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The dream does not stop: A day on set with Nice Githinji

Features
 Actress Nice Githinji. 

I first saw Nice Githinji on screen in the drama series, Changing Times, in 2010. 

She played the role of Rosa in the series, which ran up to 2012. And since then, she has had a lasting, impressive career as an actress, model, singer, producer, karaoke hostess and TV presenter.

I have come across her emceeing, most recently at a panel talk on empowering women in the creative space at the Australian High Commission in Nairobi. That was in November 2021.

Nice began her career as a stage actress, first appearing on the Phoenix Player’s stage in Richard Stockwell’s Bad Blood.

“Following a stellar performance in that show, Nice has evolved into one of the industry’s most active voices and has carved herself a niche as a performer who never leaves her audiences wanting,” the Kenya Film Commission (KFC) writes in a profile of the actress.

She is active on the Kenyan scene as an actor, content creator, vocalist and TV show host and acting coach.

She has a list of credits that include Nganya, which she co-created for Iflix, William Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, Subira and Rafiki. The talented performer also has more than 10 awards and nominations under her belt.

It is a cold, grey and cloudy Wednesday afternoon when we are set to meet. My intention is to go and see Nice on the new set of a series that is still a hush-hush project.

Promotion of the show has not begun, and it is still very much a secret from the public, perhaps until closer to its release date. The set is in Nderi, Kikuyu.

I am in contact with a production manager, as Nice, along with her other acting colleagues, do not carry their phones on set. The manager informs me that the whole crew is in the process of a unit move.

We are at a school. I observe that some of the crew are loading up equipment onto vans. I realise that a unit move is something like a move from one set to another. The manager and I hop onto one of the vans, and onto the next location.

I have yet to spot Nice and will have to wait until she finishes all her takes for the day - the lunch break was busy too. I am informed that she was running her lines and preparing for the next scenes.

“It is a hectic day for her,” the production manager says. “She is on the call sheet multiple times and is in all the remaining scenes of the day.”

At the next location, a mansion, I spot Nice hopping out of a van, dressed in all black, tights, a sweater and a trench coat. She has to get her makeup done and a change of clothes. The makeup artiste and costume designer are hot on her tail.

Hours later, the crew are almost done for the day. Everyone is in good spirits, and it is clear that the relationship between the cast and their colleagues is warm and fond.

Nice can sneak away from the set for our meeting, although she has to get back soon to shoot one last scene.

This time, she is all wrapped up in a navy blue, woollen blanket. Her humility and friendliness are evident as she reaches for a hug, smiling warmly.

“My most prized possession is my mind because I think I am quite a brilliant person; my mind surprises me a lot of times,” she says when asked what her most prized possession is. “Does it have to be material, mine is not.”

The 37-year-old actress reveals that when she has some free time, which is a rare occurrence, she likes to watch reality TV and hang out in bed with her cats.

“All the real housewives shows, all the love and hip hop stuff, that is what I enjoy while I am unwinding.”

She says that she got into acting during her high school days, crediting a theatre group called Planet Theatre, which visited her secondary school and nurtured her talent early on.

“I was curious so I asked one of them for their number. Within two months, I was on stage with them. Initially, I wanted to be a lawyer - do high school here and go to Makerere for Form Five and Six and study law after that, but life happened.”

She adds: “Lucky enough I was talented enough to do this.”

Nice does not like anchoring her career onto one specific moment, and says that with every new role, it feels like “yet another big break.”

“The first time I thought ‘this is it, and I wanted more. And then I got into theatre and felt that it was time to try out TV. And after that, it was a film. It always feels new. Even now when I get back to the theatre I will find something new. I do not think I am there yet - with every project I am realising something new.”

She traces her love for acting to her days in school, recalling that although she felt that she was always a “chubby baby”, her confidence was never shaken.

“I was obese for most of the primary school until like Class Seven. In high school, I was very much into drama - I was the first chairperson for drama at our school in Form Two,” she says.

On her current projects, the actress lists several films in the works. There is Midnight Van written by Nick Ndeda.

“It is about the culpability of the media when it comes to reporting on post-election violence. You might think it is about politicians, but it is more about how we do not sieve information as Kenyans,” she says.

“I am also doing this - which we cannot talk about yet, but it will be on Showmax. I was also on the cast of Country Queen, which is one of the biggest films at the moment.”

“I just produced a play with Nyokabi Macharia. We just started a company called Shots From Africa Collective. We started online but we recently had our first in-person play, How To Have An Affair - A Cheater’s Guide. It had rave reviews,” Githinji adds.

Aside from multiple ongoing works, she says that all her work is available on Showmax and Netflix.

“As for theatre, I will be on stage again in October for I Will Marry When I Want, or Ngaahika Ndeenda. By the end of the year, Shots From Africa is coming back with a curated shot play festival.”

The actress looks to the future of her career with excitement and hope - she is looking to take home awards and learn from her predecessors.

“Of course, I want an Emmy, I want an Oscar, and I want awards that will show recognition from the African continent. Is there such a thing as a Pan African Actors’ Award?” she jokes.

“I feel the need to be recognised within Africa well enough because I think that sells me to the rest of the world. Africa comes first.”

A word of advice to young actors from Nice is to take the craft up for the right reasons. If you are here to create a name and make a stamp in the industry, then just be extremely clear of the work you pick and the stuff you put out there because the internet does not forget.”

The actress says that her biggest moment so far has been appearing on Netflix Global, but she still has not forgotten the beauty of some of her first awards.

“Ideally, I have won an award for almost everything I have done. Winning Best Lead Actress for my role in Changing Times, 2011 was a big moment. It was the first time, it felt great and it was the start of many more.”

 

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