When a Kenyan thinks of MCU’s Black Panther, the first thing that comes to mind is the name Lupita Nyong’o. She has fast become common in the movie world and we all know she is Kenyan. But in as much as we appreciate her, there are other Kenyan names in Hollywood that she has overshadowed.
Everyone’s dreams are wild and with hopes of making it in the movie industry, there are other Kenyans who have and are still paving the way for us. Lupita might have several roles coming up, but what about these other names in Hollywood?
If you ever watched the television series House (2007) or the movie The Twilight Saga: New Moon (2009), then you know who Eddie Gathegi is. He currently has a recurrent role in the TV series Startup since 2016.
In the series House, Eddie plays the role of a Mormon doctor whose staunch beliefs are constantly ridiculed by Dr. House. He played Laurent in the Twilight movies.
Eddie was born in Nairobi, Kenya but grew up in Albany, California. He has also appeared in other major movies including Twilight (2008), The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn – Part I (2011), X-Men: First Class (2011), and TV series like The Blacklist (2011-present), The Blacklist: Redemption (2017), and The Family Tools (2013) to name a few.
Onyango is another Kenyan actor who has made it there to the top with roles like Reverend Jude in God’s Not Dead (2014). He first appeared alongside Bruce Willis and Monica Bellucci in Tears of the Sun (2003). He played the role of Colonel Emanuel Okeze, a bodyguard to the president’s son.
Benjamin has also appeared in other movies like Beautifully Broken (2018), Kwame (2008), God’s Not Dead: A Light in Darkness (2018) among others. He has also voiced a few projects in Hollywood, plus he is the go-to-man for a Swahili role.
He isn’t necessarily a Hollywood chap and you might not know him but Charles Mnene has made a name quite for himself. He is a Kenyan-British film, television and stage actor and has made guest role appearances in The Bill, Holby City, Doctors and the drama Ahead of the Class, with Julie Walters. He continues to appear in films, stage and television work and has made cameos and notable roles in films like Richard Jobson’s New Town Killers, 7 Lives, Shoot the Messenger, and John Akomfrah’s Games Men Play
He is a poet, an actor, and a stuntman known for his role as a scale double for Frodo Baggins in The Lord of the Rings trilogy. Kiran Shah was born and raised in Nairobi, Kenya until he was 12 years old when his family moved back to India.
He has appeared in several other movies including Superman (1978), Superman II (1980), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), The Dark Crystal (1982), Return of the Jedi (1983), Braveheart (1995), and Titanic (1997) to name a few.
He was also Bilbo Baggins scale double in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, and The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies and Ian Holm’s The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring.
You might also know him as the shortest stuntman according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
His demise cut his career short in 2016 but before his demise, Owiso Odera made an iconic appearance in the TV series The Originals (2013) as Papa Tunde. He also appeared in movies such as Grimsby (2016), The Thirst: Blood War (2008). Odera also appeared in the first season of Madam Secretary (2014) playing the role of Ambassador Odilon Bokassa. Nevertheless, he has had cameos in other projects like The Good Wife (2014).
Odera the son of the late Henry Odera Oruka (1944 – 1995) a popular Kenyan philosopher who is best known for “Sage Philosophy” a project aimed at preserving the knowledge of the indigenous thinkers in traditional African communities.
She is a globetrotter and although she hasn’t extensively pursued acting in Hollywood, we remember her for the role of the Mirialan Jedi Master Luminara Unduli in Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (2002).
Oyaya has made extras in other films like Lost Souls with Wynona Ryder, Down and Under, and the SyFy Network TV series Farscape.
Worth mentioning are other Kenyan actors such as Charles Gitonga Maina who appeared in the movie The Air Up There (1994), Kipsang Rotich who voiced Nien Nunb by speaking Kalenjin and Kikuyu in Star Wars: Episode VI-Return of the Jedi (1983) and The Force Awakens (2015), Wanjiru m. Njendu, and Wangari Maathai.
Fun Fact: Zena Marshall, Minaj Sood, Vena Sood, and Susie Figgies who is known as one of the most experienced and highly respected casting directors in the UK were born in Kenya.