will think that he’s equally in the fashion profession.
In this interview, he spoke about himself and the entertainment industry, his ‘fellowship and mingle’ with fashion designers, among other things.
Tell us more about you? And your journey into acting and producing?
I am a Data Scientist, an actor, an award-winning film producer, economist and an entrepreneur. I have a degree in Economics from the University of Jos and a postgraduate degree from the University of Lagos and studied film production from London Film Academy. I have always sought to combine my academic knowledge with real world experiences.
What about your journey into acting, how did it happen?
My journey into the world of acting and film production has been a thrilling roller coaster ride, filled with countless moments of growth, challenges, and unforgettable achievements. From my undergraduate days to producing award-winning films that have garnered international recognition, my passion for storytelling has taken me on an extraordinary path. It all began during my time as an undergraduate student, studying Economics at the University of Jos. While my academic pursuits were focused on a different field, I found solace and excitement in the vibrant world of acting. Participating in student theatre productions, I discovered the transformative power of bringing characters to life, captivating audiences, and evoking emotions through the art of performance. As I delved deeper into acting, I realized that my passion for storytelling extended beyond the stage. I have acted in several film projects and I yearned to create my own narratives and contribute to the world of cinema. With this burning desire, I decided to explore the realm of film production, immersing myself in the technical aspects, storytelling techniques, and the intricacies of the filmmaking process. Armed with my new found knowledge and an unwavering determination, I took my first steps into producing my own films. It was an exhilarating yet challenging experience. I had to navigate the complexities of securing funding, assembling a talented cast and crew, scouting locations, and managing the intricacies of pre-production, production, and post-production phases.
Through sheer dedication and relentless perseverance, I managed to independently produce films that went on to receive critical acclaim. Works like “Inbred,” “Masked,” “Show Girl,” “The Shift,” “When the Flower Withers,” “Family Ties,” and “John’s Seed” and many others not only resonated with audiences, but also garnered prestigious awards, both domestically and internationally. The recognition and accolades I received for my films were beyond anything I had ever imagined. Witnessing the impact of my storytelling on viewers, the way it touched their hearts and provoked discussions, was a truly humbling experience. It fueled my passion and motivated me to push further, to create narratives that would leave a lasting impression. In addition to my independent projects, I had the honour of collaborating with talented individuals on various co-productions. Working alongside brilliant minds in the industry, I had the opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute my unique perspective to collective creative endeavours. These collaborations not only enriched my understanding of the craft, but also broadened my horizons, enabling me to create films that transcended borders and resonated with diverse audiences. As I reflect on my journey, from my undergraduate days to producing award-winning films that have received international recognition, I am immensely grateful for the opportunities I have been given. Acting and film production have not only allowed me to express my creativity, but have also given me a platform to touch lives, provoke thought, and inspire others through the magic of storytelling.
When you made the decision to switch to acting and producing, what was the reaction from your family and friends?
Overall, the reactions were a mix of surprise, support, and excitement. I am grateful for the unwavering support from my loved ones, as their belief in me has been instrumental in my journey as an actor and producer. When I first shared my decision to pursue acting and producing with my family and friends, there was a mix of reactions. Some were surprised, as my background and education in Economics may have suggested a more traditional career path. However, I am fortunate to have a supportive network who recognized my passion and encouraged me to follow my dreams. I want to emphasize that my shift to acting and producing was a gradual process. I didn’t dive into it overnight. I continued to consult on data science for companies, which provided a level of stability while pursuing my creative endeavours. This gradual shift allowed me to balance my passion for acting and producing with my expertise in data science.
Fortunately, the transition has been relatively smooth. The skills and discipline I developed as an entrepreneur and consultant have been transferable to the entertainment industry. My experience in data analysis and problem-solving has given me a unique perspective when approaching acting and producing projects. It has enabled me to bring a strategic mindset and creative insights to the table. I am grateful for the understanding and support from my loved ones throughout this journey. Their encouragement has given me the confidence to pursue my passions while also maintaining a practical approach to ensure financial stability. The journey has been smooth, thanks to the transferable skills I have acquired, and I am grateful for the continuous support I receive from my loved ones as I navigate this fulfilling and multi-faceted career path.
What advice do you have for youths who want to go into acting?
My solid advice for youths based on my over 15 years experience now will be that to invest in training and education to develop your skills in film business, it’s not all about passion, but also enhancing your skills through trainings. Building experience through local theatre productions and community projects is crucial. Networking is key, so connect with fellow actors and industry professionals. Take advantage of social media platforms to connect and reach out to those who have come before you or those filmmakers who are doing great things. Embrace rejection, learn from it, and stay persistent. Develop a strong work ethic, be versatile in your roles, and market yourself effectively. Seek mentorship and guidance, and most importantly, never stop dreaming and believing in yourself.
Which project are you working on or you just worked on?
Currently, I am filming an exciting miniseries that will be aired on popular American platforms such as crackle TV, HULU,, Pluto TV, ShienTV, and TubiTv. We are filming in Atlanta, Georgia, and it’s been an incredible experience being a part of this project as an actor. It is centered around stories related to the JAPA syndrome and the life after that move. I do not want to let the dog out of the bag yet. But it’s a huge one. In addition to the miniseries, I am thrilled to announce that next month, I will be taking on the role of a producer for a feature film project based in Lagos. It’s a thrilling storyline that promises to captivate audiences, and I am fortunate to be collaborating with some of the best actors in Nigeria. The project holds great significance to me as it is centered around a story I have been daring to tell. I am genuinely excited about this upcoming project and the opportunity to contribute to entertain my fans. As an actor and producer, I am constantly seeking diverse and engaging projects that allow me to explore new dimensions of storytelling. Both the miniseries and the upcoming feature film embody that spirit, and I am looking forward to sharing these projects with audiences worldwide.
You have good relationship with A list-fashion designers, how did this start?
It all started when I developed a keen interest in fashion alongside my acting career. I’ve always admired the artistry and creativity that go into designing clothing. As I delved deeper into the fashion world, I had the opportunity to represent some international brands and collaborate with exceptional designers. I have been able to partner with most designers and become friends with them. Also, as a filmmaker, it was important for me to understand costumes and styles. My journey led me to establish relationships with esteemed designers like Ade Bakare, Adebayo Jones, Frank Osodi, and Bobgyni Styles. These connections were nurtured through mutual respect for each other’s craft and a shared passion for artistic expression. Working closely with these A-list designers has been an incredible experience, and it has opened doors for exciting future projects that we have in the pipeline. I have also worked closely with Ade Bakare on wardrope and costume for my films. Ade Bakare Couture did costume and wardrope for my film ”Masked and Johnson’s Seed.” We also have plans for other future film projects and fashion shows. Bobgyni Styles personally styles me for red carpet and other events. Ade Bakare also put a couture touch on my look for some of my international outing
The fashion industry is a dynamic and ever-evolving field, and I am grateful for the opportunities to collaborate with such talented individuals. It has allowed me to explore a different form of creative expression and merge my love for fashion with my passion for storytelling. I look forward to continuing these partnerships and bringing unique fashion narratives to life in the future.