Stella Njoroge must have been told to show mischief when acting Tahidi High and she paused for a while before turning full mischievous. When she is in her element, monkeys that are proverbially the most mischievous animals must be sitting down to take notes.
But it is all a good thing. She is among the most googled Tahidi High characters and one of the actors who bring fire to the evergreen series. She had an interview with Media Critic Kenya’s DAVID MWENDA.
So, who is Stella Njoroge?
She is an actress in Tahidi High with a character name Maya — who is very mischievous. She is also a student at Kenya school of Mass Communication pursuing film production.
How was it getting into Tahidi High?
It wasn’t easy. It started when I did my Form Four and I had a passion for acting since way back. So, after high school, I started trying auditions mostly at KNT [Kenya National Theatre]. I went to more than 20 auditions with none being successful and I almost gave up. But giving up is never in my dictionary; so, one day in a certain audition, I met a guy called Bob –bless you, Bob — and I asked him where Tahidi was located and he directed me.
I took myself there and, luckily, I found that they were doing an audition in a week’s time. Luckily, that day I went and I was picked. Don’t forget the auditions had more than 100 people but they picked 12. God was with me.
Maya is a very mischievous character in Tahidi High. Would you call yourself mischievous?
[Laughs] Nah. But when I meet people, they say I look mischievous. I am not. Maya is crazy but Stella is a sweet girl.
So, people confuse you and your character?
Yes. They say my face looks like a mischievous person and some say that the character comes so natural so there might be a small part of me that is mischievous. But, no.
Tahidi High was one of the TV shows that set the pace for most TV shows. Do you normally feel that pressure to keep it as one of the best shows in Kenya?
Yes. that pressure is there, especially when people start to compare you with the likes OJ, the ones who started the show. So, you feel like you need to put more effort and make sure it remains at the top and it’s now more than 10 years since it started and it’s still one of the best shows in the station and everywhere. So, I would say people are doing a good job including our producer, script writers cast and the crew. And thanks to our fans for supporting us.
Speaking of OJ (Dennis Mugo), he came back to the show. How do you feel working with someone who was there since day one?
First, it’s a dream-come-true since I started seeing him way back when I was in primary school and I wished I could work with him one day. It was my dream to act in Tahidi High and acting with him is so cool since he is a very good actor and I get to learn a lot from him.
What’s the one thing acting has taught you?
I enjoy every opportunity in front of a camera; the opportunity to bring a character into life is the best thing I could ever imagine. From it, I have gained a lot of confidence in front of people that I go to high schools to talk to people about acting as a passion and motivating them and encouraging them.
What should the Kenyan film industry do to go to the next level?
I believe Kenya is a wonderful place and we have people here who have great talent. I guess the first thing is that people should go back to school. Even when you have the talent to act, there is so much to learn there. Then they should make sure the quality of the movies we produce is good because that’s one thing we need to check. Lastly, some actors should be paid their worth.
So, to you, talent should be supplemented with some knowledge of the industry?
Yes, it should. Because even in Hollywood, you go to school to learn acting even if you have the talent. But here, we don’t do that. In my case, for instance, I’m not the same as before I went to school. You just learn a lot of things.
Things such as?
You look at acting not only in an actor’s side but also in a director’s and producer’s point of view.
Alright, let’s talk about you now. What’s the hardest thing you are struggling with right now?
Eating healthy [laughs]. What do you mean?
Yes it’s what I mean. So, what’s the definition of healthy eating to you?
Eating a heavy meal for breakfast, not much lunch time and smoothies or fruits for supper. But as for me, I’m on a “see food” diet: I see food and I eat.
I got trust issue too. Trusting people is a bit hard for me, and it was my secret. Now I guess it’s no longer a secret.
What’s the last book you read?
I’m currently reading the success principles by Jack Canfield.
What is it about?
It’s about taking 100% responsibility of yourself, knowing what you want, believing in yourself, being consistent in what you are doing and to go get it, learning to ask when you need help, experiencing our fears but taking action anyway. The fear we don’t face becomes our limit.
Would you say self consciousness is important to avoid mental illness?
Yes, because you will understand yourself better and no one can bring you down.
Speaking of bringing you down, how do you normally handle negative criticism?
I guess I have had negative criticism since way back when I was in high school; so, they don’t bother me anymore. I guess I have developed a thick skin and I don’t let the criticism get into my head. I have so many things to take care of and to deal with; so I have no time for them.
Then no one understands my journey and the struggles I have been through; so I cannot let anything bring me down.
If you were to talk to the 17-year-old you, what would you tell her?
All great achievements take time; so don’t look for shortcuts. When your fail, you learn a lesson. Discover your passion and follow it. Be consistent and let nothing stop you from achieving it.
What are you looking forward to 10 years from now, career-wise?
I want to be a producer and I’m working on some project this year. It is all about giving my all and risking. I want to have my own production house.