Since the inception of the modern Nigerian film movie industry, thus, Nollywood in 1992, the Nigerian movie industry has become the second-largest movie producing industry.
The industry has since produced numerous globally recognised producer, directors, actors and movies. Indeed, has undoubtedly been a great influence in the Nigerian society of today.
In the last 5 years, Nollywood has made a tremendous stride in the global movie market. In 2014, the film, The Wedding Party, premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in Canada and became the first Nollywood film to grossly come close to half a billion naira (US$1.6m) in box office sales within two months of its release, shattering previous records.
In 2014 also, it was estimated that Nollywood creates employment opportunities for over a million people and generates well over $600m (US Dollars). Although the industry has had its rough start building itself without any hand from the government except for the Goodluck Jonathan’s administration who too interest in revamping the industry, injecting funds in the industry and funding some films made to debut internationally.
Last year, 2018, Omotola was invited to join the Oscars voting members for the year. The same year, Genevive Nnaji’s movie, Lion Heart was acquired by Netflix at the whopping amount of $3.8 million. Making her the first Nollywood actor and producer to become a billionaire.
It is worth noting that some of these actors have stayed the course of the growth of the industry, while some have paid dearly with their own sweat, talent and resources and deserve all the praise.
This list is not exhaustive of all the influential and talented individuals in the industry. However, for the sake of this year’s listing, we have focused on the actors who have remained relevant and influential not just in the industry but have expanded their reach and using their new platforms to open even more doors for the industry.
We bring you our 2019 Nollywood influentials of 2019.
Genevive Nnaji in the last 5 years has maintained the highest standard in the industry. Transitioning from actor to becoming a renowned globally successful producer and director.
On 7 September 2018, Netflix, online streaming service acquired her directorial debut movie, Lionheart for ₦1,385,100,000 ($3.8 million), making it the first Netflix original film from Nigeria and Genevieve Nnaji became Nollywood’s first billionaire. In 2019, the movie, LionHeart, was selected by the Nigerian Oscars Selection Committee (NOSC), as Nigeria’s submission to the Best International Feature Film Category of the 2020 Oscars. It was the first film ever submitted to the Oscars by Nigeria. However, the film failed to make the final shortlisting as it didn’t meet most of the criteria required for the category.
Omotola was in her acting prime in the late 90s and early 2000s. However, the highly respected actress has managed to stay relevant and influential in the industry to date. Although Omotola, popularly known as Omosexy has not done any movies this year, she still ranks the most relevant and influential Nollywood actor among Nigerians.
In June (2018), Omotola alongside Femi Odugbemi received invitations to join the Oscars in the year (2018) voting members.
The University of Calabar graduate is one of Nigerian’s most loved actresses. She began her acting career in 2003, making her debut in the movie, Thick Madam. Since then, Ini has starred in over 100 movies. 2018 was a great year for Ini, starring in the movie, Chief Daddy which was officially named as the most streamed Nigerian movie on Netflix as well as Heaven on my mind, winning the Best Narrative Feature award at the 2019 African Women Arts Film Festival
Funke came into the limelight after starring in popular United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA)-sponsored sitcom I Need to Know, which ran from 1998 to 2002, where she played the character, Bisi, a curious and highly intelligent secondary school student. However, Funke Akindele’s big break came in 2008 when she appeared in the movie Jenifa.
Although she is popularly known for appearing in Yoruba movies, in January 2018, Funke was found in the middle of a controversy when it was Mainstream Nigerian media reported would be making her Hollywood debut in Marvel’s Avengers: Infinity War when she appeared on the cast listing on IMDb. However, a few weeks later, her name was replaced with that of Genevieve Nnaji. However, in the end, none of them appeared in the movie.
In 2017 she starred in the movies; Isoken and Industreet and in 2018, she appeared also in the movies; Mom’s at war and Chief Daddy.
Funke Akindele runs a non-governmental organisation known as the Jenifa Foundation, which aims at providing young people with vocational skills as well as the CEO of Scene One Film Production.
The last of 6 children to Veteran actor, Pete Edochie. Yul, however, has held his own away from his father’s shadow. Making his Nollywood debut in 2005 in the movie, “The Exquires” alongside the Late Justus Esiri and Enebeli Elebuwa, he, however, got his break in 2007 featuring alongside Genevieve Nnaji and Desmond Elliot in the movie “Wind Of Glory”. Since then, Yul has long become Nigerian screen sweetheart you never had. The married dad of 4, has not just shown great strides in acting, but he has also been seen championing in leadership roles.
