His sudden burst on the Nigerian movie scene has made him one of the most sought after new generation actors in Nollywood. With a talent for beautifully interpreting his characters in the various films he has debut in, many find it hard to separate Bucci Franklin, the actor from Bucci Franklin, the guy next door. Outside the set of a movie production, he is a kid at heart with a comedic personality that many not close to him know about. Jokingly regarded as the new king of the beard gang in Nollywood, Bucci Franklin is one actor that is taking the industry by storm. At the Genesis Deluxe Cinemas, Lekki, in a chat with Enyoyi Eseoghene, he shared his journey into the industry, his definition of happiness and who the real Bucci Franklin.
How has the journey been for you so far as an actor?
It has been like every other business and industry, it has its ups and downs. It has been by the grace of God thus far. We keep pushing because the Nigeria movie industry is not yet where we all pray for it to be. But of course it will get there because we started a very solid revolution that doesn’t involve blood(laughs), but basically just growth, improvements, togetherness, the old working with the new and the important visitors, Nigerians in diaspora coming back to make films here in Nigeria. I have seen a lot of that this year, 2017, with a lot of collaborations from South Africa, East Africa, UK and the USA. Like any other thriving industry, the story continues.
You are one actor that is known for playing very intense characters in movies. How has the revolution in the industry improved you, being one of the most sought after actors now?
God is so kind that the characters that come to me are the kind that you need to put in a lot of work. Like in Duplicity, I fell ill because the character was too heavy and like I said, we are a thriving industry and so, for such a character and production, it should have taken us nothing less than 6months to do that project, but we did it in less than 6months. That kind of production should have lasted a while because of how intense that character and the entire story is. I studied Theatre Art and as a theatre practitioner, you look forward to characters or roles that are difficult, if I may use that word to describe the character. We look forward to characters that have colours or layers basically, so that you can modulate in your performance. The only reason you will connect with me as my audience, not the audience but my audience, is because you see the author, you see the layers, you see that I am genuinely trying to make you believe that my name isn’t Bucci Franklin anymore, but I am Detective Obi Somto Amadi, my character in Duplicity. You can see that I am trying hard and it has become me to play somebody else and by his grace, I believe that to the best of my knowledge that I am doing it so well that you believe it. It is a bit challenging based on the fact that we are a striving industry and we are trying to make it happen. It is not just on pictures, it is also on budget and time. Nigeria producers are not really big on time, we want it in three weeks and sometimes three weeks is long to them. I am not saying it is bad, but, even God did not create earth in 7 days like the way we assume it. Though the bible said 7 days, I don’t think it was our own 7 days we know because God’s time isn’t your time and that’s why it take some people a long time to make it in life and get to the pinnacle where one wants to be. So imagine God’s time in 7 days and we don’t want to do that, we want it in 3weeks. I will do my own movie in that same time because that is what works here for now. I believe it is only temporary. I am not saying that we don’t shoot films, series or productions that span into 2years or more. Look at 76 the movie, which took over a year to shoot and a few others like that. So basically, we are at a point right now were we are calibrating our loses and trying to make ends meet with what we have on ground. It is very difficult but this is what I have chosen to do.
Apart from acting, what other things do you do for a living?
First of all, I am an actor in the business of making film. Why do I say that? It is because I get different calls from friends, people you look up to and you can’t tell No. I also produce but I don’t want to put my name out there yet as a producer. I haven’t done my personal production, I have only co-produced. I believe when you are working with someone and they can’t afford to pay your worth, you wait for the film to come out. That’s another angle to it.
Tell us the reason behind this beard gang look you have been spotting lately?
(laughs) About this beards, I am on a series that started in December called Jemeji, and I play one of the reoccurring characters and his name is King Nebuchadnezzar. I just knew that the character was going to come with beards and the beards will redefine my character. I am not the beard gang type of guy. The guys that gang themselves are all prim and proper and I don’t have my beards prim and proper. I haven’t friction my beards since I got on Jemeji. I like to explore different types of acting because it helps to pass the message across. Yes, you are a fantastic actor, but you also need to be conscious of your environment. This is Nigeria and there are a lot of things we really don’t care about. Your audience might not tell you because we are not there yet, but we should be conscious enough to understand the target audience. I don’t want to use the word ‘market’ because whatever it is you are doing in life, you need to earn something. This is not charity, in as much as one would like that to be, it is not. As a brand, I need to take care of certain things that concerns Bucci Franklin. I didn’t just fall down from the sky. I am a proud son of a beautiful and amazing woman, I have a beautiful sister that I love to death and I have relatives all around the world. I unseriously take life serious, so basically, I am fun to be with and literarily I am a fun human being. Sometimes, I clown myself and I know that I haven’t scratched the surface of the gift God has given me yet. Comedy is something I love so much and I hold it dear to my heart. I am not a comedian, but I enjoy making people happy and I am going to be doing that for the rest of my life. I studied Theatre Art, so comedy isn’t just my fore tell, there are a lot of different characters I want to explore. But I for one, I am a working laughing machine. All my friend that know me very well, know that Bucci can crack a dead body up. I like to be happy. I don’t plan to be happy, I just know that no matter the situation or what is going on around me, I am always going to do something that will crack me up or the any living organism around me. I am just in it for happiness.
