There are veterans in Kenya’s film industry. Those who have bagged multiple awards and become household names. And then, there are young stars who have joined the scene with a bang, making notable steps in their careers.
We explore some fresh faces that are shining brightly as they start and grow their careers in film.
Annstella Karimi has been around for a while, having started her career with her debut role on Hapa Kule News on KTN in 2015. Today, the spotlight is shining brighter than ever on the young star, who has cemented her position as a talented actor through her consistency.
Annstella played Eva in the original Kenyan film Baba Twins, and she took home the Best Supporting Actress in a Film award at the Kalasha Awards last year. This was her first accolade as an actress.
“I was so confused because I didn’t expect it. I have been in the industry for seven years, no nomination, no award,” she said in an interview.
She also spoke about perfecting her craft by trying out new things.
“I was once told if you’re acting, and you feel the need to do something the director didn’t tell you, just do it. If it’s wrong then you’ll be corrected.”
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The actor had his first lead role on the Showmax series Pepeta, where he plays Junior.
The 21-year-old began his career in commercials and independent films and has also featured on shows like My Two Wives (KTN) and Maria (Citizen).
In an interview early this year, he opened up about the thrill of working on Pepeta and how it has sharpened his acting skills.
“There were so many great actors auditioning for the part, and I was honestly afraid of not getting it. Only a few friends reminded me not to doubt my potential.”
He added: “Learning about the character was exciting. The challenges he faced while pursuing his dreams were somewhat similar to what I was going through during my audition.”
Another Pepeta alum, Dedan Juma is impressive in his bad-guy role as Zeze.
His upbringing and road to career success was a difficult one. He has spoken in the past about struggling to make ends meet and losing his mother during the audition period.
In an exclusive interview with The Standard last year, he said: “When I went for the Pepeta audition in March, I was stuck between attending the audition and feeding my mum. The nurses were not feeding her and I was the one who would do it every day.
“To attend the audition, I paid someone Sh200 to feed her that day, because I wanted to get this job and make her life better and even afford the hospital bill.”
Looking to the future, he added, “I have this passion for the craft, and I want to show it. I have been thinking of what I can do in the industry.”
Stephanie Muchiri is a model and actress attracting attention with her roles on local shows like Second Family, Chaguo, Paa and Crime and Justice.
The 23-year-old rising star spoke about how acting has impacted her life in an interview last month on KTN Home.
“I can express myself through my craft. I love how I can play different people and experience different things on set. For example, when I was playing Malkia, we were shooting at Mathare Hospital, and before then I had never been there.”
Stephanie added: “It was so interesting to interact with the local people there and listen to their experiences. I think that exposure is so important so that you can be open-minded and play your role better too.”
The actress said she learns a lot from all her roles, noting that she enjoyed watching plays growing up and that it opened her up to different cultures, allowing her to easily take on diverse roles.
Foi Wambui is not only a popular influencer, she’s proving to be an equally great actress. She has taken on roles in a number of local productions including Sincerely Daisy, Crime and Justice and Salem.
She scooped up the Best Supporting Actress in a Film award during the Kalasha Awards in 2020 for her role as Lisa on Sincerely Daisy, and last year, she took home the award for Best Supporting Actress in a TV Drama for her role as Arielle Mufasa in Salem. In an exclusive interview with The Standard last year, she said: “Winning the Best Actress in a TV Drama brings quite a different vibe from what I felt when I won Best Actress in a Film. See, a TV show comes with many episodes and as people follow your character, they might get bored and say no.
“In a TV series, it is easy to get exhausted getting through say episodes one to 50. The way you express yourself might change through this journey. A film is different as it is short and just that. This win is an affirmation. It is bigger.”
Speaking about her film journey, she said: “I was a smart student and growing up I wanted to become many things. From Law, I decided to pursue Mass Communication and since my parents agreed to my request, I was glad to get my mind to a film career.
“So far, I think I have done the whole nine yards. Acting is a passion. I have at times found myself acting for free. Currently, it is coming with some financial freedom and making sense as a career.”
Another beloved internet personality with a passion and undeniable talent for acting is Manasseh Nyagah. Manasseh was first cast as an extra on Changing Times, and this would kick-start his career in TV and film.
Nation reported in 2021: “After taking a break for two years in 2014, he featured in TV projects like The Trap House, Varshitah, Uradi and most recently, Famous which is currently showing on Showmax.”
He told the publication: “I knew I wanted to be an actor and in media because it is the one thing that intrigued me while growing up – not sports, not gaming, just TV and radio. Upon joining school, I hopped into the drama club. I was part of the National Drama Festivals throughout Primary School, and a part of the winning play twice.”
More rising stars include Fatma Mohamed (Faithless), Ellah Maina (Sincerely Daisy) and Brian Abajah (Mission To Rescue/Sincerely Daisy).