In 2013, Brendan Ndubai joined Tahidi High to play Jacob, a character whose sneakiness and playfulness always invites trouble. He joined the show at a watershed period when the original cast had been removed. Media Critic Kenya’s DAVID MWENDA caught up with him for a chat on his career and his thoughts on Kenya’s film industry.
Who is Brendan?
Brendan is me (laughter). Brendan Ndubai is my full name.
What is the most memorable thing you did when you were 18?
(Pause)I do not want to lie to you. I do not remember that well.
So, where did you grow up?
I was born in Meru and, according to my mother, we did not even spend the night in hospital. I was brought up in Kahawa West and then later moved to Membley. So, basically, that is where I grew up most of the time. But now I live in Juja.
How did you get into acting?
I got into acting in primary school. I was at Kanyakine, a boarding school. This is where I discovered my talent. It was actually my teacher of English who discovered that and made me pursue it. After secondary school, I got into theatre and that is how Tahidi High got into the picture.
When did you join Tahidi High?
You guys sort of rebranded last year and changed the story line a bit?
Tahidi High has had a bit of changes. In 2013, we were added onto the team after the likes of OJ left the show. So, last year, we added some new people to the team. I would not call it rebranding; just a few team additions.
Speaking of new actors, you are working with people who started the show. I am talking about Angel Waruinge (Miss Morgan) and Dennis Mugo (OJ). How does it feel working with them?
I would say it’s through God and it is so fulfilling. Growing up, I always wanted to work with the likes of OJ and joining him on set sounds like a dream-come-true. It is a fulfilling journey.
Speaking of change, the Kenyan film industry is changing. Do we keep on criticising and forget the good part?
Definitely, I have to say that we are slowly growing. Anyone who critiques the Kenyan film industry as not growing is really not seeing the strides that we have made as an industry. We are constantly getting better.
You are in Tahidi High currently. Any other projects you are working on?
Definitely, I am working on some new things but I am not going to jinx them so I’ll just say: Yes, definitely we are getting there.
You are also big on Instagram?
I am? (Laughter) Tell me more.
Yes you are. Should we be anticipating for these talents on social media as new people to get into the film industry?
Definitely. Social media is the next big thing. It appeals to everyone in the country and not just in Nairobi. Because everyone is adapting to social media and it appeals to people who do not have time to watch TV. It is definitely something we need to embrace.
Which is your favourite Kenyan movie right now?
(Pause) Well, there are many and I have to choose very carefully: Super Modo.
What is your favourite scene?
When they created an illusion of her flying. I think that was a great illusion to me, considering we don’t see those kinds of effects often in our films, plus it was neat.
You seem like a religious person?
I would not say religious; I am a godly person who believes in God, the supernatural being that is there to take care of us. About the religious part that is a story for another day. But yes, I do believe in God.
If you were to have….
Do you want to ask if I were to have super powers?
No, I was going to ask: If you were to star in a movie with three of your favorite actors in Kenya, who would they be?
Mkamzee Mwatela, (pause) Raymond Ofula and (pause) Shrileen Wangari.
People see you on social media with a lot of glam. What do you normally tell people to differentiate between the Brendan on social media and the one in real life?
People do not usually post their entire life on social media. People post when they are in good places and eating good food. People rarely take bad photos and post them. I would like to tell people when you see Brendan and when you see Mwenda but do not try to copy them. Copy the best things — or, rather — borrow the best things from people. I normally post things that bring about a positive energy in life not that I do not go through any problem but because I choose to focus on the bright side.
Are you happy?
Yes, I am a very happy person.
Why are you happy?
Well, due to a lot of things. I am very happy about everything. I choose to look at life that way. I feel like my acting career is getting fulfilled. I am just thankful to God for everything that is why I am happy.