Award winning actor, film director and producer Gitura Kamau talks about his craft
Tuesday, February 9th, 2021
Gitura Kamau aka GK is a Kenyan actor, film director and producer. He has starred in films such as Lusala, Marshall of Finland, African Tashdat, Stars of Africa and Family Meeting. Late last year, he won the Best Lead Actor at the Kalasha International Films and TV Awards for his role as Jesse in Family Meeting. He chats with Jasmine Atieno about his craft.
Briefly tell us about yourself.
I was born 48 years ago in Murang’a, as the first born in a family of three. I schooled at Dagoretti High School in Nairobi, and that’s where my passion for film started.
My two parents are teachers, but my extended family has a lot of artists, so art is very much in the family. I am also a lover of jazz music.
When and how did your acting career begin?
I have been pursing artistic endeavours as long as I can remember. Immediately after high school I joined a professional theatre outfit called Theatre Workshop Production in a time that stage acting was vibrant and engaging.
That’s where most of my skill in acting was honed. Studying film and television also helped in sharpening my understanding and appreciation of acting as a craft.
That’s how I managed to transition from acting and into film directing.
Being in the industry for nearly two decades, how have the scenes evolved?
It has been an interesting time. Back in the 90s, the film industry was not as massive as it is now, and there were just few local programmes on TV, predominantly on KBC.
At the time, making a film was an expensive venture. Then of course technology rapidly changed the landscape; the internet helped and equipment became digital, and it’s been evolving since.
Unfortunately, that same development seems to have crippled stage performances, now being left to novices who want to bridge their years before the transition into careers that are thought to be more lucrative.
It’s exciting to see that more people are now interested in performing arts as a career and huge work is being put in to make that a lasting reality.
Do you have a favourite in the films and shows you’ve featured in?
Not really. For a long time, I preferred being behind the camera. I was not too keen being the lead actor in the films.
And even when I did, I only appeared in cameo roles. Just a couple of years ago, a bug bit me into venturing into film again, and I must say I had missed the adrenaline that actors go through bringing a character to life.
That does not mean that I have been quiet all along though. I enjoyed my time doing TV drama at the onset of the TV revolution in the country.
How was the experience playing Jesse the black sheep of the family in Family Meeting?
I really enjoyed playing the role. In many ways I could relate with Jesse, which was also my greatest challenge.
Some of the seemingly easy roles to play are usually the most emotionally draining. I can say that the film went with a piece of me, and I a piece of it.
We got even, and perhaps that’s why it raised so much interest and an award.
Actually, I was pleasantly surprised when I won the award because most of the actors I was nominated with were exceptional in the roles they played.
What was the inspiration behind your short film Only You?
Last year was a difficult in many ways for artistes due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
When we faced our first lockdown, I almost lost it mentally not knowing what to do with the time I had on my hands.
Like most people, I tried almost everything, but my strengths are in the arts. So, I decided to try writing a vignette (a brief evocative episode) expressing my thoughts on the pandemic.
Humanising the virus to bring to fore the vagaries of the pandemic was interesting to me, and a welcome way of telling the Ccovid-19 story, hence Only You.
Your future plans...
I’d be happy to do another film, or two. I’m, however keen on finishing the Covid-19 series that I am working on.
There are also a lot of training opportunities that are coming up, and I’d like to be a part of them.
A piece of advise for aspiring actors.
Practice makes perfect. Success is never achieved overnight; keep at it. Talent is good, but you have to put in the hours to make it to experience.