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I got into theatre by accident

By SHIRLEY GENGA | June 27th 2012


JANET KIRINA, 26, was a musician, went into acting then got back into music after a major heartbreak. She spoke to SHIRLEY GENGA

You won the Kalasha Awards for?best female actress in 2009 and since then, you have been on the downlow; what have you been up to?

                            Janet Kirina

I have not gone underground. I have just not been on the TV screen for a year or more. I have reached the point where I know what I am looking for. I did not want to settle for just any role. I wanted a role that was different. I have been working on a number of projects including my music career and also training in production.

What did winning the award do for your career?

An award means a lot; it is like getting your degree or diploma. It not only means that people appreciate my work, but it also gives you an edge — you get better roles.

How did you get into the entertainment world?

I have been in the industry for about six years. I got into theatre accidentally after finishing high school. It was that period when I was idle and waiting for my high school results. Someone suggested that I go to the Kenya National Theatre for auditions. I did and got the role of Jessica in The Merchant of Venice. The rest is history. After that, I got the chance to act in Benta, Makutano Junction, Higher Learning and Block D. I also got to produce the film All Girls Together. In 2010, I acted in the film Kafuru, it is still in post-production.

Did you stop acting on stage after making a breakthrough on the screen?

I did not act in a play for five years but last year, I acted in the play Disturbia. I was a little scared to get back on stage but I enjoyed the experience. So, I have not closed that door — if I get an opportunity and I like the script. 

The local entertainment industry is changing. Singers are branching into movies but you are branching from film into music, tell us about that…

Mine was a conscious decision. I began to record last year. I have always loved to sing. When I was younger, I sang in church and school.

What inspired you to get back into music?

It was heartbreaking and that got me writing. I had dated my ex for a long time and then it ended badly. Doing music was a way to heal. I ended up with my first single, Love Mission last year.

How would you describe your music?

It is a lot of pop. I wanted a sound that was fun and that I could get a little wild with.

Like Beyoncé you have a music alter ego, tell us about that…

My alter ego is called Nariki, the reverse of my name Kirina. I have always been a shy person but when I got to the studio, this other side of me came to life. When it comes to acting, my alter egos are the characters who I embody to tell? a story.

Back in 2009, you got the chance to be a producer in the girl power film, All Girls Together, was that a one-off or do you intend to produce in future?

I made the movie All Girls Together with my friends; Nice Githinji and Janet Madiangi. At the time, we were barely 22. We wanted to change the portrayal of women on screens and show the things the independent Kenyan woman goes through. To fund the movie, we begged and borrowed. I was used to being the actress who just read her lines and sat down for make-up but being a producer was different and required more work. We worked hard to make the film work. It was messy — we would get up early and get back home late in the night, but it was worth it.

What lessons did you learn as a producer?

Producing is difficult. We also learnt about proper distribution channel for movies in Kenya. At the time, we did not know where to begin with marketing or distribution of our film but with time, we learnt the ropes.

You are about to go behind the cameras again as a producer, tell us a little about that?

I will soon produce My Life in Crime, My Life in Prison and My life with a Criminal. They were popular books when I was growing up but I never read them. About a year ago I went to a local bookshop to look for African literature, I found My Life with a Criminal, and by the time I got to chapter five, I knew I had to make a movie. I am working on the project with Neil Schell. We do not want to do something haphazardly; we want to make something good, on a good budget.

We then began to scout for a scriptwriter and Serah Mwihaki did a wonderful job. The script is in the final stages of editing. I am also training in production at Media E. This time, I do not want to leave anything to chance — I want to give my all when I get behind the camera.

What of acting, have you taken a break for good?

No, I will be back soon even as soon as next month.

What of your album?

I am working with Ogopa to produce my second single. The video will be coming out soon.

You held a celebrity charity event about a week ago, what inspired you?

Earlier in the year, a friend took me to visit Compassionate Hands for the Disabled Foundation in Ruai. I met disabled orphans and was moved by their plight. The kids barely had any wheelchairs and the home was struggling to provide basic needs.

Giving back to society is not about having millions; it is about giving a bob when you have ten bob. That is what inspired me to start ‘Media Tulee Mtoto Charity Initiative’. We held an event at Le Vance were able to raise more than Sh100,000 for the kids.

What are your future plans?

I would love to continue with my initiative and do an annual event for the home. I also hope to do more movies as an actress and producer, and release an album.

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