Gerrard made me love Liverpool– Arukwe

Actor, Uzor Arukwe, tells JOHNNY EDWARD about his love Liverpool and Mohamed Salah, basketball and more, in this interview

Were you involved in sports while growing up?

Yes I did, I played basketball and table tennis to a reasonable extent. I got into basketball in secondary school, where we started learning how to play. There were some undergraduates from the University of Port Harcourt and UST, who came to our school to play on our basketball courts. And we had brothers and siblings who were teachers, I went to a military school and they would come to play in our school and we just took interest. Table tennis was the same thing, we had some naval officers who were professional table tennis players who were teaching us how to play the game and we’re coming for practice on our tables, that’s how I got involved.

So, which basketball team do you follow in the NBA?

I love the Golden State Warriors, New York Knicks, Orlando Magic and Chicago Bulls.

Did your parents stop you from getting into sports?

My father couldn’t care less because I was into basketball and table tennis, but he was just really big on academics. My mother, at that time, was happy that I was involved in sports.

So, football was not an attraction for you?

I have never really been a big football person, but I played five-a-side, what most youngsters refer to as ‘monkey post’ on the streets.

Basketball was my favourite, but I played street football once in a while, it wasn’t really my thing. I kind of understood, it just to be around friends at that time. Football was never really a sport that I really gave a lot of thought to because I felt basketball had a bit of class at that time compared to now that every teenager wants to be a footballer, because they are making a whole lot of money as we speak now.

But do you have a soft spot for a football team?

Yes, I follow Liverpool, because of their style of play. They were very aggressive in their play and while I watched them play they won laurels, the UEFA Champions League and the Premier League as well. I just like them, you know, they never walk alone. So, yes they are my favourite team. Before, I used to support Chelsea, but not the kind of support like my friends, because all my friends are Chelsea fans. So, for someone who really doesn’t pay much attention to football, I started supporting Chelsea and became a supporter by association. But later on, I became a Liverpool fan. I love the legendary Steven Gerrard. He used to take some really amazing shots, unexpectedly and random shots from anywhere on the pitch and when he’s in front of goal, you have that feeling he will score. He really made me love Liverpool.

I also love Mohamed Salah a lot.  He’s the major reason why I follow Liverpool. I love his bursting pace and how he tears into defences. I also love some former Reds like Saido Mane and Roberto Firmino, as well as Virgil Van Dijk, their new captain. I love Salah’s lifestyle because he looks humble just as Mane as well.

What’s your best moment as a Liverpool fan?

I was not exactly pleased with our form last season, but I’m hoping that we’ll get better this season. To be honest, every time they win a cup or a match, I like it. When Liverpool lose, it brings me so much bad moments but I was a bit pleased when they got a point from their opening game at Chelsea last weekend. I hope they kick start their season with a win against Bournemouth on Saturday.

At what point did you decide to venture into acting?

I have always been an actor. It is something I had always wanted to do professionally. As a teenager, I did it on the side but I always wanted to be a professional actor. I wanted to make a living from it. I worked for 10 years in the corporate world. I spent five years in a telecommunications company and another five years in a retail company that was into sport equipment. It was after that I decided to give professional acting a shot.

What were the challenges you faced when you got into the industry?

The challenges I faced were basically being undermined and underrated. A lot of people did not know what my capabilities were, so they were not sure if I could act or not. I had to prove that I knew what I was doing and I was good at it. I have been trained for this and waiting for opportunities. Also, the fees one got for acting was ridiculous. One could act a role or two, and be paid as low as N1,000. It was terrible but like in every other industry, one has to keep pushing. One must be consistent and persistent.

With the large influx of actors into Nollywood, what stands you out?

Every actor has his style and signature. I believe that over time, people will know what I bring to the table. I want to believe I am a versatile actor that can literally play any role. I have depth and range, and I can do well in comedy, drama or any other genre.

As a handsome actor, how do you deal with your female admirers?

(Laughs) I just do my work. Both male and female audiences enjoy my work, and I am grateful to God for that. Whenever females come close, I appreciate their support and love, and move on. It is really about my work, not me. Sometimes, they misconstrue characters I have played before to be the real me.

What has been your most embarrassing moment on stage?

My most embarrassing moment on stage was during a fight scene when a colleague hit my groin. At that point, I forgot I was acting. Whatever expression I gave was genuine because I went (fell) down. I think people could tell it was not acting anymore.

What do you regard as your greatest achievement as an actor?

As of now, it is the fact that I am growing at a certain pace. I started acting full-time in 2018. By 2020, I had two nominations in the same category of the Africa Magic Viewers Choice Awards. I consider that to be one of my greatest achievements.

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