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Why Producers Give Me Romantic Roles – Star Actor, FREDERICK LEONARD

He is regarded as one of the finest actors of his generation. Frederick Leonard is not just a tall and good looking man, he is also a damn good actor. And if truth be told, these days, they probably don’t come anymore brilliant and articulate than this extremely talented artiste.

You couldn’t possibly spend a few minutes with this award-winning actor and not leave his presence liking him a whole lot more than you ever did before. This is because he is such a fun guy to be with, warm, pleasant and always laughing his heart out whenever he feels like it, whether he was meeting you for the first time or not. But, more than anything else, you would find that he is incredibly intelligent and very passionate about his craft. Senior Editor, WALE LAWAL (08037209290), spoke with the handsome looking actor a few days back and got him to share with us his humble beginning, his rise to stardom and why he has chosen to remain single at 45 years of age. 


Share a bit of your background with us, please

Frederick Leonard is a Nigerian, I’m from Anambra State. The name is actually Frederick Nnaemeka Leonard and of course, I was born in Ikeja, Lagos. So, I’m semi- ghetto because as at the time I was born Ikeja was more or less like a ghetto. I’m a Christian, I schooled in Lagos, so you could call me a Lagosian. Apart from the fact that I’m an Igbo man, I’m Lagos all through. Sometimes I’m torn between being an introvert or an extrovert depending on what the occasion is, maybe it’s because I’m an actor, I like to say I have a dual personality. Growing up around Ikeja and Ojodu area was fun. I attended Oregun High School where I was Assistant Head boy and the tertiary institution was Kaduna Polytechnic. I studied Chemistry but here I am doing what I love. Right from my early days in secondary school, I knew I was made for the Arts, even my Dad told me I was good for the Arts but I wanted to be a medical doctor so I didn’t listen. I got into modelling and I did that professionally for about ten years before hitting the movies. My first acting though was in 2001 and then I disappeared for about nine years before I did the movie, ‘Indian Doctor,’ which a lot of people for some reasons remember. So, consistently, I’ve been doing this for about seven years now, since 2010. Before then, I was going in and out of the industry, but consistently now, I’ve done seven years. And I have a couple of awards to show for that, I’m particularly proud of those awards because I see them as a show of appreciation from the audience and one of those awards is the City People Entertainment Awards for Best Actor in a Supporting Role, that was in 2016 and it was quite an honour to have won that. I have also won a couple of awards home and abroad but this is just the beginning for me. I was born 1st of May, so I’m Taurean and people like to say Taureans are strong-willed people, and, yes, I’m still single but not searching.

What part of your background prepared you for what you’re doing presently?

I think me and Nollywood was what I would like to call divine direction. First and foremost, I was brought into the system by a family friend who lives in France now. But you know, when you encounter something, you really want to be sure that this is what you want to do. But I think I made up my mind in 2009 after I did Spirit Of The Assassin with Andy Boyo, CEO of Diamond Pictures. For me, I’m very spiritual, I said God if I am meant to be here I need a sign and one of those signs would be you giving me the kind of deals that would not come to me if I wasn’t supposed to be here. And I said I’d like to see those deals come through in the first two or three years of my career. I said if after that period I don’t see those deals I would leave. And after I said that prayer to myself and to my God, I got very good deals that confirmed that God wanted me to be here. Afterwards, I had to hone my craft, made it as sharp as possible so that it would be accepted and people can buy into it.

A lot of people have been amazed at the way you shot your way to the top within such a short time and took your place amongst the elite male actors, how would you explain your speedy rise?

First and foremost, I would give all the glory to God who is the giver of talent and everything good, then most importantly, the bible tells us that heaven helps only those who help themselves. I often tell people, first and foremost, be a master of your craft. My main focus when I came into the business wasn’t to be going from office to office carrying somebody’s bag, my main focus was to learn and know what the job of an actor, a role interpreter entails. This is the part where I had to go for a bit of training because I knew from day one that I had to be convincing in the character that I play because if I’m not, my character in that movie becomes mediocre, and that means the essence of me choosing this profession is lost if I cannot affect my audience through the eyes of the character that I had been employed to become. I’m still an insatiable actor, I’m hardly satisfied with my performances and I’d like to think that’s the way to constantly grow. I always seek to dig deeper.

Who were some of the big names you looked up to about the time you were coming into the industry?

I came into the industry at the time there was no Instagram. I don’t even think there was Facebook at the time. It was purely about the craft. If you didn’t know the job, you sit at home. I came in about the time when we had the likes of late Uncle Justus Esiri. He was such an actor. I came in when we had the likes of late aunty Bukky Ajayi, I came in when Onyeka Onwenu was still on top of her game as an actress. I looked up to the likes of late Enebeli Elebuwa. I still look up to the likes of Sam Dede and Bimbo Manuel. I have a lot of respect for actors who do not act for the camera, I have a lot of respect for actors who become the character and then let the camera capture those beautiful moments. That is why I feel the likes of Ramsey Nouah is a blessing to Nollywood. He is one actor I have a lot of respect for. For the younger generation, I have done a couple of movies with Nse and Bimbo Akintola, fantastic, excellent talents. Those days, you didn’t get jobs based on the number of followers you had on Instagram, you had to know the job.   

