Brahim Ouma discusses the need for more acting opportunities for the young
*Ouma currently stars on the Kenyan series “Pepeta.”*
Brahim Ouma and fellow cast in a scene from "Pepeta."
Brahim Ouma, the new breakout star from the hit Kenyan show “Pepeta” says it’s about time the young generation gets a seat at the table.
With “Pepeta” Brahim gets his biggest role yet, playing the lead character Junior, a boy of only 17, whose very complex and hopeless world ushers us into the realities of what it means to grow up in Africa’s largest slum - Kibera.
Speaking about his audition for the role Ouma admits feeling intimidated after seeing his competition.
“As an upcoming actor, I’m really humbled that I got this role, because so many good young actors auditioned for it,” Brahim says.
According to the show’s casting director, Charles Ouda, when the casting call for Junior was made, fifty young actors turned up to audition, a process that took 14 days to find the perfect fit.
“We knew Brahim had something special when he came in for the callback,” says Charles. “He took direction well and was constantly working on the life and journey of his character. He was willing to do the work and grow his character’s relationships with everyone he was meant to interact with on screen.”
"Pepeta" is full of vibrant young actors between the ages of 12-25, who like Brahim are getting their first shot in a major production. For some like Eric Aswani, a 23-year-old footballer with dreams of turning pro, the show is their first-ever acting role.
For them, this is their chance to prove themselves in an industry that has sometimes been accused of recycling the same ‘old’ faces.
“I think it's about time,” Brahim says. “The younger generation have a lot to bring to the table - creativity, energy and zeal. And on behalf of young upcoming actors, I couldn't be happier to be part of this journey. We have a lot to learn, but so far so good.” (sic)
He adds, “More young people ought to be given opportunities, not just actors. We also have amazing young directors and scriptwriters.”
Brahim echoes the words of other young actors like Foi Wambui. Interviewed for her much-praised role in “Crime and Justice”, she previously stated that there is a lot of great young talent in Kenya. “Now more than ever, there are more opportunities for both young, emerging actors and those who’ve been in the industry for long. The industry is welcoming, but only the disciplined young actors will survive and thrive.”
In "Pepeta", Junior, like Brahim, is a dreamer. He's book-smart and he’s a talented footballer, with so much to offer the world. “He hopes to attain his dream of one day becoming a footballer,” Brahim says.
He instantly connected to Junior’s story when he read the script. “I remember calling my parents to tell them that it seems that someone out there is trying to tell my story,” Brahim reveals. “The only difference is that acting was my football. You see the way football gives Junior hope; that was acting for me. It has been my redeemer.”
Brahim and Junior both come from humble backgrounds, but of course, Junior’s life in Kibera is far more desperate and disadvantaged, so when hope runs out, crime becomes his only way out. At first, this is as a means to an end - to afford new soccer boots for a tournament, or new clothes, but in such situations, it’s hardly ever easy to come out once you dig yourself into a hole. Add a ruthless thug and a trigger-happy cop with a personal vendetta and survival becomes even tougher for Junior and his friends.
"Pepeta" is based on the real-life of Harun ‘Rio’ Wathari but rarely do actors get a chance to interact with the people they’re playing on set. For Brahim, it was a different story as ‘Rio’ was on set almost every day during the six-month filming of the show.
“It was a magical experience. I had to observe him and see how he walks, talks, just to learn a few things about him every day,” Brahim says. “We were also filming in real places where the events that happened in Rio’s life took place, and this just brought an authentic feeling to the characters, and to the story.”
“Pepeta” airs every Thursday on Showmax.