ACTORS ARE LIKE CONSUMABLES:THEY EXPIRE!
I bumped into a renowned actor sometime back. We exchanged starters and the inquisitive me just had to ask “How come we do not see you on TV or hear about you and your acting anymore like we used to?“ Her response was “These young girls are the ones in demand nowadays. It is hard to get projects my brother“. At that particular point in time, her response was just but another line to extend our conversation as we laughed and joked about old age. Replaying that conversation now, I can recall the tone of voice and emotions that tagged along with her words. Every single word uttered from the lady in her mid-thirties is all of a sudden relevant now. (Please make a mental note of the word relevance). That conversation made me wonder: Does you acting career have an expiry date and do you know when it is coming?
Acting always has something for every age bracket. There will be the father figure in a movie, the wife and the kids. In extreme cases the grandparents. So why do I think we have expiry dates yet I can be that kid in that movie when am 10 years old and when I grow up to be 30 be the father figure and in my 60’s be the grand dad? The answer lies in the next few paragraphs but before we proceed, I need to put a disclaimer: In acting, depending on how old you are, you career either starts or ends there. This article is not however a surety of how your acting career will end up because no one knows for sure how the future looks like but its meant to make you sit and reflect about your career.
Take for instance the Machachari kids and a special mention of Baha (Kamau Mbaya). His acting career started very early. A good actor he so is at such a tender age, to have won best actor in Kalasha awards 2011 having scooped the award in the faces of established actors in our industry. One would naturally assume that his future acting career will be bright, right? Wrong and this is why. What if Baha only works because he is a kid? What if he is who he is because of the fact that he has that tender touch of being a cute adorable kid that is confident and can act? What if, when he finally grows up and all that cuteness wears off or when he breaks his voice that is it? What if he becomes a man and chooses not to follow acting as a career all together?
Let us move a notch up the age bracket and look at teenagers all the way to actors in their late 20s. This is a tricky age bracket and one that basically defines what your future career path will be. For this example, I will use Tahidi high and randomly choose Tanya (Sarah Hassan). We came to know Tanya for who she is from Tahidi high, as a host in the Sakata Dance show, the music video she did “Nakudata“ by Prof ,Safaricom adverts etc. I do not know what the future holds for her but one can comfortably say that she is at the top of her acting career at this particular moment in time. If that will stretch for the long haul is something left to be seen and a choice she has to make. The questions thus begin: What if she is Tanya because she has that beautiful naïve pretty girl look? She can be a host of dance show because she has those hips that can swing from left to right and just make you want to watch her dance week in week out. What if her expiry date is the day she grows older and looses that young pretty girl look and the appeal she once had, goes out the window? God forbid Sarah.
Actors in the age bracket of 30 and above follow suit, the father and mother figures of our shows. I will use Raymond Ofula as an example. Without a doubt, one of the best actors you will find around and maybe that is because there are not many men at his age that can execute a role so well. Raymond started his acting career way back than most people know. However, he became renown after Better Days and is also commonly known from his role in Nairobi Law. I actually had a talk with him and asked him where he was all those years. He told me he did theatre but was never really recognized or was never in the limelight up until 7 years ago or so. I can therefore comfortably conclude that his acting career really kicked off when he grew old and before that he had “expired“. He currently is at the top of his game perhaps because he falls into a unique age bracket where most actors from the younger generation either cannot get roles or are finding it hard like the lady I talked to or have changed careers all together. Or in some cases, still are in the acting industry but doing something else like producing and directing. Personal choice perhaps but am writing this from an acting point of view and from this angle, I can conclude that their acting careers expired when they got old. Old age is not necessarily the end. I am not saying you career will definitely end when you get old because clearly Raymond Ofula is living proof of that. What I am saying however is, as actors we just might have time periods. We either get born or die in acting at very young ages or when we do grow up.
As an actor, I wish not to believe that my acting career is determined by how old I am and would like to assume, if I am a good actor I should get roles fitting whatever age be it 50 years. Someone even told me that, acting is the only profession where one never actually retires. I however might just have to argue that is the exception and not the rule. I can give you many examples of actors who faded away with time but I am sure you can think of one or two already.
This takes me to my next point of Relevance as I wind up.
You are not getting any roles or getting called for projects like you used to or as you would like to. Do you sit and hope or wait for auditions to show up and you go try your luck again?What can you do to stay relevant? I do not have a straight answer to that unfortunately, but I can think of a few: Adverts is one way and I can quickly think of Melvin Alusa (Tabasamu) and Godfrey Odhiambo( Noose of Gold). Music and Anthony Kimani (aka Anto Neosoul of MTV Shuga) comes to mind staying relevant with his music. Valentine Ziki or Janet Kirina actresses and musicians. Writing and Blogging and whilst I would want to mention myself here, let me be modest and mention Joy Kendi aka Patricia of Changing times with her blog about Fashion. Do small acting projects. A short film for example and Neville Misati comes to my mind. Theatre and the list will be endless. Art, modeling, MCing etc. Basically something that still puts you in the public eye. Working in an office will not do that for you if its acting you are passionate about. Acting encompasses presentation to the audience and therefore you need to stay in the audiences’ faces therefore Diversify.
The sad thing with our acting industry is that, being on TV seems the only way for one to get recognized as an actor and actors themselves strive to be on screen to do their acting than on theatre. I know for a fact that in America, theatre is really huge. Then again, we go where the money is right?
Why is staying relevant important? Well, it keeps you in peoples’ minds and mouths. How is that important? It makes it easier for people to remember you for when they do require someone who fits your role even when your time has expired. It is a competitive industry and you need to stay relevant in order to beat the rest of the pack. For those who are on top of their games right now, do the much you can and achieve all you can as statistics show, it is only a matter of time before a new better you shows up. Like that lady friend of mine I started by mentioning, make sure you dont end up not acting anymore and becoming irrelevant. KEEP ON ACTING AND GETTING THOSE ROLES.
PS: I do not expect all of you who have read this to agree with this so if you do disagree, please leave your comment. For those who do agree, leave your comment as well. Let us discuss.