Budding actor swims with the Hollywood sharks
DENNIS MAILU is moving headstrong into his longtime dream of being a professional actor. From Kenya to the UK and now in Los Angeles, he is in the process of developing his artistic talent as a film star. He talks with ELLY GITAU about his fledging career on the silver screen
Walk us through your journey.
I was born and raised in Nairobi, and from a tender age, I have always been fascinated by the performing arts, particularly acting and drama.
I acted in various plays during my high school whenever the opportunity arose. Afterwards, I pursued my university education in the United Kingdom where I attained my degree in Environmental Science, a Masters Degree in Environmental Management and thereafter pursued my PhD studies in Human Geography, which I completed in 2016.
During this period my love for acting and performing was still intact and I partook in theatre plays that includes The American Way and Peter Pan.
My pursuit and journey in screen acting began in London where I attended classes that further led me to film school in Los Angeles, California.
I have acted in short films such as Cést Parfait (It’s Perfect), Flawless and the Why Me documentary.
Has it been a smooth road for you?
In any career, the road to the top is difficult and personal. One obstacle early on was juggling my environmental scientist career and art. Both were demanding and this made it tough to find a balance.
Putting time aside to build what you love is imperative and having supportive family and friends is key.
Would you consider yourself a businessman through acting or this is just another one of your interests?
Yes, I believe as an actor, one has to develop a brand. My business consists of not only my talent, but also my body.
This translates into making sure I take care of my body as the vessel I use to perform.
Tell us about your role in your latest film Cést Parfait.
It is set in the year 1994. I play the role of Abasi Jabari, a PhD scholar in America from Zaire with a life changing invention.
On this particular day, I am reunited with my family on their first day in America, a happy moment.
However, our world is torn apart when we receive news that a family member has been kidnapped and the genocide war has broken out in our neighbouring country.
My role in the film is to protect my family in America, whilst furthering the cause for development back at home through my invention.
How easy or hard is it to tell the African story through film?
Being of African heritage, it’s always a task to relay a performance that would capture a different culture to the one I originate from.
It takes time to nurture through life experiences and interacting with the culture. With this in mind, the objective of an actor is to ultimately push the narrative forward as the character.
A chance I got to do this is on the Sci-Fi Blue Light Melody on Amazon Prime, where I play Al Daniels, a vigilante who is on the most wanted list set in 2063 Los Angeles with a bounty on his head.
What projects are you handling currently?
I am working alongside Modern United with Joanna Koss and Drake Shannon on creating, executive producing and acting in a number of social impactful films, the first of which is Prey.
Do you think we have a lot of unexplored talent in Kenya?
I somewhat agree with the unexplored talent aspect to an extent. Hollywood is just one platform and a big one at that.
As Kenyans, we have depth to our expressions and how we feel about issues that pertain to us creatively.
This shows in the budding industry we know and posses that has crossed over to the West in the form of massive stars such as Lupita Nyong’o.
It is not more of a question if we have unexplored talent, but if we can continue to propel the engine steadily to expose our talents vast and wide, transcending boarders.
What’s your advice to any budding talented young person?
You know who you are, so be who you are. Be strong enough to show your true character and use this strength to pursue what you feel matters to you and unlock your potential.
I am learning about myself day-to-day and improving the clarity of my focus on achieving my goals with that truth in mind.