A lot of efforts were put into the Nigerian movie industry to make it the greatest that it is today. Several actors turned icons today, had to show their creative side make up for the lack of funds as at the time.
These Nollywood celebs have built the ultimate legacy for themselves across the world and are held in the highest regard.
Many of the upcoming actors/actresses will tell you that it is not easy. There is also no guarantee that the viewers will love you and want to keeping seeing you on their screens. If this is the case, then movie producers will no longer require your services unless for little roles assuming you have even started acting.
But for those who are trying to get into the industry, it is not easy at all. Even some of the talented ones might not be able to get into Nollywood due to the high competition and demand for already established “big names”.
We shall be looking at 10 Nollywood living Icons who get plenty of respect today for their contributions.
For the sake of this article, as we stated earlier, “Living” is the major keyword meaning we shall not be including those we are no longer with us.
Again, this will be done in no particular order.
1. Pete Edochie
When this actor made a name for himself, some current living legends were still being fed with milk by their mothers.
The Nollywood actor is considered by many to be one one of the greatest actors to have ever emerged from Nigeria. He is treated like royalty on/off screen and rightly so by all who come across him.
He became really famous after he played the role of Okonkwo in “Things Fall Apart”. None had seen the character and power he brought on screen at the time in the NTA adaptation of Chinua Achebe’s novel.
Edochie has acted in so many movies and still gets some roles even in recent years. He featured in Lionheart (2018), Unroyal (2020), The Price of Love: Life Is Beautiful (2005), Living in Darkness (1999), When God Says Yes (2003) amongst others.
Pete Edochie was born March 7, 1947 and is a multiple-award winner.
2. Kenneth Okonkwo
He is definitely a living legend who is loved by so many people. The Nollywood star who was born November 6, 1968, made a massive name for himself when he played the role of Andy in the 1992/93 two-part movie, “Living in Bondage”.
Since then, he has starred in so many movies including the second part released in 2019 which is known as Living in Bondage: Breaking Free.
He has also featured in My Brother’s Wealth, Amanda My Village Wife, True Love Can Change Anything, I Regret the Day I Said I Do.
Kenneth Okonkwo is now a lawyer but still has his nose in Nollywood.
3. Ngozi Ezeonu
This beautiful light-skinned actress was born on May 23, 1965 and is a complete blessing to the Nollywood. She is regarded as a living legend and she gets plenty of respect from both the young and the old. The Owerri born actress is from Ogbunike.
Although Ezeonu has made a name for herself as a Nollywood legend, she wasn’t always an actress. The thespian studied Journalism at the Nigerian Institute of Journalism before going ahead to work for Radio Lagos and Eko FM.
She first came into prominence in 1993 after being offered a role in Zeb Ejiro’s Nneka The Pretty Serpent. Then she got a role as a high society mistress called Thelma in 1994’s Glamour Girls.
Some of her other movies include Tears in My Eyes (2008), A Private Storm (2010), Broken Engagement (2013), Shattered Mirror (2012), Royal Grandmother 1 and 2 (2007), Abuja Top Ladies (2006) and Run Away From Love (2019) just to mention a few.
4. Kanayo O. Kanayo
He is right at the very top and has been from the get go. K.O.K as he is fondly called is part of those who shaped Nollywood into what it is today.
His real name is Anayo Modestus Onyekwere and he introduced himself into the movie industry in 1992 in the movie Living in Bondage.
Kanayo O. Kanayo is very active on social media and is known to get teased by his followers a little on account of the type of movies he enjoys acting. The thespian also featured in Living in Bondage: Breaking Free alongside Kenneth Okonkwo.
Some other movies the Nollywood living legend has acted include Up North, Apaye
(2014), Lionheart (2018), Across the Niger, Celebrity Marriage (2017).
5. Eucharia Anunobi
This veteran Nollywood actress was in full control of the industry many years ago. Even though she lives her life as a pastor now, she is still remembered for contributing greatly towards the growth of Nigerian movies.
Eucharia Anunobi hit the limelight after her perfect role interpretation in the 1994 movie, “Glamour Girls”.
