Why I Refused to Join Hollywood – Genevieve Nnaji

Nollywood star Genevieve Nnaji has shed light on her decision to turn down Hollywood opportunities, despite her acclaimed 2018 film “Lionheart” being acquired by Netflix.

Speaking at the 2024 AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum and Afreximbank Annual Meetings in Nassau, The Bahamas, the 45-year-old actress from Imo State explained her stance. Nnaji was part of a distinguished panel that included Osahon Akpata, head of CANEX Creations Incorporation, Ginger Moxey, Minister for Grand Bahama, and Renee Robinson, Chief Strategist at TidalRise.

The forum, held from June 12 to 14, aimed to promote the Creative Africa Nexus (CANEX) programme, which provides financial and structural support to Africa’s burgeoning creative sector. Discussions centered on the programme’s potential to bolster trade and investment in African creative industries.

During her address, Nnaji highlighted the challenges she faced in the Hollywood industry. Despite the international success of “Lionheart,” she found the support required to further her career in Hollywood was lacking. Nnaji emphasized the importance of adequate backing to make a substantial impact in such a competitive environment.

“For the first time, I realised I was a commodity. I thought, you know, given what I had done with Lionheart and all of that, I would have an opportunity to do more. I am getting there and having the kind of support that CANEX brings on board, but I thought I could find it in Hollywood. That was not quite the case,” she said. Nnaji explained that Hollywood’s interest was mainly self-serving.

“They wanted what I had but for their benefit. It was all about their story. It was all about how, even if it was our story, I could make it more authentic to their understanding of whatever Africa is because they did have a lot of literature in their archives.”

She also mentioned during the session that she could have gone to Hollywood years ago but chose to stay and contribute to the development of Nollywood.

“But I am Nollywood. I could have gone to Hollywood a long time if I wanted to. However, I dreamed of building an industry in Nigeria that could rival it. That’s because I’ve always believed in that. I have always believed that we could own an industry like that that told our story for our people. I wanted that. I respect what Hollywood is doing. I respect what Bollywood is doing, and I felt like Nollywood had an equal chance at it,” she said.

“So when I found it wasn’t quite what they had in mind, I was like, I’m just going to wait this out, and the Covid happened, and the worlds switched at that point, and Africa sort of became it.”

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