T5 interview with Michael "Smallz" Munyoki

Photo credit: Pool

What you need to know:

  • As an actor, it isn’t easy to get work, because there isn’t a lot of work.


  • Then, the projects that exist are hard to get into because producers aren’t willing to trust new faces.


  • You have to give your blood, sweat, and tears for years before a producer bets on you.

Michael “Smallz” Munyoki is an actor who is keen to show the world what Kenya is really made of. Michael is also a director, and background actors’ coordinator. He has worked on projects such as Groove Theory, Waliobaki, Chini ya Mnazi, Trap House, Maempress, Sue na Johnny, Varshita, Njoro wa Uba, Auntie Boss and Crime and Justice. He dreams of one day making the local film industry the greatest in Africa

1. Your most recent movie just came out. When and where will it be available to Kenyans? What is it about? 
The movie is called A Grand Little Lie. It has been available for a week now, on the Phil-it Productions website - https://www.philittv.com/ . The movie is about a guy called Joe who tells a lie to his boss so he can take his girlfriend out of town for an anniversary trip. The lie he tells is that his brother died (!). Fortunately or unfortunately, he has a great boss, who wants to support him during his trying time and come for the funeral...

2. Why did you decide to release the movie on an independent platform? Is it hard for filmmakers to get their products on popular or international platforms? 
PhilitTV have decided to do make their platform capable of distributing all their series and movies, with the hope of eventually making it a TV station. Yes, it is harder to get local productions out there, but they also decided to go that route because international platforms don’t give you as much money. They don’t even pay you enough to cover the costs incurred in shooting and completing the project. Phil-it have taken matters into their own hands. 

3. Tell us about the difficulties you faced while trying to break into the scene. How did you overcome them? 
As an actor, it isn’t easy to get work, because there isn’t a lot of work. Then, the projects that exist are hard to get into because producers aren’t willing to trust new faces. You have to give your blood, sweat, and tears for years before a producer bets on you. Those are some of the problems many people in the industry face. It’s really hard to get the networks you need. I had to go behind the camera to look for the networks first before things could start working for me. That’s why I got into directing and assistant directing.

4. What did it feel like to be on set for the first time? Was that the point at which you knew you wanted to be an actor? 

I can never forget that day! I was acting on Groove Theory as an extra. It was the best feeling in the world. It felt amazing to be on set. When all the lights came on I felt like I was in Hollywood. Like I had achieved all my dreams. At that point I hadn’t made up my mind yet about whether to become an actor. I decided to wait until I receive my first pay cheque before making a decision.

At that time, I didn’t know I would end up being in most of the episodes. We were shooting out of sequence and I didn’t understand how it all worked, only to find out later that I was in every episode! I remember when I got the cheque, I was in a matatu. I checked the amount and began asking myself why I was doing the things I hate. I then decided to quit everything else (I was in hotel management at the time).

My parents have always been supportive, but whenever they hear about a job somewhere, they call and ask me to apply. That’s when I remind them that I’m an actor, but my mum tells me, “Well, you can do acting and still do this job”. It has taken time for them to believe in my acting career fully. 

5. If you were ever to write, direct and act in your own film, what would it be about? What theme would the film cover?
I love telling African stories, and we have so many that we have not even touched – like the stories of the migration of our people, or even how our tribes moved all over Africa and ended up here. Stories like that of Lwanda Magere, and other legends from other communities. There is so much to explore!

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