Welcome to the fascinating world of Kenya, a nation that boasts a stunning array of wildlife and an impressive track record in the Olympics. But that’s not all – this East African gem is also home to a long line of remarkable individuals who have left their mark on the world stage.
And did you know that Kenya has a deep-rooted connection to Hollywood? For almost eight decades, Kenyan performers have graced the silver screen with their talent and charm.
So, grab some popcorn and get ready to be amazed as we take you on a journey through the captivating world of Kenyan talent in Hollywood. Here’s a list of some of the biggest names that have made their mark in Tinseltown.
For more than 40 years, Raymond Ofula has worked as a professional actor in Kenya and other countries. Tomb Raider II with Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie, White Maasai, To Walk with the Lions, the Constant Gardner, and hundreds of local Kenyan films are just a few of the worldwide (Hollywood) movies he has appeared in.
Ofula has also appeared in Kenyan television shows like Mali, Tabasamu, Changes, Nairobi Law, Makutano Junction, Better Days, and Noah Meli’s Heart and Soul.
Additionally, he appeared in the popular South African-Nigerian TV series Jacobs Cross and the German TV show Wintereiss. Ofula’s first significant part was Noah Meli, a bedridden grandfather with assistive devices who counsels his adolescent grandson on leading a moral life after disclosing his illness.
He most recently played Mr Opiyo in the 1988 Tufilamu Pictures short film and Mwalimu in Country Queen.
Lupita Amondi Nyong’o was born March 1, 1983, in Mexico City, Mexico, to Kenyan parents, Dorothy Ogada Buyu and Peter Anyang’ Nyong’o.
After majoring in film studies at Hampshire College in Massachusetts and working as a production assistant on several movies, she went on to complete the acting program at the Yale School of Drama.
She made an impression on moviegoers in 2013 when she made her acting debut as the brutalized slave Patsey in the critically acclaimed film 12 Years a Slave by Steve McQueen (2013).
She also played the lead in the critically acclaimed MTV drama series Shuga (2009), made an appearance in the suspenseful 2014 movie Non-Stop, and will play supporting characters in the high-profile 2015 movies The Jungle Book and Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2016).
As part of her theatrical resume, Lupita has performed as “Perdita” in “The Winter’s Tale” (Yale Repertory Theater), “Sonya” in “Uncle Vanya,” “Katherine” in “The Taming of the Shrew,” and “Elijah” in its original staging. Lupita also portrayed Nakia, the movie’s female lead, in Black Panther (2018).
Lenny Juma first appeared in Hollywood’s Tomb Raider: Cradle of Life before he became widely known for the Shuga and Mali series, where he served as the casting director.
Juma portrays the Turkana elder that Angelina Jolie’s character Lara meets in order to learn more about the Cradle of Life, which is rumored to be the location of the mythical Pandora’s Box.
He has also appeared in the Constant Gardener and The Air Up There. He portrays the witch doctor in the Indiana Jones Chronicles and Colonel Bao in Banged Up Abroad.
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Charles Gitonga Maina
Charles Gitonga Maina is a 6’10” Kenyan actor best known for co-starring in The Air Up There. He was born in 1976. On the movie’s set, Saleh, played by Maina, learns the “Jimmy Dolan Shake and Bake,” a basketball move that helped his team win.
Additionally, Maina appeared as Professor Obatu and his ancestor Deucalion in the SeaQuest DSV episode “Lostland” as a guest star.
From 1997 to 1999, Charles Gitonga Maina attended Lynn University for his undergraduate studies on a basketball scholarship.
In competition games, his coach forbade him from employing the “Jimmy Dolan Shake and Bake” move. The 11 blocks that Maina registered against Barry University on December 7, 1998, remain the record for Lynn University. He left the country to test out for a team in Greece, but owing to visa issues, he was unable to come back to the US. He has since traveled back to Kenya.
Owiso Odera was cast in The Originals, a Vampire Diaries spin-off. But he passed away in 2016. He was a Los Angeles-based actor whose television credits include Romeo and Juliet (the Public Theater/New York Shakespeare Festival), The Unit, and Blue Bloods (CBS).
Oyaya, who was formerly a model, is only represented on this list because of the Star Wars character she portrayed in two Star Wars films. She portrayed Luminara Unduliin, a Jedi Master, in Attack of the Clones from the Star Wars saga.
She is a world traveler who was born in Kenya and has lived in Sweden, Canada, Australia, and Kenya.
Hollywood’s go-to actor for Kiswahili lines is Benjamin Ochieng’. After appearing in between 50 and 60 roles as an extra, he informed the X-Files associate director that he spoke Swahili, and three minutes later, he was hired for his first speaking role.
He is currently a successful actor with an extensive career, and he is quickly building a reputation as a producer and sound editor.
Ochieng’ has appeared in 20 films, including Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D as a voice actor. He has also had positions on film crews as a sound editor and a writer. Additionally, he directed two short movies, MISSInformed and Mr. Brewers Difficult Day (2011),(2013) respectfully.
Edie Mue Gathegi
Gathegi, who was born in Nairobi on March 10, 1979, has appeared in films such as Twilight, X-Men First Class, Crank (2006), House, and Gone Baby Gone (2007). (2008). In Crank (2006), Death Sentence, The Fifth Patient, Gone Baby Gone, House, Twilight, and The Blacklist, he had numerous appearances.
After hurting his knee while playing basketball, he decided to pursue acting because it was an easy course. Understandably, when he first went to audition for the part of Laurent, he had not even read the Twilight novels and was unaware that the character was a vampire.