By Jedidah Nguyo
Published April 21, 2015
You may have seen him playing the role of the desperate politician who is willing to do anything to get into power in a 54-minute fictional film called SEPTEMBER. He also plays the role of a husband who is being cheated on by his wife in an 11-minute film called DECEIT. Both films have been screened and discussed at the monthly Lola Kenya Screen film forum, Nairobi’s premier critical movie platform. If you didn’t know the name of that actor, it is Peter Kawa. He opens up to ArtMatters.Info’s Jedidah Nguyo.
When did you start acting?
I stated acting in Secondary School where I was a member of the drama club. I grew up watching Christmas stories and movies and I always wanted to be like the characters I saw on the movies, however, I started acting professionally in 2005.
What roles do you enjoy playing?
The very first role I played was that of Shylock in William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice. This was because I have this stern look on the face and people tell me that my stare is intimidating. Since then I have always played the villain; I have even played the devil twice on stage. I am not a bad person as some of the characters I play but I love playing evil characters because it gives me an opportunity to explore something that is out of the ordinary.
How did you feel playing the role of a politician and terrorist sponsor in SEPTEMBER, a movie that is competing for the Best East African Film Award at Burundi’s International Film Festival, April 24-30, 2015?
I was a bit skeptical about playing Kamotho at the beginning because I felt like it required a bigger person when it comes to body size; however, director Mark Wambui assured me that with my stern face I could pull it off. I follow politics a lot and I felt that SEPTEMBER was a good opportunity for me to show people the dark side of politicians. Also most of the time when terrorist attacks happen it only takes a few days for people to forget about them. I really wanted people to think about terrorism in greater depth and not just on the surface.
Between screen and stage acting; which one do you prefer?
I love the stage most as it allows for buildup of emotions where you run through a whole play without being stopped unlike on screen where you shoot scene by scene.
Who do you look up to in your career?
When it comes to acting, I really admire Raymond Ofula. He has achieved so much yet he is quite humble. In directing, I look up to Gilbert Lukalia. I have known him since back in the day when he used to direct stage plays. I admire how he always explains to his cast what is expected of them as opposed to just giving them directions.
Can one make a living from acting in Kenya?
Yes; acting pays all my bills
What advice would you give to anyone who wants to venture into acting?
The first thing is that they should not expect instant success; challenges will always be there and it’s a field that requires lots of patience.
Have you directed any films?
I have not directed any feature films so far but I have done a couple of TV pilots. I am mainly a producer when it comes to films.
What films have you produced?
I have produced KISS AND PRAY, REEL TIME, and THE GOOD FIGHT. All these are short films which have not been screened but are used only for evangelism.
Have you received any awards?
I haven’t received many awards. In 2011 I directed a religious group called Better Play Productions in a play called ‘Man of Steel’ that won Best Play in the Sanaa Theater Awards, an annual award that recognizes contributions of artists engaged in various forms of theatre.
That there are many people who look up to me as their mentor is also an award for me.
What’s your real profession?
I am an actor, director and film producer.
Where do you see yourself in the next five years?
I have a company called Spear Head Media Entertainment which has just been formed. In the next five years I want to develop it into a short film production company and also a casting agency which will be a platform to give opportunities to young people who are talented. Eventually all these will lead me to film directing and production.
Would you care to say something about your background; family, school and career?
I am the first born in a family of five children. I was born in Nairobi where I also attended Bahati Primary School and then St Mary’s Kibabii Secondary School in Bungoma County. After high school my parents relocated back to Bungoma and left me to take care of my siblings. This really helped me become responsible at an early age. I also attended Kenya College of Communications Technology (KCCT) which has since been upgraded to Multimedia University. I hold a diploma in Institutional Management from the institution. I am a full time actor. I am married with a daughter.
What would you like to add?
I am a born again Christian. It is my faith that keeps me going. I run a small Christian ministry on the side through which I make short films for evangelism.