It’s quite evident that the country’s film industry is emerging at a remarkable pace and gone are the days when actors used to be typical ‘hustlers’, making appearances in a few productions that existed back then not for pay but just to get a credit.
The industry is producing award winning films and TV series left right and centre and this can only mean more jobs for the industry players, some of whom can now brag to live off acting.
Even much notable is the opportunities that the corporate scene has provided for actors in the advertising arena which has proved to be a cash cow for the lucky ones who land the much desired advertising deals.
Forget the usual faces, as the growth being witnessed in the industry has seen the emergence of new players and in this article, the Kenya Forum brings to the limelight two seasoned actors who have only been in the industry for barely two years, but are now smiling all the way to the bank thanks to advertisement deals with leading corporates in addition to their impressive acting resumes.
BLESSING LUNG’AHO BLACE (THE ZUKU MAN)
He has been in the acting industry for only one year, but his acting resume is one that fellow actors can only admire. For most actors, landing a TV commercial deal, appearing on a bill board or better still endorsing a product remains the ultimate dream but for this former accountant, all these seems to be trailing him. Its TV commercials that have actually given Blessing a platform to mainstream acting.
Blessing reveals how he was walking to work on the streets of Nairobi one morning in May last year, only to be stopped by a stranger who introduced himself as a casting director who was interested in him as a model for a TV commercial he was shooting.
“At first I thought this guy was one of the many conmen on our streets so I brushed him off but he insisted. I told him am an accountant not a model or an actor and that I was really in a hurry because I was late for work. So he gave me his business card, asked me to think about it and give him a call before the day ends” he says.
Little did Blessing know that the random encounter would be his stepping stone to landing lucrative advertising deals.
“After sharing the encounter with my friends and colleagues, they advised me to give it a shot, so I called the casting director and went for an audition the following day. I had never been in front of a camera before and I was so nervous. I honestly sacked and therefore didn’t land the role but the crew took picture of me and which incidentally got me shortlisted for five advertising jobs” he says.
The same casting director bluntly told him that he sacked at the audition but encouraged him to practice acting in front of a mirror every day, an advice though weird to Blessing, he choose to follow religiously. He would do this for 5 hours every day and especially the night before an audition and his dedication would later pay when just a month later, he did his first major TV commercial; the AD that Tuskys supermarkets did for Kenya@50, which would turn out to be his breakout performance.
“When I went to sign the check after being shortlisted for the AD, I was pleasantly shocked. I mean the pay for the AD which only ran for 30 seconds was much more than what I was getting for my monthly job!”
It was then that it dawned on him that there was so much potential in the acting industry and he actually had the talent so he decided to utilize this to the fullest. Come august the same year, he did the unthinkable; quit his full time job and embarked into the unpredictable world of acting.
“After the Tusky AD went on air, Marvin Obaga, a cousin of mine who is a Director, introduced me to Fill Braeson of Insignia productions whose TV series PREM was currently running on KTN. I was cast for an extra role and Fill really played an instrumental role in teaching and tutoring me to bring out my talent.”
By the time he was done with his minor role in PREM, Blessing had become so confident and skilled that he went for ten auditioned in addition to being cast for three more episodes in PREM, this time, his role had lines.
After PREM he was cast for a supporting role in a TV series on KBC, Makavazi and also in a movie titled URIAH by Zamaridi productions. Four months later, he landed his first lead role in a movie titled DEBBY, by White House Productions.
Any casting director will tell you that the first three months off the year are dry spells for commercials but for blessing, favour seems to be his portion as he did three TV commercials in those months. So is it just luck or exceptional talent that is opening the vast doors for this young, creative and tall gentleman?
“No, it has never been luck,” he says.
“It’s God’s favour. As my name suggests am blessed. Am very religious by the way and I believe that I don’t get my roles at the audition halls but I get them on my knees every morning when I pray to God to bless my day.” He emphasises.
Blessing discloses that he has just landed his first product endorsement for a telecommunications company but says his contract does not allow him to divulge more details for now but says he will be traveling to South Africa for the project in the coming weeks.
Well, with quite a number of appearances on TV commercials and billboards, which are often viewed as cash cows by actors, just what has been his highest pay so far? Of course he refuses to divulge the exact figure just like they all do but says it’s a six figure from his latest project however judging by the expression on his face and how wide his eyes get as he talks about, it must be huge.
“I saw my name on the contract and the money under it and I had to ask, how many people am I paying?” he said. As if that’s not enough, he reveals that he has been called by a top production house in Nigeria for a role in a star studded movie featuring among others Nollywood’s star Desmond Elliot.
Well even with such admirable credits under his name, Blessing still faces a myriad of challenges in the industry and you just wouldn’t guess what his biggest challenge is; Dating. At first it was difficult to comprehend why that would be an issue for such a hunk and especially with his profile but he is quick to clarify.
“It’s been difficult to find a good girl because they all imagine that am a player. Actually there is this girl that I really fancied and we were going out for some time until she discovered that am the guy she had been seeing on bill boards and she vanished,” he says.
The time frame between which an actor works and the time they get paid is also another challenge which many people who are not in the industry do not understand.
“Sometimes friends and family come to me seeking financial support and sometimes am not in apposition to help but it’s hard for them to believe because they are seeing me on TV or in a bill board every day,” he say.
His biggest fear is to be typecast. He doesn’t want to be limited in certain roles and the reality that he can be good at something that he did not know he had continues to be his motivating factor.