Up close with Muthoni Thiong’o, one of Tahidi High’s hottest actresses

Actress Muthoni Thiong’o.

Media Critic Kenya’s DAVID MWENDA says: “When I first saw Muthoni Thiong’o acting on Tahidi High, she killed the role she had been given. She was playing a secretary who had just replaced Jennifer. The secretary, however, blew her chance when she decided to Snapchat on the school’s desk as the deputy watched her.”

From there, her role has shifted to being involved in a love triangle between her, OJ, Omosh and Teacher Rohan.

Muthoni has had an illustrious career. She is a producer, a script writer, an actor and a model. Keen viewers of Kenyan film will also remember her for her role in Santalal, a programme that ran on Citizen TV.

Long story short, she is doing everything in the industry. DAVID had a chat with her.

You play the role of what people would call a “slay queen” in your opening episode of Tahidi High. Did you get judged for it? 

Of course. Mostly, viewers believe you’re similar to the character you play. But, can we try and define this term “slay queen”? Everyone has their own answer.

So, to you, what does this term mean? Let’s start there.

 This is a term that was stolen from women trying to appreciate themselves on social media and was used against them. It was invented and used by the female species. It started by captioning “slay/ slayer/ slaying” then “queen/ queening” on photos. Someone thought of combining the words and giving it a negative meaning. If you want to describe a certain woman negatively, do it without generalising. Apparently, every “slay queen” is pretty. Let’s style up.

Describe a childhood memory you are very fond of up to now.

 I grew up with boys. So, most of the games I played were boy games. I remember my elder brother teaching me how to ride a bike. I was about 10 and I fell so many times. He never let me give up. I recall him saying the wounds will be a great memory. Sometimes, I use that analogy in life.

Actress Muthoni Thiong’o. COURTESY

So you were like a tomboy?

I have been a tomboy for long. Acting kinda changed me. 

  What is your worst fear?

 I have a few: losing my true self, failure and dying without living up to my potential.

When will you say you have reached your potential?

 We keep discovering ourselves every day. There is so much I know I can do and haven’t done yet. Our purposes are human-connected. So, as long as I fulfill mine, I will have lived up to my potential.

 What would make a perfect date for you?

 For me, it’s not where it takes place or the activity but the person. First “real” impressions matter a lot.

What does first real impression imply in that context?

Bring YOU mahn. I hate “too nice” at first sight.

So, is there someone who has managed to do this?

Haha, I saw this coming.

You did?

How do I answer that? I keep my personal life, especially dating, very personal.

 What are you looking forward to in your 40s? 

 Though I set my goals every day, I should have a stable production company. I should have told a good number of our stories.

Are we telling our stories as much as we want in Kenya?

 To be honest, we are getting there. I believe we have so much to do. For example, I haven’t given my family’s story. I am sure yours hasn’t been done as well. You know what I am saying? Everyone has a story. 

Uriru wa Wendo is one of Kenya’s programmes that are produced in Kikuyu. Would you say Kenyans need to embrace this kind of acting?

Acting in kikuyu is not a different type of acting. If I give you the same script in French then in English, what would change? Nothing; only the language changes.  The art remains.

Still on that, how do you normally counter the notion that the show is divisive because other people won’t be able to watch it?

 We are lucky to be so many in this world. We have different tastes, mannerisms and speak different languages. There is different content for everyone. Uriru wa Wendo appeals to one tribe mostly. though I have a few fans who are not Kikuyu but struggle through the episodes. They say they get a bit of it. Story is key. Think about the stuff you have watched reading from the subtitles. Guys are appreciating shows done in local languages now. We have content from almost every Kenyan language now. Viusasa has done it. 

 You worked with Desmond Elliot on a Kenyan TV series Santalal. How was it working with him and what was the biggest take-home you got from him?

I was never on set with Desmond because our paths never crossed in the script. My character (Cathy) joined the show when he was leaving. From my colleagues, I gathered he is good at what he does, and very professional. Since I was part of the writing panel, I would second that. He nailed the role.

Actress Muthoni Thiong’o. COURTESY

Body self-awareness is important is the modelling industry. Are you coming close to that?

 Guys are embracing body fitness. Look at how full your local gym is. The healthy eating movement is going round. And have you been to Karura forest in the morning? I am happy to see different body types being given a chance now on the runways and different platforms that involve modelling. It would be unfair since Africans are known to be curvaceous. 

 One of the stories in Santalal was about early marriage. Would you say it managed to evoke a conversation on ending child marriages?

Sure. TV is a ready platform to evoke conversations.

You write for Stringed, the programme that runs on KBC. How did you feel when some of its characters got nominations for Kalasha Awards in 2018?

The recognition was a plus in my career.

Have you read Michelle Obama’s Becoming?

I am about to.

Would you consider doing a documentary on her? 

Yes. Strong-willed women are an inspiration to everyone, including future generations.

What would you tell someone who would want to get into the creative arts? 

Come, get in. The business will always be in need of fresh ideas. 

Actress Muthoni Thiong’o (Centre) and part of the Tahidi High cast. COURTESY.

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