Gathoni Mutua: Kalasha nomination was more important to me than the idea of winning
What you need to know:
- Teaching keeps me wanting to stay sharp myself, so yes, I have been trained and continue to undergo training.
- After high school, I decided to study music in Canada, in addition to a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from APU in California.
- I also attended workshops and casting classes, as well as lessons from acting coach and star Tasha Smith (of Tasha Smith Acting Workshop).
Gathoni Mutua is a multi-faceted artist deeply passionate about holistic creativity. She stars as Sintamei in Single Kiasi which just started its second season, and is also an acting coach.
You may have also seen her in other notable shows in Nairobi and Los Angeles such as Sue na Johnny, Pieces of Us, This is Life, and Lucifer on Netflix.
Gathoni has also done voice over work, such as being the voice for Harpic and Airtel. She has also directed, written and starred in theatrical musicals such as Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat, Pippin, Kabu, and many more.
1. You were recently nominated for a Kalasha award. What do nominations mean to you, and what do you think they do for the industry? Is there a kind of validation that comes from awards like these?
Of course! Honestly, the nomination meant way more to me than the idea of winning. I knew I was going up against a mighty mountain in our category that included experienced, talented and popular artists such as eventual winner Sanaipei Tande, but the fact that I was even nominated among such an extraordinary group of women was proof that I am on the right track in an industry I never thought would accept me. It means Obama and Lupita were both right – yes, you can, and your dreams are totally valid.
Being the first nomination for me, I was keen on networking, getting close to those who pull the real strings in our industry, and getting to experience my world through their (often corporate) eyes. One way to support our growing industry is to watch and vote. Kalasha and other awards are simply multi-million-shilling surveys. Please do complete the surveys to help us improve our services. Haha!
2. Single Kiasi is back for another season! How are you feeling about portraying Sintamei again? Do you feel like there are any similarities that she has to you, or is she vastly different? What has Single Kiasi taught you about love?
Yes! I'm thrilled! I have grown to respect Sintamei, almost as an older sibling. She has grown, and continues to grow, and has changed so much in Season Two. It is very fascinating to watch her develop.
In terms of portrayal, I think Sintamei was much closer to me in Season One. As actors, it is easy to fall into a lazy trap of reacting as yourself instead of portraying the character, because often your audience does not know you well enough to differentiate between you and this new character. However, I think this season Sintamei stands a lot more on her own, separate from me, and it's been really wonderful to continue to discover her.
3. What does being an acting coach entail? Is it part of your belief in holistic creativity? Do you offer lessons and sessions, or it is on a production-by-production basis? Did you have an acting coach, and did it help your craft? What do you wish a coach had taught you that you had to learn the hard way?
An acting coach is just a broad term for someone who trains people on the art of acting. Holistic Creativity is not so much a belief as a lifestyle (which is more action than theory). I have taught all ages, the youngest being a five-year-old and the oldest being 45. I am quite passionate about the craft, as my work is mainly to help people understand themselves as actors from a holistic place, in order to generate authentic and truthful acting. Follow my page @immersivecreatives for more on my coaching sessions, workshops, classes, auditions, job opportunities, events and more.
Teaching keeps me wanting to stay sharp myself, so yes, I have been trained and continue to undergo training. After high school, I decided to study music in Canada, in addition to a Bachelor’s degree in Theatre Arts from APU in California. I also attended workshops and casting classes, as well as lessons from acting coach and star Tasha Smith (of Tasha Smith Acting Workshop). I continued to gather knowledge when I returned to Nairobi, from known actors and casting agents, even as I began to teach my own GMAW (Gathoni Mutua’s Acting Workshop) in 2016. After six years on and off, I'm back with my new project dubbed Immersive Creatives.
I once heard Tony Hale (from Veep and Arrested Development) say that your goal needs to be bigger than simply getting a spot as a series regular on a hit TV show. Looking back, I didn't expect the end to come so soon, but I'm glad he encouraged me to dream a little bigger. There is much more to come from me.
4. You were an extra on the hit show, Lucifer. What was the casting process like? What is the difference between being an actor abroad and being one here? Is it a job here in Kenya or are we just exploiting artists? Do you think the Kenya Actors Guild helps with issues like this?
The best way I can explain the difference, without going into details, is to picture a scenario where everything in the film process worked, ran according to plan, was monitored keenly, investigated truthfully, critiqued objectively, and managed with integrity. In Europe and America, departments aren't underfunded, undervalued, or suddenly broke, and it shows in the storytelling. Once you respect and find value in all the details of storytelling (not just the ones that pay), the final results will reveal your long-term success or failure. But if everyone just wants to eat what's not theirs while praying for the best, the end picture will always be passable but never excellent - and ditto for the industry as a whole.
If you're asking whether acting is a worthwhile activity in Kenya, the answer is a big yes, but only if workers are treated well, compensated fairly, and protected. Until artists are compensated for their value in our economy, rather than being exploited, the only thing we will be doing is treating bullet wounds using elastoplast. We need a deep examination of why the arts are not included in our education system, and why we allocate peanuts o the industry from the national budget.
I cannot speak about the Kenya Actors Guild as I'm not a part of them, and I don’t know enough about what they actually do.
5. You also speak and do voice overs in French. Did you learn the language for your acting career, or was it the other way round? Has it elevated your career experience? Do you ever do work in other languages?
French was one of my first languages. Voice overs and translations are just great supplementary income streams. I am yet to act in a full French production, although I did a French voice over for Airtel in 2018. Unfortunately, supply is way less than demand, but our industry will learn with time that we need to open up jobs to manage demand and keep creating, instead of gatekeeping for a few extra shillings.