HOW ACTRESS JACKY VIKE GOT HER BIG BREAK AGAINST ALL ODDS
From her start as a star of Kenyan schools drama festivals, Jacky Vike has taken her talent and run with it. Today she is a well known actress with roles on leading TV shows, award winning films, and online productions.
You may have seen her on NTV in Wash and Set playing Mildred, the naughty school girl who specialises in spreading rumours. Or you might have watched her playing the housegirl in Papa Shirandula on Citizen TV. And surely you could not have missed her playing a twilight girl in Nairobi Half Life. You might have even seen her on YouTube co-starring in the current web series called Simiyu Samurai. But if you have not yet watched Jacky Vike playing the young orphan and heroine Roxana in the latest SAFE film production, Ni Sisi, then you have not yet seen her acting in a role that allows her to spread her theatrical wings fully and fly out into a realm where she soars as one of Kenya’s most promising young actresses. Jacky has only been acting professionally for a few years, having taken a leap of faith when she was just 18 to pursue a career that her parents did not approve of, but which she wanted passionately to try.
“It was only my secondary school drama teacher who felt I had talent and should go for it,” she said. Fortunately, once she auditioned and got a part acting in set books and travelling around the country with Theatrix Arts Ensemble, she got her family’s approval. And since then, she has not only worked with some of Kenya’s finest stage, film, radio, and TV producers and directors, from Tosh Gitonga, Tom Tykwer (Nairobi Half Life), and Kamau wa Ndung’u to Nick Reding (Ni Sisi) to David Aliwa (Theatrix Arts) and Peter Mudamba (KBC radio) to Sammy Mwangi and Victor Ber (Heartstrings Kenya). She has acted in many plays, from Shakespeare and Catejan Boy to scripts collectively devised by Heartstrings Kenya and SAFE Ghetto.
She has also acted at the Kenya National Theatre, local prime time TV, to schools, churches, and social halls around the country. What is more, she has not only been with Theatrix Arts, she has also worked with The Theatre Company (TTC) when Keith Pearson cast her in a musical (which she helped choreograph) and took his cast all around the Rift Valley as part of the company’s annual Fire by Ten Drama Festival.
From stage to film
And more than a year before Ni Sisi was made into the film that premiered right before Kenya’s March 4 General Election, Jacky was playing the strong, discerning Roxana while performing the same script live for literally thousands of Kenyans who came out all over the land to see S.A.F.E Kenya’s free open-air productions. It was a show that entertained as much as it roused popular awareness about the paramount value of peace and how not to be fooled by self-serving politicians.
Having the good fortune to discover her passion for acting back in primary school in Nairobi, Jacky got started performing with her father, who played the guitar and sang in church.
“My dad used to accompany me as I sang Sunday school hymns. I started singing when I was around five,” said Jacky, who claims that she does more dancing than singing these days.
“I’ve had to learn how to juggle my dancing with my acting,” she said, noting that since 2009 she has been meeting with friends regularly at the Kenya National Theatre to share dance skills, doing everything from hip hop, Afro-fusion, and salsa to contemporary dance and a Kenyanised version of the Latin Capoiera dance — Kapwera.
She had to put her dancing on hold while she toured with Ni Sisi, but she says she will get back to it soon and still does yoga whenever she has time. A child of the Kenya Schools Drama Festival, Jacky recalls that she first went to the competition to perform a Luo dance with classmates from Heshima Primary School in Eastlands.
When she went to secondary school, she attended the drama festival every year, having been mentored by her drama teacher, who was the first person to assure her that she had talent and ought to pursue it at any and all costs.
Her parents were not keen on this, but after a year studying tourism (as her mother had wished), Jacky was convinced that she was not interested in doing anything else but act. This conviction has been with her since and is the main reason she goes to nearly every audition she hears about, be it from a friend, Facebook, or a bulletin board notice.
These auditions have changed Jacky’s life, not only helping her to break into the local theatre scene, but also get her the role of “the hoe” in Nairobi Half Life, as well as the part of Mildred in the popular TV series, Wash and Set. Auditions were also what enabled her to get into Heartstrings Kenya after she left the set book scene with the aim of expanding her theatrical horizons.
However, it is not the auditions that got her the part of Roxana in Ni Sisi. That happened because she read the bulletin board at the National Theatre in 2008, soon after the post-election violence subsided and an ad hoc group named Actors for Peace called Kenyan thespians to volunteer to put in a performance to fundraise for the IDPs.
Jacky’s big break
“That was the first time I met Kamau wa Ndung’u (one of the SAFE Kenya producers). After that, I used to see him around. We also acted together in Nairobi Half Life, and he later called me and asked if I could understudy for the role of Roxana since the actress playing the part (Trizah Wairimu) had just got a part in the popular TV series, Makutano Junction. That was Jacky’s big break.
“Whenever Trizah was free, she would go with the company, but when she had other commitments, I got called. Then when the filming of Ni Sisi began, it was Nick Reding (the co-director with Kamau and founder of SAFE Kenya), who asked me to be Roxana in the film. They also gave Trizah another part.”
Roxana together with her village comrades, Schola and Jabali (Joseph Wairimu, who also starred as Mwas in Nairobi Half Life), turned out to be the heroes both on stage and in the film.
They cleverly figured out the sneaky tactics of the conniving politician Mzito (Peter King) who planned to trick the villagers into voting him into office. But it was the way the three outwitted and exposed Mzito in the end that audiences especially liked and learned so much from.
Today, Jacky is open to all opportunities. Despite getting a monthly stipend from her acting, she still sees herself primarily as a freelance actor. But as she has practically been working non-stop since she went to that first audition at the National Theatre, do not expect Jacky Vike to be out of the public eye for long. Whatever comes next for her, there is little doubt that it is going to be a success.
You can get a copy of Ni Sisi online by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Margaretta Wa Gacheru