Describe the real Bucci Franklin and not the actor
I will say Happy-go-lucky. I am a kid at heart, a happy soul and I like sweet thing. There was a time I used to take soda because it is sweet and I used to say to my friends, the world is bitter so I need to take a soda to make it sweet. I believe that if you find agberos fighting, force a cup of ice-cream down their throat and tell them to continue fighting. I am not sure you are going to see that beast in them because they will be confused. I am playful and I love to hang out with kids. I believe together is better than alone and so, I love having people around me. Don’t bring me to a burial because I might crack people up when they want to cry, not that I plan to.
How was your growing up like?
I grew up in Port Harcourt, trained by my mother, schooled in Port Harcourt, before I went to the University of Abuja to finish my degree. I did radio for a couple of years and started a radio station, Love FM, and it is still standing today. I decided to move to Lagos to kick start my acting career and it has been like that ever since and from Lagos to the world.
What were the challenges you encountered entering the industry as an actor?
I didn’t want to work in Nigeria when I started. I always wanted to leave this country and push further into Hollywood. When I first came to Lagos, I was a part of a reality TV show that was supposed to take five Nigerians to the USA for 3months. Somehow, we had visa complications and I didn’t make it and I thank God for that and that was how I met AY. So I when for his auditions frustrated and at the time, I didn’t know who AY was at the time. I didn’t know he was an amazing human being. I went there frustrated with 1,200naira in my pocket, I didn’t know how to go or leave for the audition venue, that was how my trip in the Nigeria movie scene started. I got picked out over 300 people that came through. After I did season one and two, Duplicity came, Tinsel and a couple of movies and still more to come. I have two movies coming out in September, I did a film with Mo Abudu, which has gone to Toronto Film Festival. So, I just keep working.
What has changed about you since you entered the industry?
My beards have grown bigger (laughs), my brand has evolved as I am signed to a PR agency. I have done a couple of movies and photoshoot for various fashion designers and so much more. I have grown and that is the scary part. No matter how young I look, I have grown and I won’t stop. There is definitely more to come.
Define your style.
My style definition is, you can’t hold me down. I love all kinds of colours. My style is all about colours. I can go with what is trending right now and still take it back old school. I can decide to show up in my pyjamas and yes, I am crazy like that. I won’t say I have a style, but when I show up, I show up.
What can’t Bucci Franklin be caught doing?
I can’t be caught hitting a woman, I can’t be caught stealing, I can’t be caught been rude. I can’t be caught burning plantain because I love plantain. There is a certain way I love my plantain done, golden crust looking.
What is your plan to come?
More and more movies by God’s grace. I plan to produce my very own film next year by the grace of God.
You have been known to play hardcore characters in movies, is that your comfort zone?
No, it is not my comfort zone. I have two movies coming out this year. One is an epic comedy shot in the village with the likes of Chiwetalu Agu, Ken Eric, Rachael Okonkwo, Ebube Nwagbo, and it’s coming out in September. Then the other, Rule Number One, myself, Keirra Haywatch and Chinonso Young. I was also in Royal Hibiscus Hotel. If you want to last long in this business, you shouldn’t be used to words like comfort zone. For me, I don’t understand what that means. The more complex, the better.
You are a family oriented person, how has it defined who you are?
When you say family, it is really difficult to be the IT person that everyone looks up to and wants to hang around, to sacrifice your time to make the next person happy. If I had my way, I want everyone to be happy. We are going to die one day, we are going to be rotten one day, so instead of being a boss about it and walking around like you own the world, why not share happiness? Yes I want to be a successful entertainer, I also want to make people happy. So if I am going to be switching my career to comedy, because I want to see people happy, I am going to throw in a little bit of intensity to show the versatility, but I want to see people happy. That is why I love the movies. I don’t love them because they are good at what they do, I love them because when people watch them on stage, TV, I see that genuine happiness for a split second and truly, there is nothing like that. I can even say it is sweeter than sex. Not that I am saying sex is not sweet, but that feeling of someone smiling and being happy, even if it is just for ten seconds, it’s really worth it.
What are your tips on how to be a good actor?
Please read!!!! You have to read. Read everything readable, go online and watch monologues, critic movies yourself. Practice in front of a mirror, I do it all the time. Look for an acting school and evolve yourself. Don’t start because you want to be popular or famous. Look for somebody you like, like an idol in the movie industry and follow them up. I don’t have an idol in the industry because I don’t think that I could be anybody else, I am Me. I don’t have anybody I look up to, not because they are not good but I am just me. There are different types of acting. There is avant garde, there is method and other types of acting and then, there is my style of acting. There is Bucci and then you are going to study it in school.
What would be your advice to the Nigerian youths?
I know it is very hard and difficult. I am not going to say, ‘oh concentrate on your studies, oh get yourself a handwork,’ that is not what I am going to say to you. Dance to the wogbe, yes put the 30billion for the account on repeat, download and listen to it. It is a Nigerian content, but don’t get carried away. You are listening to these artistes song and booming to their beats. The question is, what is yours? The world want to hear your music or whatever it is you can offer. Every living thing, humans and animals, we all have a gift. Not all dogs can recognize their owners, no matter how well we train them. All of us have gifts, we have something we can give to the world and the world will receive with open arms. Discover what is yours and develop it.