HOW FOOTBALLERS' WIVES STAR FOUND
By Jane Ridley
MOST parents might raise an eyebrow if
their daughter announced she wanted to be an actress, but few
would take such drastic measures as Caroline Chikezie's mum and
The family of the new
Footballers' Wives star were so appalled by her career choice that
they tricked her into leaving the UK.
They were determined she
would become a doctor as they'd planned and packed her off to a
strict boarding school in Nigeria.
"It was like an
abduction," says Caroline, 26, recalling the ordeal she went
through as a 14-year-old. "It was very traumatic and I didn't know
what had hit me.
"I didn't get the chance
to say good-bye to my friends and it was a massive culture shock."
She was told they were
going on holiday for a fortnight - but almost as soon as they
arrived in Africa she was whisked off to the church-run school.
"My mother and father are
religious and thought I was going off the rails," she explains. "I
was academically bright and they didn't want it to go to waste.
"I was carrying their
hopes and dreams on my shoulders, and to them acting was a joke."
Twelve years on, however,
she has proved them wrong. She is one of the country's leading
black talents, in demand from TV and film directors on both sides
of the Atlantic.
Thankfully, the rift with
her mother Monica has healed, but Caroline's father Alfred, 60,
the director of a hospital in Nigeria, has found it hard to
The distinguished doctor
was shocked by the risque roles she has taken and refuses to watch
her sexy antics in Footballers' Wives.
"I am worried that word
will get over to Nigeria about what I get up to on screen," admits
Caroline, who plays Kyle Pascoe's new girlfriend Elaine Hardy.
"Dad is a pillar of the community and he would be upset if anybody
drew attention to it.
"It is the raunchiest
series yet and some of the scenes are explicit."
The striking actress made
her debut last night as Earls Park FC's new physiotherapist. Hired
to treat widowed former captain Kyle, Elaine ends up nursing more
than his injured leg.
"There is a clash of
personalities at first and they have a fight," says Caroline. "But
they are attracted to each other and romance blossoms."
In one scene, the pair
are shown semi-naked in the bath. In another, they cavort in
Kyle's candlelit pool.
"It was filmed first
thing in the morning, so it was very difficult for me to get with
it and feel sexy," recalls Caroline. "But Gary Lucy, who plays
Kyle, was fantastic. I know he has a reputation as a bit of a
ladies' man, but he was the perfect gentleman."
In any case, Caroline
says the sex scenes were nothing compared to her performance in
Eddie Izzard's Channel 4 drama Forty.
"It was full frontal
nudity, so I was completely naked and I had to fake an orgasm,"
she recalls. "After that, anything else is easy.
"When you first get into
this job, you never plan to get naked. But then you get offered
these great parts which involve nudity and you have to justify it
in your own mind.
"My mother would prefer
that I didn't do those roles, but now that she supports my
decision to go into acting she accepts it."
The youngest of four
children, Caroline was raised in London by her mother. Her father
made regular visits to the UK in between running his hospital in
the Anambra basin in Nigeria. It is named after his father,
Alfonso, who was also a doctor.
Caroline went to a
private Catholic girls' school in Forest Gate in London, but spent
weekends at the famous Italia Conti stage school.
"I was always singing and
dancing around the house, and in the beginning my parents thought
it was quite cute because I'd put on little shows for their
friends," she says.
"But when it started to
get serious they were not amused."
A contemporary at Italia
Conti of Merseybeat actress Josie d'Arby, Caroline was picked to
appear in the children's TV series When Will I Be Famous? It was
filmed over a summer on the Isle of Wight, and two years after
returning to London Caroline announced she wanted to be an
"It was the final straw
because I wasn't concentrating at school and was giving my parents
a lot of backchat," she says. "The next thing I knew, we were on
the plane to Nigeria.
"We had a two-week
holiday and then we were told we were staying out there."
She was taken to the
boarding school and her older siblings Chukwuemeka, Anastasia,
Jackie and Helena went to college.
CAROLINE says: "I went on
hunger strike because I was desperate to leave the school.
"There were a lot of
tears and I'd left all my belongings behind in London. But
eventually I gave in and just got on with it. I joined the
debating society, which was an outlet be-cause I was such an
"Looking back, it was a
good experience and my parents did the right thing. I was a
grade-A student and a senior prefect. I think if I'd stayed in
London I'd have become a brat."
She returned to England
to take three A-levels and study medicinal chemistry at Brunel
University in West London with a view to taking over her father's
"I stuck out like a sore
thumb because I was so theatrical," she laughs. "My presentations
were always over the top, like a stage performance."
Her lecturers could see
she was unsuited to academic life. "My tutor phoned Mum and said:
'It would be a crime if you don't let allow your daughter to
act,'" she recalls.
"That's when she finally
gave in. She was on my side, but it broke my dad's heart."
Caroline's gift was soon
spotted and she won a full scholarship to the Academy of Live and
In 1998 she won a part in
the award-winning British film
Babymother, about a gang of teenage girls growing up on a
tough London council estate.
"It was a brilliant
experience," she says. "But we were thrown in at the deep end. It
was filmed on location in Harlesden and the main characters had
bodyguards to protect us from the extras. I thought it was a bit
unnecessary - until the lead actress, Anjela Lauren-Smith, had her
pony-tail set on fire by a gang of girls. After that, we were like
frightened little rabbits."
Roles followed in TV
soaps such as Holby City, Casualty and a series of adverts. She
also appeared in the acclaimed drama Babyfather and the
independent film Spin.
HER biggest break was as
Sasha in T4 and Channel 4's long-running series As If, a trendy
drama chronicling the lives of young Londoners in Notting Hill.
"It was a very intensive
three years, " says Caroline, whose working day often began at
5.30am and ended at 8pm. "We did back-to-back episodes and I've
never worked so hard in my life."
She coped with the
gruelling schedule by eating a healthy diet and avoiding alcohol.
She is also religious and goes to mass every Sunday.
"My skin is very
sensitive and I have to watch what I eat," she says. "I have soya
rather than dairy and I'm trying to cut down on processed foods.
This year I'm determined to start exercising and I've given up
She piled on 20lb after
kicking the habit and was much heavier than she is now when she
filmed Footballers' Wives last summer.
"Luckily, my character
wears track suits most of the time so it isn't too obvious," she
"But I started losing
weight because after she gets together with Kyle she gets more
"In one episode, she
wears one of his late wife Chardonnay's tiny dresses. I had to
squeeze myself into it."
Last April, Caroline, who
split with her property developer boyfriend Jay after four years
together, decided to try her chances in Hollywood.
She moved to Los Angeles,
where she owns a flat in Beverly Hills, a short drive from her
lawyer sister Helena's apartment.
"There are far more roles
for black women in the States," she says. "Here I'll maybe get one
audition every three months, but in America I am going flat out."
It helped that she won
best actress in the emerging talent category of last year's Screen
Nation Film and TV Awards, dubbed the Black Oscars.
Her ambition is to star
in a gritty film set in Africa, possibly in her second language,
Igbo, and to branch out into music. In the meantime, she is busy
attending castings and enjoying the relaxed LA lifestyle and
She is single at the
moment and describes herself as a "serial dater". "I would
definitely like to settle down and have children at some point,
but at the moment I'm concentrating on my career," she says.
As for her father's
disappointment that she didn't follow him into medicine, she is
"I am sorry that he
disapproves, but he is gradually coming to terms with it," she
"I love him and my mother
very much. They just wanted to do their best by me and I respect