In 2015, Yul Edochie opened a film academy in Lagos. He launched the academy as a result of the decline in the quality and professionalism of upcoming Nigerian actors and actresses. The academy as stated by him is supposed to train the next generation of Nollywood actors and actresses. A duty which he intends to do personally. The academy gives talented people the opportunity to be introduced to the Nigerian Film Industry.
On the 14 of July 2017, Yul Edochie declared his intention to run for Anambra state Governorship. This declaration was made in anticipation of a Not Too Young To Run Bill passed by the senate of the federal government of Nigeria. The declaration was however made official on the 22nd of August 2017, when he picked up the nomination form of the political party “Democratic Peoples Congress” and was eventually the flag bearer and gubernatorial candidate of the party to run for governor of Anambra State
Ramsey remains one of Nollywood’s most adored male actors. Aside from his brilliant acting skills, Ramsey has a lovable personality and has for all his career carried himself so very well.
Kicking off his acting career in the Nigerian TV soap opera Fortunes, he has since starred in numerous films. His frequent roles in romantic movies have long earned him the nickname, “Lover-Boy”.
In 2015, he secured the rights to Living In Bondage from Kenneth Nnebue for a possible remake to be filmed in Europe, America and Nigeria. And this year, he made his directorial debut with the remake of the movie – Living in Bondage: Breaking Free.
This year, he starred in the movie, The Millions and in 2018, he starred as Ayo Alesinloye alongside; EMI Martins (Falz the Bad Guy), Amaju Abioritsegbemi (AY the comedian), and Naz Okigbo (Jim Iyke)
RMD is one of Nollywood’s veterans who has managed to hold on to his relevance through the years, evolving with the times. Arguably one of the most loved and revered Nollywood actors, for his fashion sense and gentleman persona. He has been a regular face on Nigeria TV since the late 80s, appearing in the television soap called Ripples, and receiving his first actor credit in the movie, Out of Bounds. In 2005 at the maiden edition of the African Movie Academy Awards Mofe-Damijo won the award for Best Actor in a Leading Role. In 2018/19, he appeared in the movie, God Calling – starring as the Sade’s Father.
Mofe-Damijo was appointed Special Adviser on Culture and Tourism to the then Governor Emmanuel Uduaghan in 2008, and later became the commissioner for the Culture and Tourism of Delta State in 2009. His tenure ended in 2015.
RMD was married to Nigerian journalist/publisher, May Ellen-Ezekiel (MEE) and after her death in 1996, he was remarried to TV personality, Jumobi Adegbesan, who later left TV for the corporate world. Richard Mofe-Damijo has 4 children. 2 with his current wife and 2 from his late wife.
Rita Dominic has been a huge personality on Nigeria TV since the late 90s. She is one of the most recognisable faces in Nollywood. The University of Port Harcourt graduate remains one of the most brilliant actors in Nollywood and is widely loved. Her vast ability to take on any role has been her stand out point.
Uche Jombo is an actor, scriptwriter, director, producer and is currently the brand ambassador for Globacom.
Jombo made entry into the Nigerian movie industry in 1999 with her debut in the movie, Visa to hell. As a screenwriter, she has written and co-written several movies some of which include: The Celebrity, Games Men Play, Girls in the Hood & A Time to Love. Jombo went on to produce films such as Nollywood Hustlers, Holding Hope and her work Damage which deals with issues of domestic violence.
Uche is a highly creative wife and mother who has influenced Nollywood since joining the industry in 1999. To her name, she’s been credited with over 200 movies for her acting and over 20 directing credits since her directorial debut in 2015
Desmond Elliot began his acting career playing roles in soap operas such as; Everyday People, One Too Much and Saints and Sinners. When he showed up in Nollywood movies in the early 2000s, he quickly won the hearts of many young girls and quickly building a fanbase within that group. Since then, he has starred in hundreds of movies.
Elliot has been married for 16 years and has 4 children. In September 2014, he declared his intentions to run for Lagos State House of Assembly under the All Progressives Congress. He contested and won the Surulere Constituency in the 11 April 2015 Nigerian General Elections and was re-elected in the 2019 election.
11. Ngozi Ezeonu
12. Adesua Etomi
13. Mercy Johnson
14. Kate Henshaw
15. Dakore Akande
16. Monalisa Chinda Coker.
17. Alex Ekubo
18. Mercy Macjoe
19. IK Ogbonna
20. Uti Nwachukwu