Congratulations! You have just been cast to play the most prestigious role in Nigerian acting – the African King! Ah, yes, things are looking good. The hustle in combination with the ministry is moving. (Or maybe Babalawo is working … all na huzzle!) Now, you are probably scratching your soon-to-be-fictionally-crowned head looking for tips on how to do a stand up job. That is good. It means you understand the extreme importance playing an African King has in this Nollywood hustle. Execute this performance with bland generic expertise and you can secure a succession of roles in movies and theatre performances for years to come – in other words, you go don hammer!

King naira poker

The king of hammers. (Photo attribution: Nicholas Gemini)

To play this iconic role you must meet a minimum of two out of three strict criteria:

i. You are tall and/or huge and/or muscular and/or fat – you sha have body sha.
ii. You are old.
iii. You have a bass voice. Or you can talk as if you have a bass voice.

If you do not meet these criteria but have somehow been cast to play an African King, please, please, please, be very careful; another actor more equipped can easily steal your shine (note: if Babalawo is involved talk to him about this). So if you are not buff enough, better start gyming immediately. No money to register at a gymnasium? Join your local cement-block-and-iron-lifitng gym, there’s one in every neighbourhood. If you do not have a bass voice, beg the bass vocalist in your Church’s choir to train you.

Another worry you may have is that your acting skills aren’t good enough. Relax, you don’t need actual talent. All you need is ability to execute the ‘typical moves’ expected by an actor playing an African King. And for that I got you covered, homie! Follow the 6 easy steps broken down below and you will be on the yellow brick road to hammering. So, Capua, shall I begin?

Step 1: Don’t research
I repeat, DON’T research. Do not follow all these oversabi actors prancing about doing so-called ‘proper’ research so that they can give ‘original’ and ‘exciting’ performances that will be enjoyed for years to come. Ridiculous! First of all, you will just confuse your director. Secondly, you will make your executive producer nervous. After investing so much and hustling all that sponsorship (oh yes, even executive producer gaas huzzle) you now want to do something outside the comfort of conformity? Don’t put your hammering at risk, please. It doesn’t matter if audiences forget your performance after a few days because there’s no real substance to it. Just stick with the familiar and the predictable. ‘Mediocre’ and ‘generic’ are your watchwords. Hold them close to you at night. Cuddle them. Kiss them. Caress them. Now slowly undress them and begin to slide … Oh … sorry … I, erm, got a bit carried away there.

Step 2: Bulge your eyes
As wide as possible! Bulge them! Stretch open those big white orbs. Wider, I say, wider! Good. This will make you look FEARSOME, so you don’t have to stress yourself to do any actual acting. You must maintain this look for the entirety of the performance and as you can imagine that is no easy task. I recommend 2-3 hours of daily practice in front of a mirror. I also recommend purchasing a considerable stash of Panadol Extra or Alabukun. Eye problems are likely to occur, register ahead of time with your nearest optometrist.

Step 3: Look like a boss
Now that your eyes are popping more than a bottle of champagne in a Dr Sid song, the next thing you must do is bone! Or as the oversabi-grammar people say, scowl. This is the one facial expression you need for a long and prosperous career. Be careful not to be deceived by a few people who will ask why you always look the same in all your roles. They are enemies of progress. Do not be distracted by trivialities such as emotional range and psychological depth. Abeg! Abeg! Abeg! Abeg! Abeg! Just bone that face! If you are working on a movie, discuss with your director to find a proper bulging-eyes-to-scowling-face ratio. This is important so that when you add ginger to your performance (see step 6) your current level of overacting will not go into hyper-overdrive.

Coin Mansa Musa

Alas, 10 kobo! I spent it well, Horatio. A currency of infinite jest… (Photo attribution: Olutosinscorpio)

Step 4: The King Hath Swag
First, puff out your chest. Then, spread out your arms like a chicken frozen in its attempt to take flight. You know those body-builder guys with muscles so thick their arms can’t lie straight by the side of their body anymore? Great, just like them! Next, fill yourself up with a sense of pride so thick Tracy Obonna’s booty would write you a tribute song. Now, walk in large stomping strides, bouncing on every landing step, like an overweight ballet dancer whose recent surrender to a plate of swallow and egusi soup has pulverized his centre of gravity. This is especially important for you who will be performing in a theatre show. In a movie role you will spend 99% of your time sitting down so you may want to focus more on step 5.

Step 5: The King’s Speech
To TAAALK like an AAACtor plAAYing the AAAfrican KING, what you must DO is RAAAANdomly emphaSIZE SYllables in your DIAlogue without AAAny sense of rhythm, style, or PURPOSE. YOOOUUU must-also-ensure-that-you-master-the-ability-to-speak-very-fast-then-suddenly DRAAAAAAG the final (pause) words (pause) in your speech. This is what some ‘astute practitioners’ call the art of Shakespearean line delivery. “Why? Erm … Because … you know … that’s how they talk in all those Shakespeare films.” Remember, lines must always be rendered in the classic monotonous bass tone (see list of criteria above).

Step 6: Ginger
Ah, ginger! The secret ingredient of ancient Chinese tea and bad Nigerian acting. ‘Tis ginger which gives overacting that extra spicy flavour that makes viewers say: “O’boy that guy sabi act oh, see as him just dey ginger“. Who says an actor needs interpretive skill, analytical ability and aesthetic sensitivity? Abegi! All that one na sufferhead! Just ginger your way through every performance! Be sure to add copious amounts of ginger to your portrayal of the African King and success is yours.

ABOUT THE WRITER (this is where I talk about myself in the third person)
Playwright Africa African
Africa Ukoh (@Pensage – abeg, follow me for twitter oh!) is a playwright, screenwriter, actor, theatre director, and arts administrator. And protector of the realm. He is a co-founder and artistic director of African Renaissance Theatre & Entertainment, an Abuja-based performance art outfit. He has been the recipient of awards such as the BBC African Performance competition and the Stratford East/30 Nigeria House prize. In 2014 he won the prestigious Oscar award for best actress in a supporting role … Oh, no, wait, that … that was Lupita N’yongo. His works have appeared on platforms such as the BBC World Service, Voice of Nigeria, Sentinel Nigeria Magazine, Sentinel Annual Literature Anthology, and more. If you’d like to get in touch with him you can send N1500 MTN recharge card to 08036207841 and he will call you back, sharp sharp. Or maybe just email him: africaukoh@gmail.com.