Popular screenwriter and actor Abel Mutua has revealed how a surprise move from former Tahidi High actor OJ, real name Dennis Mugo, ended up changing the trajectory of his life.
Mutua looked back on how he landed on TV in an episode of his new show, Young and Stupid, which sees him recount hilarious, eye-opening memories from his life.
In the second installment released on May 9, the actor revealed that both he and Mugo were members of a drama club known as Power House at the Kenya Institute of Mass Communication (KIMC) in South B, Nairobi.
He noted that, even then, Mugo's talent was clear for all to see, and he was slated to star in the school's submission for the 2007 Kenya National Drama Festivals competition.File image of screenwriter and actor Abel Mutua
At the last minute, however, Mugo secured a job elsewhere and was unable to take part in the institution's play for the drama festivals.
The directors of the school play were forced to find a new lead actor, and settled on Mutua who was until then just an extra on the play.
Unknown to Mutua at the time, his performance at that year's drama festivals would see him scouted to join the Tahidi High cast.
At the time, Mugo was already a part of the show which was in its third season. Due to undisclosed disagreements, however, a large part of the rest of the cast left the show, forcing Tahidi High producers to re-cast it.
Mugo took on a more prominent role as the bad boy student, and Mutua among several others scouted at the drama festivals joined as students, teachers and workers creating one of the most recognisable ensembles in the history of Kenyan television.
"God akacheza kiyeye (God came through). Denis Mugo landed a job somewhere, and he couldn't do the play. So guess who they put there to fill the shoes of the general, OJ? Yours truly.
"We went past the Nairobi province level and made it to the nationals. Believe it or not, this humble young man from Kibera bagged the Best Performing Artist - Kenya National Drama Festivals 2007.
"At the same time, there was an upcoming station known as Citizen TV with a high-school drama called Tahidi High. But there were some issues and about 80% of the cast quit the show. So now they had a program with a crew and a time-slot on air, but no cast.
"So the executives thought about what they could do to save the program and they decided to re-cast it. They recruited new talent from those who performed well at that year's drama festivals," he explained.
Others who were selected after doing well at the festivals include Philip Karanja who played one of the teachers on the show.
Mutua went on to make a name for himself not just as an actor, but as a writer and producer behind some of the biggest shows on Kenyan television.
He was part of the team that created Hapa Kule News and Real Househelps of Kawangware as well as local content for Maisha Magic East.
Watch Mutua tell the story below:
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