Lizz Njagah, stage and TV and film actress, co-founder of Historia Films, a production company.
Roles you played in 'Makutano Junction', 'Return of Lazarus', 'Saints' and now 'Pearls of Africa' ... do you have a thing for serious roles?
From these roles, people tend to think I am serious. I enjoyed portraying the roles. I was fortunate to land a non-serious role of Tare Duke in 'Tinsel'. The role gave me the chance to be fun and crazy.
This fun role also gave you the chance to work with Nigerian actors. Anything you have learned that can be of use in Kenya’s film industry?
The actors and actresses have created brands of themselves. They take acting as a serious business and they show up to functions dressed up. Their image does not end on-screen.
How did you land the role of Tess in the 2015 feature film 'Pearls of Africa'?
I auditioned and the producer told me I landed the role because they wanted a person who could fit in a role as a 30-year-old and all the way through to 50 years as the story is that progressive. It was interesting to just be on set. It was refreshing to work with people who have never acted before.
An established actress like yourself who has been in the industry for almost two decades, you audition for roles?
I still audition. There are occasions where I get calls for a role. With the international movie makers flying into the country to look for cast, they will not care who Lizz Njagah is until I prove myself.
Starting your career at the Kenya National Theatre, how was the transition from stage to the screens?
It was tough because screen is much smaller and I was used to being on stage. I have all these technical books on acting that I had to read and still read.
You co-founded Historia Films with your director husband Alex Konstantaras. What is it like working with him?
The only time I fight with my husband is when we are working. In the beginning, it was challenging for both of us since we had our different opinions on things. We have learnt to use our strengths to cover for our weaknesses. Aside from work, my husband and I laugh a lot, we do not take ourselves seriously.
How do the two of you search for talent as cast in your films?
We go to theatres. We feel that holding auditions might not show one’s capability to act due to tension. I was all tensed up whenever I would go for auditions years ago. Theatres are a more relaxed environment and we spot talented people when acting on stage.
Two years ago, you released a trailer to 'Meet the Konstantaras' with your husband. We have not heard much about the reality show.
Another party showed interest in the show and proposed to do it differently. We have one full episode and taking it by steps. We are shooting another reality show called 'First Ladies' with myself, an actress from Ghana and two others from Nigeria.
Your feature film 'House of Lungula' received applause as well as criticisms. Do you feel the Kenyan audience is ready for such films?
I hear shocking stories from people calling in morning radio shows. What we capture in film happens. My role as a film maker is to hold a mirror to society, and telling a Kenyan story has all sorts of aspects in it; good and bad.
Something about Kenyan stories, what is your opinion on foreigners telling Kenyan stories such as 'Out of Africa' and more recently the documentary 'Terror at the Mall'?
Hollywood has exhausted almost all stories in America and they look for fresh stories in other countries. It is easier for them to get investors ready to fund the films. For 'Terror at the Mall', coming from an independent eye, I think he was in a safe place to film it. He is not from Kenya and if any one gets rubbed the wrong way, they cannot hunt him down. About five of our stories have been told by foreigners. There are still so many Kenyan stories to be told.
What is your opinion on the recent ban of the Kenyan docu-drama 'Stories of our Lives' and a horror film 'Otto: The Blood Bath'?
Banning is archaic. Movies can be rated for strict viewership around a certain age. Ironically, banning of a film boosts its popularity and people rush to find ways to get their hands on them.
You have been an actress for two decades now, what are the transitions that have taken place over the years?
Acting is now taken as a respectable profession. People call me up to see if their children can act for a film. The level to which parents support their child actors is amazing. The 60 per cent coverage of local content has also seen the growing numbers of series. We should as well produce as many feature films.
What beauty regimen to do you abide by for such a striking dark skin?
I drink two and a half litres of water every day. That, and my mother’s good genes. For my overall look, it is about having a glam squad who tell me what to dress, which make-up to apply and so on. I have to look good in the public eye, my career is beyond the screens.
What is next for Lizz for, let’s say, six years to come?
I want to make more comedy feature films on low budget. Life is too serious already; I want to make the audience laugh. I am also looking forward to having two children.
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