Kenya is saturated with acting talent across the age ranges, from kids, teenagers, young adults and adults, as witnessed on local TV programmes, and in theatres and school drama festivals. They’ve also got talent. Just recently our very own Lupita Nyong’o landed a role alongside a star-studded cast which includes Brad Pitt, Michael Fassbender, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Benedict Cumberbatch and actress Alfre Woodard in Hollywood film “Twelve Years A Slave”.
In February, another Kenyan thespian, Oliver Litondo, made us proud by winning the Best Actor, for his role in the movie The First Grader at the 11th Annual AARP movies award gala held in Beverly Hills, California.
Kevin Ndege also featured in an award winning South African movie Inside Story. Earlier this year the film won the Special Jury Recognition in the Feature Narrative category at the 20th Annual Pan African Film Festival in Los Angeles.
All this exciting news is evidence of how far Kenya has come with production and acting talent. Kenyan viewers are now enjoying our very own local TV shows and even theatre plays have become a hit.
Kenya’s growing film and tv industry
With Kenya’s film and TV industry picking up tremendously, more and more budding actors are considering pursuing their careers in the acting with the hope of making it big like their counterparts and become the next Lupita or even better her, but they don’t know which channels to use and this has left them a frustrated lot.
The government has partly done a good job towards developing young talent (although nowhere near enough) by organizing the annual Drama festivals where primary schools, secondary schools, colleges and universities compete on stage from the district level up to the national level.
Here you will find energetic young and very good actors and actresses battling out for the trophies and showing their prowess. Most of these talents are not seen beyond the festivals as the young people venture into other careers because they are not confident that they will make it in acting. Most of them who want to pursue acting full-time are not aware of how to go about it. Even those who get lucky to land a role are given minor roles and short contracts.
In Kenya producers rarely explore new talent instead they stick to what is familiar. In other places like Hollywood, when casting for a movie or a TV series, producers take time to scout, explore and discover new talent hence there is so much diversity.
The Kenyan actors in our locally produced programmes are the same familiar faces we are used to from show to show. It’s common to find big stars like Sarah Hassan, Brenda Wairimu, Nice Githinji, Kariuki Thige among others, starring across the local programs like Tahidi High, Changing Times, Tabasamu, and Demigods.
As a result of producers sticking to the tried and trusted faces just because they are popular, actors are given roles that don’t suit them thus even lowering their star rating.
Nurturing Kenya’s acting talent
The Kenya Forum recognizes recent efforts by some stakeholders like actor Gerald Langiri the brain child behind www.actors.co.ke , a professional website where actors/actresses can post their acting resumes’, and post their clips providing good exposure for upcoming local actors.
Local producers however, need to reach out to the many young talents and through that that discover vast talent as the industry grows not only for a chosen few but also the many up and coming actors and actresses in Kenya.
“Put yourself out there!”
Dorothy Ghettuba, the producer of local dramas Lies That Bind, Higher Learning and Saints, however, partly blames the issue of same familiar faces on TV productions on the upcoming actors themselves.
Speaking at an interactive forum held two weeks ago at the Alliance Francaise, she urged young actors to attend as many auditions as they can, as this will increase their chances of landing roles. “No one will ever discover you, unless you put yourself out there”, she said, adding that her current production Lies That Behind, has factored that element and has lots of new talent appearing in it.
It’s time for producers in Kenya to think out of the box and learn to nurture new talent and in so doing create healthy competition in the market of the entertainment world.