As the year rounds up, we at the Native Mag are taking time to highlight the stellar careers of young Nigerians who really stepped up to the plate and pushed their careers to stratospheric levels. There were so many stellar actors who did amazing work in 2018, but I wanted a truly transcontinental artist, someone whose year was spent laying the groundwork for a truly transcendental career. For inspiration I looked to Lupita and her trajectory before her star making turn on 12 Years A Slave, and the only actor who seems on the precipice of that kind of craft is Ifeanyi Dike jr.
Dike Jr. in 2016, took a hiatus from a thriving career in Nollywood to attend the prestigious UCLA’s threatre for an MFA. But even that was career-defining in its own way. Dike Jr. was the first African to be accepted into the programme, and the first to be considered solely on his body of work created with local talent on the continent. It seemed a curious thing to do at the time, Dike was coming off his run as the lead in the Abba T. Makama helmed satire ‘Green White Green’, one of the first Nigerian films to debut at the Toronto International Film Festival. Dike’s work was greatly praised at the festival and he was singled out as one to watch. Not long after the film was picked up by Netflix, and become one of the first Nigerian films to earn a deal with the streaming giant. It also set Dike apart, not just as a compelling lead but a bankable one, a combination vital to be considered as A-list talent in any film industry.
Just before he left however, Ifeanyi Dike Jr. still took time to do promotional work for Green White Green and accept the Lead Actor Award at the Africa International Film Festival. As the youngest actor to win this award, Dike jr. provided proof that his long term director-lead synergy between himself and the Surreal 16 collective (featuring Makama, C.J Obasi whose film Mami Wata is heavily anticipated and Michael Gouken who is a pioneer D.O.P in Nigeria) was a solid one.
Dike jr. went on to represent Nigerian in the Viacom owned BET reality talent vehicle Top Actor Africa. Top Actor helped introduce Dike jr. to American audiences and talent management, and really assert his desire to crossover into global film. Content in the knowledge that Green White Green’s peculiar subject matter would help catapult it into canonical status (it satirizes Nigeria’s Independence and the continuing friction between its major ethnicities, all processes through the perspectives of three young protagonists), Dike jr. focused all his energies on expanding on his craft as an actor.
Since he moved to LA, Dike has met Kenya Barris, the phenomenal writer and producer behind ABC’s runaway black-helmed television successes Blackish and Grownish. Barris has shown significant interest not only Dike jr. range as an actor but also the unique position his heritage offers to help bridge the viewing audiences of America and Nigeria, much like Priyanka Chopra did on the detective procedural Quantico.
With critical acclaim, some of the best training in the world and interest from some of the sought after showrunners in Hollywood, 2019 is shaping up to be the year Ifeanyi Dike jr. cashes in all the momentum he has spent the last 5 years build. He may very well become the next African actor to bring home an Oscar.