Through the Glass my first contact with Nollywood – Brion Rose

Stephanie Okereke and Brion RoseBrion Rose played Matt in actress Stephanie Okereke’s blockbuster ,“Through the Glass”, which

premiered last year. An African American actor with a burning desire to be part of the film revolution that Nollywood has initiated across the world, he was in Nigeria recently to speak on the passion he has for Nollywood, as well as the disparities between the industry and Hollywood.
Benjamin NJOKU
How do you describe your visit to Nigeria?
The experience is wonderful. Stephanie and every other Nigerian I have met since my arrival in the country have been very wonderful. It is a kind of homecoming for me. I have always dreamed of coming to Africa but I have never really had the opportunity to actualize that dream until I met Stephanie. For me, it’s like homecoming to Africa, my ancestral home.

What’s your rating of Nollywood?
From the research I have conducted before now, Nollywood is the second largest manufacturer of films in the world. I believe that there is a huge market here, and I’m happy to part of this development. Nollywood is an industry I think will attract more attention from the international scene. I didn’t really know much about Nollywood until I met Stephanie who exposed me to the wide world of Nollywood. There is a very big opportunity in the industry.

What’s the level of your involvement in Stephanie’s Through the Glass movie?
I played the role of Matt, the best friend of the lead character. I read the script before I decided to pick up the role. It was funny and heartwarming, and something I wanted to be part of. Because it tried to portray a marriage of two cultures of the United States and Nigeria. I have always perceived, as something of interest, to learn about the two cultures at the same time.

Having had an African background, how much are you prepared to be part of the evolution that Nollywood is initiating across the world?

I certainly hope to be featuring in Nollywood, depending on who wants to engage my talent. I’m open to receiving scripts from movie producers. I have a lot time to visit Nigeria, if I’m invited for any reason. I’m glad to be in Nigeria.

How long have you been acting in Hollywood?
I have been acting for about seven years now. I do a lot of televison shows. I run a television programme called, “ Commanding Ship”, with Dina Davis, an OSCAR award winner. I have done several movies in recent times. My latest movie will hit shelves soon.

I’m an actor in the first place, and if I see any project that is of class, I will not hesitate to indicate my interest in becoming part of that project. I love to act and that’s my passion., be it in Hollywood, Nollywood or Bollywood, it does not matter to me.

What does it mean to be an actor in Hollywood?
It requires a lot of determination, perseverance and self-confidence. You have to believe in yourself and also, in your talent. That’s what keep us going.

There’s this growing passion about telling the African story by Africans themselves. As an African in diaspora , do you think the African story have been well relayed via the big screen?

I think so. But I wish I could explain to you how we haven’t gotten to see that in the United States. With Stephanie introducing me to African movies, and with my watching some of the local movies here, and meeting reputable African movie producers and stars alike, it opened the whole world of African story to me. I’m happy to be introduced to African movies and my eyes are wide open than they were before now.

What’s the level of appreciation of Nollywood in America?
I think, it’s growing, but it’s also something I wasn’t aware of. Stephanie took me to Los-Angeles to shoot her movie, where I met so many Nigerians whom I have not met in my life. There is a large presence of Nigerians there. I think Nollywood as a film industry is rapidly growing and with Stephanie coming to shoot her film in Hollywood by involving Hollywood actors and actresses, it’s a very good merge, and an indication that Nollywood is coming to the consciousness of the world.

Does it mean that before now, you were not exposed to watching Nigerian movies?
Not at all. I was not aware of it. I have been completely influenced by American movies, and I wasn’t given the opportunity to be exposed to movies from other races. I was ignorant of the existence of

African movies. But now, I feel like I’m not anymore. I’m happy to experience it and to be in African soil.

When Stephanie approached you to feature in her movie, didn’t you have any reservation, like having a negative opinion about African movies?
Not at all. I didn’t have a negative viewpoint of Nollywood at all. It’s just that I wasn’t aware of its existence. So, when she came to me with the project, I read the script and consequently fell in love with the character that I was to portray in the movie.

That was how I got involved. She had audition, which was conducted by her agents. I went through the auditioning and after a day or two, I was called upon to come and pick up the role. That was it.

Given the revolution initiated in the film industry today by Nollywood, do you think Hollywood is still termed as “mother of all film industries’ across the world?

I think Hollywood is on top of its game because they have the resources, talents and the equipment. Also, I think Nollywood is great too, given the fact that they are telling their stories without having the advantage of huge resources.

They tell their stories with good acting, and good script writing. It’s not all about how many aliens that you can chase, or how much CGI you can use in your movies. So, it’s about the story you are telling through the medium of the big screen. That’s what I like about Nollywood.

So, in that sense, are you saying Hollywood is all about using CGI and other media world?
Something close to that.

Does that mean that Hollywood stories are not realistic to some extent?
There are some Hollywood stories that are very realistic, touching and classic. But I feel that so many movies made in Hollywood are CGI and science fiction based.

Now that you have been exposed to Nollywood, what can you say of African movies, in terms of acting and production techniques?
Nollywood is moving up in terms of production values. I think Nollywood is steadily growing up, judging from what Stephanie has exposed me to.