Gerald Langiri
January 30 / 2012

Make way, there is a new star on Kenyan TV, Mkamzee Mwatela. You know her as Usha, the evil conniving woman in the hit TV show Mali. With her fantastic acting and appeal, Mkamzee, 30, has become the breakout star of the show. PHILIP MWANIKI spoke to the actress who says she is a child of the stage.

How is the show so far?

It is amazing and keeps getting better. I love the story line because it keeps getting better with every show. It gives me so much to work with and all I can tell everyone is to keep watching as it unravels.

Many people say your character is their favourite. Is it you or the script that people love?

Thank you. The Usha character is one that is built up in layers. She is a good villain and people love to hate such characters but they just cannot stop watching to see what they are up to next. The character’s persona gets better every show and it is amazing how she is evil but not the one that horrifies you. I love Usha and try my best to bring out her character flawlessly.

As a plus sized girl, you do rock those “nightys” effortlessly especially in an industry where size zero is glorified.

I am very comfortable in my skin and I cannot change it so I embraced it and one thing about TV how you feel is how people see you. I do not have a problem with that plus the character Usha, is a proud and very elegant woman and that is what the producer would expect me to channel.

How do you get into role?

I read the script and I get into that role. I am not Mkamzee Mwatela on TV, I am Usha. That is the magic of acting. When I read about Usha, I had to picture her in my mind and see what she is all about and how to bring her out. Once the lights and the cameras are off, Usha is gone and Mkamzee shows up.

How do you do a happy role if you are sad or angry yourself?

That is another fantastic thing about acting, it helps you escape for a moment and most of the times, if you do well, it lifts your moods. The best time to do a character is when you are feeling down. Ask professional actors, they will agree that acting is good therapy.

You started you career on stage, how much of that helps you today?

It helps a lot because it is one take and before a live audience. If you can make it on stage, then majority of the time, you will do a very good job on TV

How did you start out?

I started out at Sterling Quality with Sarafina musical. I was still in school and they were doing auditions at school and we went to try out for fun and we got the roles. After the first show, we were shocked to hear that we would be paid because we had so much fun doing it we did not see it as a job. I also worked for Phoenix where Lizz Njagah was the director for another musical and then moved to Heartstrings. I have done very many plays and in 2009, I was on stage the whole year.

How did that help you get to where you are now?

In terms of the experience, working with the best talents in this country was a major plus. And, Alison, who is behind Mali saw me on stage and gave me a TV gig. I love being on stage especially doing musicals.

Now that you are on TV, are you done with the stage?

Never. My first love will always be the stage and I know I will go back there after I am done with TV. Broadway is my next target. I love the freedom the stage gives you. I love musicals more than acting because I love dancing and singing.

Any prior experiment with TV?

No, I tried out TV many times but was rejected everywhere. I tried out to be an anchor on NTV but was rejected and I have also acted in Siri, Better Days and Tahidi High.

You hated your deep voice growing up?

A lot. I thought I sounded like a man and I really tried to change it. I got it from my mother but as I grew older, I started appreciating it and it is one thing people love about my character. I love laughing and dancing. If there is one thing I love doing and can say I am good at, it is dancing. Give me good music and a dance floor and I am game.

What are you doing being single?

Haha! I am enjoying life and what I do, all that will come later.

What do you look for in a man?

I do not have a type but I am attracted to people who are self aware and are passionate. I may hate football but I may be drawn to you depending on how passionate you are about it. Passion is what drives people and it is a major turn on.

What next for Mkamzee?

I am a fly by the seat of my pants kinda girl so I have nothing planned out but I am not going anywhere.

Usha Mali



Interviewed by Phillip Mwaniki

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