Gerald Langiri
October 29 / 2013

Lupita Nyong’o is no doubt making Kenyans, if not Africa, proud with the ripples she is making in Hollywood, the biggest film industry in the world.  The place most, if not every actor, wants to end up one day with a flourishing acting career.  We are proudly watching that space as Kenya is being put on the map for something else other than athletics.  12 years a Slave and Non- Stop are two movies that we eagerly await to make a Kenyan premier.

While still in that proud moment, I sought after to find other Kenyans who have created headlines in Hollywood and I was amazed to find several.

 Most have however only managed to get one-off roles like Mary Oyaya who played the role of Jedi Master Luminara Unduli in Star Wars Episode II or Sidede Onyulo famous for his role as Owour in Oscar winning movie Nowhere in Africa  or Raymond Ofula and Lenny Juma who were the most recognizable faces in Lara Croft Tomb Raider:  The cradle of Life or Joseph Olita who portrayed Idi Amin in the film Rise and Fall of Idi Amin or Oliver Litondo who played Maruge in the First Grader or Charles Gitonga Maina best known for his co-starring role as Saleh in The Air Up There or Mugambi Nthiga who was a background actor in Jamie Foxx, Law Abiding Citizen.

Edi Mue Gathegi is probably the other Kenyan actor who is well known and best known for his recurring character Dr. Jeffrey Cole (aka "Big Love") in the television series House, as Cheese in the 2007 film Gone Baby Gone and as Laurent in the films Twilight, its sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Darwin in X-Men: First Class

There are however other Kenyan actors in Hollywood who are not known to many of us back home or have not had their share of limelight as they should and this article is for them. Who am I talking about? well 1st ofwe have;

1. Owiso odera

Owiso Odera

Born to Kenyan parents in Khartoum, Sudan and raised in Nairobi, Kenya, Owiso Odera is a Los Angeles based actor whose television credits include Blue Bloods (CBS), Numb3rs (CBS), The Unit (CBS), FlashForward (ABC), recurring roles on Three Rivers (CBS) and DIRT (FX).  Owiso’s first love is the theater, Off-Broadway he appeared in the US premiere of The Overwhelming (Roundabout Theatre Company) ranked fourth by Time Magazine as one of the top ten new plays of 2007, Romeo and Juliet (the Public Theater / New York Shakespeare Festival). Regional theater credits include, the world premiere of Samuel J. & K at the Williamstown Theatre Festival; Groundswell, Titus Andronicus, Romeo & Juliet, Midsummer Night’s Dream, Merry Wives of Windsor (The Old Globe, San Diego); August Wilson’s, Two Trains Running (Two River Theater); August Wilson’s, Gem of the Ocean (A.C.T, San Francisco); Love of Three Oranges (La Jolla Playhouse); Macbeth (Commonwealth Shakespeare Company, Boston).

An avid fan and proponent of new play development, Owiso has participated in workshops and readings at several regional theaters around the country and is a board member at The New Harmony Project (New Harmony, Indiana), a project dedicated to supporting the voices of writers whose work celebrates the human spirit.

 Owiso received his training at The Acting Studio in New York and a Master of Fine Arts in Acting from the University of California San Diego (UCSD).  He was the first recipient of the Princess Grace Foundation George C. Wolfe Theatre Award in 2004.

Owiso also has a brother currently residing in Kenya and is also an actor following in his footsteps. His name is Peter Oruka Odera and has been featured locally in Changing Times as a mafia henchman, Mali as a lawyer, Noose of Gold as a crazy therapist at a rehabilitation center , Mheshimiwa as a powerful drug lord.

2. Peres Owino

Peres Owino

She is a Kenyan Writer/Actor/Comedian/Director and Producer living and working in Los Angeles.Peres has starred in over two-dozen plays, playing 3 of theater’s most coveted roles, “Hamlet”, “Lysistrata” and “Lady MacBeth”. She is a multiple award winner and an LA Ovation Award nominee. Her recent credits include a lead role in Simon Brand's feature film “Default” in theaters later this year, a co-starring role in the FX TV show “Terriers” and directing her original play CUT at the Walt Disney Concert Hall, an official selection of the REDCAT Fall Studio. Peres is currently directing her new documentary “African versus African Americans: Healing the silent sibling rivalry” coming out Spring 2012. This fall she will appear in the play “Red Noses” directed by Dominique Serrand at the Actors Gang Theater, and her non-fiction novel, “On The Verge” will also be coming to bookstores. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter at "Peres Owino".

3. Benjamin Ochieng

Benjamin Ochieng

The X-Files (1999), Tears of the Sun (2003), The Shield series (2005), The Anatolian (2007), The Disciple (2008). Benjamin Ochieng’  is Hollywood’s go-to actor for Swahili lines. Benjamin’s claim to stardom has actually been his Swahili. After playing 50 to 60 roles as an extra, he told the Associate Director on X-Files that he spoke Swahili and was hired three minutes later for his first speaking role.

He is now an actor with a first growing profile and is fast making a name for himself as a producer and sound editor. With 20 titles to his filmography that include a voice actor in Resident Evil: The Mercenaries 3D, Ochieng has also worked in movie crews as a sound editor and a writer. He has also directed two short films: Mr. Brewer’s Difficult Day (2011) and MISSInformed (2013).

4. Kiran Shah

Kiran Shah

Kiran Shah (born September 28, 1956) is an actor and a stuntman. Shah was born in Nairobi, Kenya. He lived in Kenya until he was twelve years old, when he moved to India with his family. While living in India, he became interested in films, and when his family moved to London, he became involved in the show business. He has been in several blockbuster movies since, such as Superman (1978), Superman II (1980), The Dark Crystal (1982), Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (1983), Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), Legend (1985), Aliens (1986), le signe des quatre (1987), Titanic (1997), and the three The Lord of the Rings movies: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), where he was the scale double for Elijah Wood, and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, where he played the dwarf Ginarrbrik. He also portrayed an aboriginee in a Sherlock Holmes film, The Sign of Four. A favorite movie role is when he played the monster who came out of a painting and attacked Natasha Richardson in the 1987 film Gothic. He has also recently been Martin Freeman's scale double in "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey"

5. Gurdeep Roy

Gurdeep Roy

 Gurdeep Roy (born 1 December 1957), sometimes credited as Roy Deep, Gordeep Roy, or just Deep Roy, is a Kenyan-born English actor, stuntman and puppeteer of Indian descent. Because of his short stature, he has played a variety of unusual characters in his acting career.

He has played apes in two movies: Greystoke - The Legend of Tarzan, Lord of the Apes and again in the 2001 remake of Planet of the Apes (Two roles: one as a young gorilla boy and as Thade's niece). His most notable role is playing all the Oompa-Loompas (165 of them) in Tim Burton's 2005 adaptation of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Deep had extensive training for the role in dance, yoga, and even some minor instrument playing. He is noted for his frequent collaborations with Tim Burton, appearing in Planet of the Apes, Big Fish, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Corpse Bride where he supplied General Bonesapart's voice. He has done many other roles in movies and on television, including The X-Files, Flash Gordon, Return to Oz (as the Tin Woodsman), Jim Henson's The Dark Crystal as a puppeteer extra, The NeverEnding Story as Teeny Weeny, the rider of the "racing snail", Alien from L.A., Howling VI: The Freaks as Mr Toones and Return of the Jedi as Droopy McCool and in The Haunted Mansion.

By Gerald Langiri

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