Actress Lizz Njagah knows too well that life’s like a play; its not the length but the excellence of the acting that matters. She spoke to STEVENS MUENDO
The year is 1979 and 20- year-old Aaron Rhys has just dropped out of university. Disappointed and at a loss with what to do with his only son, Aarons father, British construction giant, George Rhys, decides to send his son half way round the world to work on one of his companys projects — build a road in Kisumu, Kenya.
George hopes that far away from the comforts of his home in High Gate, Aaron will understand what hard work is and eventually might just make something of his life. But Aaron is a dreamer. Dazzled by exotic memories of the Kenya he once knew as a child, he is seduced by the promise of its beauty and fails to recognise the challenges he is facing.
Although the world seems against him he finds solace in 18-year-old Tess ‘Jagger’, a young native woman who runs errands for the construction office. Tess astonishes Aaron with her intellect. Both are equally surprised by what they find in each other and there is an instant spark between them. They fall in love and triggered furore of racial controversies.
Acting Tess alongside Hollywood star Neil Redman in the soon to be released film Pearls of Africa, Lizz Njagah showcases her acting prowess. The film, a tale of two people brought together by love but separated by hate from divided society could be Lizz’s big breakthrough in her acting career spanning over a decade. This month, she will be flying to London to shoot the penultimate scenes of the film expected to debut in British theatres in four months time.
Six months ago, the talented actress landed a lead role in local sitcom Me, My Wife and Her Guru before flying to Nigeria where she has been shooting episodes for Makutano Junction. Arguably, Lizz is one of the fastest rising Kenyan actresses.
Pulse: life has been on a rollercoaster ride since you debuted on stage in 1992 and later screen . How many productions have you starred in?
Lizz:Well, I have featured in several films, drama series, TV and radio commercials. I had played lead roles in All Girls Together, Makutano Junction, Behind Closed Doors, Saints, Noose of Gold and most recently Me, My Wife and Her Guru as well as the Pearls of Africa. I also did a cameo in a German Movie, Die Winterise that was partly shot in Kenya. Besides, I have voiced radio commercials for Mumias Sugar, Toss and Gentle Blue washing powder among others.
P: It is a great year for you socially and career wise, we also hear that you are in love ...
L:In love with acting? Yes, passionately and madly in love!
P: Not exactly. With a big time local film director Alex?
L: Well, yes, I’m in a relationship with Alex Konstantaras.
P: Is it true that Kenyan actresses and models always have a thing for white men?
L: I cant speak for Kenyan actresses and models. I only have a thing for Alex, who just happens to be white. It wasnt his colour that attracted me to him.
P: Was it easy falling for each other?
L: Initially it was an obstacle that we had to conquer. Him being Greek meant that he would want to move to his home country eventually. I had just moved back to Nairobi and had no intentions of leaving then all this happens.
P: Well, how did you get into professional acting?
L:I have been acting from as way back. I joined established Kenya National Theatre based groups, Visions Theatre Group, Heartstrings Ensemble and Mbalamwezi Players, in 2000 and acted in many productions including school text, The River and the Source.
P: But word has it that James Falkland discovered you?
L: After I moved to Phoenix Players, Falkland, the director then mentored me and its under his tutelage that I became the seasoned actress I am today. While at Phoenix, I appeared in many plays including The Musical, Once on This Island, Shakespeares Othello, Merchant of Venice and Servant of Two Masters, Kidnap Game. Things began to look up for me.
P: What role are you comfortable with when it comes to acting?
L: Frankly, I can fit into any role but I am more comfortable acting the role a strong woman.
P: You have been in Nollywood for the best part of this year. What productions have you been working on?
L: Actually I have been in Lagos, I am involved in the Nigerian TV industry currently shooting Mnet Africas soap opera Tinsel ,which airs every weekday on Mnet East, Channel 101 at 6pm EAT. It is a great show to be on, especially as it has just clocked 500 episodes, which is a milestone for any TV show.
P: Any Nollywood star you are working with?
L: There are a few Nollywood actors on the show like Kunle Cocker, Victor Oloatan not forgetting Richard Mofe Damijoe who is a Nollywood legend. I dont have any scenes with him, because our characters never interact, but just being on the same show as him is a great honour.
P: How was it growing up?
L:People refer to me as a town girl. I was born and bred in Nairobi in a family of ten. I attended Lavington Primary School and Ngara Girls High School before moving to Sacred Heart High School. My passion for acting began back in those days.
P: How is it being an actress in a country where acting and film making has not been fully tapped?
L:I think film-making in Kenya is coming of age and that is why we have Kenyan producers and directors getting recognition globally. I like the challenges that come with acting and I take each challenge as it comes. But the Government seems to ignore all the potential and even makes life hard for us by try to get more money off us, like raising the withholding tax to ten per cent up from five per cent.
View Lizz Njagahs acting resume HERE
Visit Lizz Njagahs Website at www.lizznjagah.com