Recall for us some of the movies that launched you into prominence, apart from the first one, Indian Doctor?

Yes, I did a TeeVee series titled Disclosure, a lot of people loved it. Then there was Spirit Of The Assassin by Andy Boyo, this one was taken to as far South Africa in the cinemas, I did Family Man, starring myself and Mike Ezuruonye, people loved that as well, but ‘Accident’ by Teco Benson came. I think Accident was that movie that a lot of people loved, starring myself, Chioma Chukwuka Apotha and Kalu Ikeagwu. A lot of other hit movies like ‘Dejavu’ followed, movies like ‘Discontent’ followed, but, I’ll like to think, it’s ‘Accident’ by Teco Benson that fully launched me.

You’re clearly one of the most stylish actors in the industry today. Whenever you step out at events you’re always on point, how did that part of you evolve?

I have the memory of my late mum to thank for this. As a kid, my mum would take me to the Balogun market and ask me to point out what suit I wanted, what bow tie I wanted. Sometimes I made the right choices, sometimes I made the wrong choices and she’ll tell me, no, you don’t pair this colour with that one, they don’t match. But that was as a kid. For me as an adult and as an entertainer, I believe that showbiz is a total thing. I believe it also has to do with your personality, acceptance at all levels. When I have an event I think out of the box. I know I’m going to have hundreds of other good looking people present so what do I do to stand out? I stand six-foot, three inches tall, I’m not going to be that tall and then not stand out. So, for me, I think it’s a gift from God. Believe it or not, most of the clothes that I wear are my ideas. I just put the idea to my designer and he puts it together. I wore an outfit some time ago that looked like a Chinese robe, it was at the Mary Lazarus’ project, ‘Dance To My Beat.’ The Invite had said, ‘African attire,’ and I knew naturally a lot of men would wear either Senegalese or Senator, I said, okay, what do I do now? I decided to make a Chinese top giving it an African feel, wearing an African sandal and hat. It’s not a competition but it’s just me realizing that a lot of young people would want to be me and I’m trying to tell them, look, you can challenge yourself to stand out.

And of course, you’ll agree with me that looking good comes with its own challenges as well, which is that you now have a whole of female admirers knocking at your door…

(Breaks into laughter) That’s what I like to call positive consequences. Yeah, it has its positive consequences but we thank God.

The fact that you’re single, you’re a fantastic actor, and then, to put the icing on the cake, you’re a good looking man, how do you cope with female admirers who want something a little more than friendship?

Okay, first and foremost, I like to think that my good physical appearance, according to people, because I don’t see myself as that great looking, is something that I’m thankful to God for. It’s something I like to use to His glory, and I think I’m already doing that by putting myself in front of the camera and telling stories, hoping that I can affect lives. It’s also not a quality that anyone should abuse, because looking good as a man or a woman can either make or mar you. And I say this all the time, whether as a man or a woman, regardless of the millions of admirers that you have, no matter the kind of advances they make towards you, please forgive my French, you cannot sleep with all of them, but you can be friends with all of them. You can impact their lives positively. You can show love to all of them. You can teach them a whole lot that would set them on the right path if you live the right kind of life. There’s so much you can do that can get around, but you cannot get into bed with all of them. It would be like you abusing the privilege that you have if people love you as an actor and then you think that it’s an excuse to become loose because people throw themselves at you, trust me, you’re throwing the glory of the gift that God has given to you away. So, for me, I’m always thinking of the things I can do with all of these people that will benefit them.

Is this one of the reasons why you’re still single? Or you do not believe in marriage?

Sure, I do. I believe in marriage. But it’s a lot more complex than most people think. I also want to be with someone with who I have a lot of things in common; someone I’m compatible with. I believe in the institution of marriage, but I also don’t want to spend the rest of my days miserable because I married the wrong woman.

Can it then be said that you’re comfortable playing romantic roles?

Well, let me put it this way, it’s not about me being comfortable playing romantic roles, it’s about me getting the job done, whether it’s a romantic role or any other job for that matter. I guess that somehow, producers have found me suitable to play that kind of role because, by their reckoning, I have excelled in those roles. So, I can’t refuse them when they offer me such roles, it’s all part of the job.

Who are some of the Naija designers that you do have some preference for, and then, along with that, tell us some of the actors and showbiz personalities that you also admire the way they turn out at events?

I have kept one designer for ten years now, his brand name is Hunt Couture. He is a Nigerian and his name is Abiodun Etu. Like I said, we brainstorm, and sometimes he goes, ah, Frederick, you don come o, and I’ll say, don’t worry, Hunter, make it, by the time I wear it I can carry it. So, I have a lot of respect for his work, I really don’t believe in jumping from one designer to the next. That is not to say if I’m approached by a Nigerian designer who I like his work that I will not wear his fabric, of course, I will. But for now, I have a good thing going on with Hunter. I have a lot of my colleagues that show up right on the red carpet. Tony Monjaro, for example, there’s Chidi Mokeme, he never disappoints. Uti Nwachukwu, Ebube Nwagbo gets it right, Stephanie Okereke, fantastic. Jim Iyke will never disappoint on the red carpet.

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