THE NEXT! | CHIDERA NWOHA

Creative Director: Ayanda Sithebe, Producer: Felicia Naiwa Sithebe, Concept and Trainee Creative Director: Tumelo Mogoane, Article by: Karabo Mokoena, Photographer: Katlego Mokubyane, Wardrobe: Rirhandzu Phanga, Makeup Artists: Glenda Mhlongo & Mamello Mokhele, Production Team: Tshepo Marema, Glen Nkuna, Bonolo Maswanganye, Tumelo Mochochoko, Zintle Dingilizwe & Koketso Modisapudi

Chidera Nwoha: The Storyteller

Chidera Nwoha is a multi-faceted performer whose journey in the performing arts began at the tender age of ten. From those early days, Chidera has graced various theatre stages, honing his craft and shaping his dynamic performing streak. His portrayal of Khenzo on MTV Shuga was a pivotal moment in his career, resonating deeply with audiences. The role allowed Chidera to showcase his profound empathy and commitment to truth, qualities that have become hallmarks of his performances.

A true performer, Chidera’s confidence shines brightly, illuminating those around him. His ability to bring authenticity and depth to his characters has made him a standout talent in the industry. Much of his success is rooted in the unwavering support of his mother, whose determination and belief in his capabilities have been a constant source of strength and inspiration. This foundation of support has enabled Chidera to pursue his passion with confidence and dedication. Chidera’s work is a testament to the power of storytelling as a means of social change. His journey is a powerful reminder of the transformative potential of the arts and the enduring spirit of South African youth. You will most likely find him kicking his leg up to great heights in an effort to perform his heart out.

The interview is off to a good start as Chidera sits down. He’s been waiting for his turn, his confidence is very contagious, you almost want to match his stance and approach as he talks about his work and journey:

Chidera Nwoha image by Katlego Mokubyane for Actor Spaces

What’s one word you would use to describe this phase/part of your life?

Life-changing. I was telling someone that, you know when you can feel your life changing around you.

So, you just received the news that you are going to be celebrated as part of “THE NEXT!” What was your initial reaction and what does it mean to you to be part of that cohort?

To be honest, I was taken aback. It was very emotional for me. I mean, we do so much work and whenever people mention that they know me from this and that, I’m always shocked that people actually watch. So, when this came about I think it was kind of the same reaction of feeling seen and it was so crazy because I said to my mum, “No, it’s too soon” then she said “What do you mean it’s too soon? You have been doing this” and that is the truth. I am seventeen now and I have been performing since I was ten. I’ve been doing what I love and respect. I was very grateful and, as shocked as I was, I subconsciously knew that I was ready for this.

This campaign speaks to young actors who will most likely create an impact as it pertains to the future of this industry. As an actor, what do you think makes you stand out in your craft?

I think being able to play somebody that doesn’t necessarily have any similarities to me is one of the reasons why I stand out. But beyond that, I am a triple threat so I think finding ways to just change people’s lives with all three of my talents. Another thing is that I started young and I think part of my existence serves as an affirmation to the younger actors that “hey, it’s never too soon to start, if you feel like you want to be a super star, you’ve got to step into that light”. One of the strongest aspects of myself is that I am very confident and that’s part of my message to young actors.

What was your “AHA” moment when it came to pursuing a career within the creative space?

When I was young, I used to dress up in my mom’s wigs and heels, listen to Beyonce and perform at family gatherings. My mum would always encourage it and go around telling people that I will sing for them and I did. So, my first love is musical theatre. I started doing shows at the People’s Theatre and we did Disney shows- shows that I used to watch as a kid. Being able to play those characters on stage was so insane and my Directors and Choreographers saw something in me. One of the productions that really stood out was “Beauty & The Beast” and I auditioned because I had already told myself that I am definitely doing this. I got to play Lefou which is a lead role that they never really give to children but they trusted me with the role. I didn’t do any research on the character, I just woke up the next morning and I was like “Let’s go”. When I got on stage and it was time to perform, it was like an out of body experience. I was still young so I didn’t really know what it all meant or what those feelings meant but what I knew was that this is definitely something that I am gonna keep doing.

Chidera Nwoha Image by Katlego Mokubyane for Actor Spaces

What does acting do for you that you could never find in anything else?

You know, I am smart but I am just not an academic baby. I’ve never loved books, studying and reading unless it is about something that I love. Performance for me is quite freeing. I am in a constant state of realization when it comes to my ability to transform with each character. As artists, we vibrate on another level.

How would you describe your evolution from performing in school and transition into the TV scenery? How did your perspective of performance change as you were making that transition?

So, in Primary, I was a part of the choir and, during that time, there was this one teacher who took me to the side, she said she saw me dance and would like me to dance for one of the Freedom Day activities. She gave me a white cloth and said I should wear it and just dance and I took on the challenge. From that, I went to Peoples Theatre and things had to change because now things were a bit more serious and I knew that the stakes were higher because people are actually buying tickets to come and watch. But regardless of the seriousness of it, I never looked at it as work, I instead looked at it as something that I loved and was committed to. The transition from Theatre to TV was a bit more difficult because Theatre is quite larger than life and TV is more toned down. I went to a “Blood and Water” audition once and the director had to tell my mum that I needed to tone it down and that’s when I took the initiative to learn the difference between the two.

I ask about his mother’s support (he tears up): My mum is literally the love of my life. I think my mum was led by something beyond herself to push me forward in this performance thing. She knew that there was something- she may not have known what to do with it at the time but she knew there was something worth investing in.

What types of roles or projects are you excited to pursue in the future?

I can’t wait to do a lot of Broadway. I would also like to tap into Action. I want to play a very angry heterosexual. I want to explore something very deep that could challenge me.

Khenzo was quite a layered character. What was the most challenging thing about playing the character? And what did you learn from it?

I had never played a character that was so deep before. When I initially got the script, everything was kind of surface level at that time. I read through the brief and it was kind of a great overview of who the character was but then I went further into the bio and the scripts and a lot started to reveal itself. When I got to episode nine, that’s when I completely understood the character and that the arch was gonna be insane. Through Khenzo, I learnt how to really act. I have learnt that I can handle the baggage that comes with a character while also separating them from myself.

How conscious are you of the digital era and the role it plays within the creative realm? And how have you used that to your advantage?

I think it’s one of those things that are very contradicting to talk about. With the MTV Shuga auditions, I saw the casting call on social media and that’s how I auditioned for the role of Khenzo. Had it not been for social media, I probably would not have come across it and done it. There’s also so many accounts that share social awareness and I think that is the beauty of it, being able to spread the word, sharing stories & uplifting people. But it can also be a negative space because of how people abuse it.

What is a recent/current lesson that you had to learn on your personal journey as an actor?

I have learnt two things. As I get older, there is something that is starting to click for me and that is staying humble. Humility is very beautiful and it can encourage really great relationships, collaborations, etc. The other thing is to never diminish yourself. You should never make yourself smaller to compensate for the people in the room. So, it’s about staying humble but also knowing your worth and who you are.

What is your take on youth day? What does it symbolize? And in what way do you think the history of this day has been preserved by the youth of today?

I don’t think we have gotten to a point where we realize how important youth day is as the youth. We proclaim it and everything but we also kind of just brush through it. I also think it is so important to acknowledge our youth and the impact that we have. We have the potential to change the world, the environment and spaces that we occupy. As a young artist, I live to change, to better the world and I think youth day is a symbol of that, obviously the contexts are different but there is always a change to make in every context.

 

Chidera Nwoha Image by Katlego Mokubyane for Actor Spaces

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