Don’t blame the girls for swooning all over him. He is tall, handsome and well built. And above all, he is popular and comfortable. Born in Lagos, Nollywood star, Fredrick Leonard, who hails from Anambra State, describes himself as fun loving. In this exclusive interview with The Entertainer, the graduate of Biochemistry opens up on sundry issues. Excerpts:Can you tell us about yourself?
My name is Fredrick Leonard, I hail from Anambra State but I was born in Lagos where I spent most of my years before moving over to Kaduna State Polytechnic to study Biochemistry. In the course of my study, I found out that I did not enjoy sitting in the classroom listening to lectures because I am an adventurous person. It’s not that Biochemistry was not a good course but it wasn’t just my type of thing.
Is Fredrick Leonard your real name or stage name?
Fredrick Leonard is my real name. It is not a stage name as people think. I inherited the name from my late father for the sake of continuity as the Igbo culture upholds. Growing up, people frowned on my name, wondering if I had any African name. I used to tell them that a name is a name as long as it has a meaning. My native name is Nnaemeka, my full names in all my documents are Fredrick Nnaemeka Leonard.
You sound like someone who grew up in a wealthy family, what is your family background like?
I wasn’t born with a silver spoon; my success today is by God’s grace. I grew up under a strict father, whom at first, I objected to his method. It was when I grew up that I realized that he had good intentions. Spare the rod and spoil the child, they say. My mother was a loving one; and because I grew up in a Christian environment, I was always watched and made sure that I did not fall off track. I was taught humility and how to face situations like a man.
Did your family members try to discourage you from pursuing acting career; especially your strict father?
I started acting a year after the demise of my father, so there were no discouragements at all from him. Rather, there were encouragements especially from my mother. She supported me financially especially when ‘boys dey hustle’, jumping on ‘molue’, ‘okada’, and ‘keke marwa’ etc. After a while, there were positive results, and then she fully believed in where I was going. Even, when I started losing faith, she boosted my morale. So, I owe her a lot.
What were the challenges that made you feel like quitting?
Challenges are difficult situations one meets in everyday life. One of the challenges I encountered was that I was in a hurry to be famous. But God’s time, they say, is the best. I felt that I could just rise within a twinkle of an eye to become a superstar not knowing that it requires certain processes. Another was that I wanted to be independent as fast as possible. There were also some politics in the film industry most common with new faces wanting to be famous immediately, notwithstanding the processes involved. Now, I am happy that I endured and I am where I am.
How did acting start for you?
I started a year after the demise of my father in 2001. A friend looked at me and said I ‘look good’. Since I got potentials in acting, he introduced me to NAG (Nigerian Actors Guild) as it was called then under the chairmanship of Mr. Emmanuel Agoba. I first of all observed how things were and later, I went for an auditioning. My first movie was ‘Five Scenes’, after which I did a couple of movies before leaving for school for about five to six years. I returned and featured in a film entitled ‘Indian Doctor’ directed by Theodore Anyanji and produced by Emex movies’. Then I left but returned again in 2009, after which I featured in ‘Disclosure’, ‘Tarima’, and the likes. In 2010, I finally decided on what to do. During the period of my departure from acting, I did a lot of modeling with some brands, which helped to fund my schooling. That is why people think that I am from a wealthy home, but the truth is that I have a wealthy heavenly father.
Your initial plan was to become a pilot, what made you change from being a pilot to a biochemist?
For 12 years, my mum discouraged me from becoming a pilot on the grounds that I was an only child. My Father did not have the financial strength to support my dream, and then I started looking for other options until Biochemistry came up, but now I am a movie star.
What is your passion and inspiration?
My passion is that I am privileged to speak to the masses; at the same time I can influence them on how to live a good life. There are moral lessons to be learnt in every film one watches; therefore, I try my best to educate people and to influence their mindset positively.
Outside acting, who is Fredrick Leonard?
Fredrick Leonard is a law-abiding citizen of Nigeria. I am caught in between being an introvert and an extrovert. I am nice, friendly, non-social, and a Christian. Friends say that I don’t like hanging out, I tell them that acting generally is a lot of fun for me.
What is your dislike in the film industry?
I don’t really have a dislike about the film industry, but rather observations on things that need to be changed. Change, they say, is dynamic. I feel that the film industry should strive more in the areas of marketing, filming, and quality production.
How do you bring out a new character while acting?
It is very technical because there are many considerations; first, you need a thorough understanding of the person’s social attributes, psychological state etc. I don’t believe that to act a character on stage, you need to become that character so that it helps to convince the audience. With that, inspiration comes naturally.
Are you still into modeling?
Yes, I am still into modeling but not in a big way now. I hope to represent a higher brand in future.
What can’t you do in modeling?
I can’t go nude in front of the camera. I will possibly like to represent a brand that has a positive impact in the society.
Can you appear nude in movies?
Hell No! I cannot go nude in a movie. I am a role model to some people and I cannot afford to