Since then, the thespian has starred in several other movies including Black Night in South America (2007), The Foreigner’s God (2018), Unbreakable Affair (2006), Sins of My Mother (2005), Diamond Lady 2: The Business Woman (2004), Battle of Musanga (1996)among others.
However, tragedy befell Eucharia on August 22, 2017 as she lost only son, Raymond to complications from sickle cell anaemia.
6. Chiwetalu Agu
He is one of the greatest actors Nigeria has ever produced. Born in Enugu, Nigeria, the thespian has no record of having any equal when it comes to interpreting movie roles with the use of outstanding/catchy use of certain phrases and slangs (usually in Igbo).
Despite being more of comedian, the movie star and Patience Ozokwo are also the two most outstanding Nollywood celebs in terms of interpreting characters of the wicked.
Chiwetalu Agu started life as an actor in 1981 at a time that Nollywood didn’t even exist. Many might not even know it but the movie star also featured in Things Fall Apart.
Some of the veteran’s other movies are Traditional Marriage 1 & 2, Burning kingdom 1 & 2, Royal Messengers 1 & 2, Sounds of Love 1 & 2, Last Ofalla 1-4, Fire on the Mountain 1 & 2 amongst others.
7. Genevieve Nnaji
She is easily the most respected actress today and despite her relatively young age, the movie star has contributed so much to the industry.
We are not surprised that so many upcoming thespians look up to Genevieve Nnaji even though she does not feature in as much movies as she used to do years back.
The actress was born in Mbaise, Imo State but grew up in Lagos.
Genevieve started as a child actress at the age of 8 in Ripples. However, she got into the movie industry proper when she was 19 in Most Wanted.
Some of her other movies include Power of Love (2002), For Better for Worse (2002), Dangerous Sister (2003), Promise Me Forever (2004), Games Women Play (2005) Weekend Getaway (2012), Road to Yesterday (2015), Half of a Yellow Sun (2013), Lionheart (2018) just to mention a few.
8. Nkem Owoh
Not only is he one of the greatest actors, he is rated as an A-list comic of the very highest that Africa has ever produced. Nkem Owoh is still relevant in the industry and still features in some top movies.
Everyone still remembers his exploits in the 2003 film, Osuofia in London.
Nkem Owoh started his acting career doing TV series and screen production. Like Pete Edochie and Chiwetalu Agu, he also was in Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart.
Even though he played a supporting role in Ukwa 1 & 2, he made his breakthrough in Osuofia in London.
The 63-year-old has acted in several movies such as Police Officer (2002), Police Officer (2002), King of the Forest (2003), Anunuebe (2003), Covenant Keeping God (2007), Spanner Goes to Jail (2004), Osuofia in London 2 (2004), Osuofia and the Wise Men (2008), Stronger Than Pain (2007).
9. Patience Ozokwo
It appears impossible to think of a greater actress than this thespian. She has no female rival when it comes to perfectly interpreting “wicked roles”.
According to Patience Ozokwo, she had been passionate about acting right from her primary school. Although she later went on to bag a degree in fine and applied arts from the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), Enugu, she went on to radio drama before going ahead to the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA) soap opera, Someone Cares.
The movie star is still active. She was amongst the Nollywood celebs in the 2018 hit, Chief Daddy.
Mama G as she is fondly called, has also featured in other movies such as Mama G in America (2004), Submission (2002), Torn Apart (2005) Turning Point (2012), 2 Rats (2003).
10. Richard Mofe-Damijo (RMD)
He deserves to be given all the recognition because of his enormous contributions to the the Nigerian movie industry. RMD got admitted into the University of Benin to study Theatre Arts. He later went to the University of Lagos in 2004 where he graduated after studying law.
Richard Mofe-Damijo later featured in Ripples in the late 80s. He is still very active in Nollywood and is a regular in Nollywood with the lates being the hit Netflix series, King of Boys: The Return.
Some other projects the thespian has acted in are The Wedding Party 1&2, Love Is War, 10 Days in Sun City, When God Says Yes and 30 Days in Atlanta just to mention a few.