It’s often interesting to see someone who studied a serious science like Applied Biochemistry from a university like Nnamdi Azikwe University, Akwa, easily glide into entertainment like a second skin. Gideon Okeke is one of the few who have nailed such transitions, and he’s been at it for quite a while now.

After coming to fame on the first-ever edition of the Big Brother Nigeria show, Gideon transitioned from being a  reality TV star to an actor within a year, but it didn’t come on a platter. The actor has been acting since primary school and directing since secondary school, so he describes his time at the university as a wasted effort. It’s why Ogidigada, his nickname, never returned to finish his final year after Big  Brother. Instead, he auditioned and got the part of Phillip Ade-Williams on Tinsel. That role changed his trajectory and opened him to new opportunities.

Contrary to what many may have thought, being on Big Brother wasn’t the sole reason he got the role as he had to audition with thousands of others. In a 2012  interview with Netng, he shared, “One night, I went to the club with my friends; the day before, we’d all gotten the text message for an audition. I got back home. I was squatting with my friend, Chinedu, in Surulere, and the next morning I was like, ‘o boy, I wan go that audition o.’ We were all drunk from the club, and he said, ‘dey go jo I no dey go’. I went and came back, and I was like, ‘I get am o’. He was shocked”.

Gideon got on Tinsel in 2007 and stayed on in his role as Phillip Ade-Williams for ten years. In that time, he honed his skills and attended the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York to master the art of method acting. He soon became widely regarded as one of Nigeria’s best actors, but working on stages worldwide would do that to you. In Gideon’s case, talent meets hard work and preparation, and the industry would always respect him for it.

Despite being considered one of Nollywood’s most underrated actors, Gideon has taken on some unique roles, playing everything from Lover Boy to ‘Agebero’ in comedies, thrillers, dramas, and crime series. While still on Tinsel, the actor appeared in several projects like Relentless in 2010, starring alongside Jimmy Jean-Louis and Nneka Egbuna. After spending three years as the same character in Tinsel, Gideon gushed about the project that highlighted him as a method actor. He shared, “Relentlessness picked me up. It was also an avenue for me to break away from the character that I usually portray on television and become someone else-at least for a change. So to say that the movie showed the other side of me is not in doubt.”

Afterwards, Gideon took on his second lead role in the 2014 crime thriller A Place in the Stars. In the same year, he played the role of ‘Tobena’, the love interest of the lead character in the romantic comedy When Love Happens. Other films to his credit include Gbomo Gbomo Express, Anniversary, Before 30, Africa Magic’s Movement Japa, Palava, The Trade, The Wife, and more. In 2016, he was cast in the drama thriller 93 Days, starring alongside Danny Glover. Gideon received an AMVCA nomination for his portrayal of Dr. Morris Ibeawuchi, one of the surviving doctors of the Nigerian Ebola crisis. He received another AMVCA ‘Best Actor in A Comedy’ nomination in 2022 for his role as ‘Benny Ramsey’ in Loving Rona.

Gideon is also a theatre actor. He played ‘Fela Kuti’ in Fela – Arrest The Music and starred in Saro The Musical 2, which toured London in 2017 and 2018. Playing Fela Kuti must have been a dream come true after he told journalists in 2011 that they would find many of the legend’s songs and those of his sons – Femi and Seun Kuti – on his phone. It was also a chance for the multi-talented star to show off his singing prowess.

After growing up in Ajegunle, the method actor returns to the slums to take on the role of ‘Tequila’ in Slum King. In this character, Gideon returns to his origin and has the chance to show off his method acting all over again. Tequila is a focused, committed, gritty, cunning, ruthless, and greedy character who lacks empathy and covets what others have. Gideon will have to be many things here – lover boy, street boy and fighter all simultaneously, and he delivers as expected.

Slum King follows the story of Edafe, who witnessed his parents’ murder at a young age because he forgot to lock their doors at night. Sad events force ambition on him, causing him to detest his lowly status and develop an appetite for power. Trapped in the cycle of guilt and trauma, Edafe journeys from a disturbed tout in the slums to become MAJE, the charismatic king of the slums.

Catch new episodes of Slum King every Sunday at 8 p.m. on Africa Magic Showcase (DStv ch. 151 and GOtv ch. 12).

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