From Siaya to Hollywood Star: The Story of Benjamin Onyango

  • Hollywood Actor Benjamin Onyango posing for a photo.
    Hollywood Actor Benjamin Onyango posing for a photo.
  • For the past few years, the world has witnessed talented Kenyan actors like Lupita Nyong'o climb up the ladder to make a name for themselves in Hollywood.

    However, little is known of other Kenyans like Benjamin Onyango who was among the pioneers to make an entry into Hollywood.

    In an interview at a local media house, the actor from Ugenya in Siaya County narrated how his journey to fame started after he enrolled for a computer course at United States International University-Africa based in Nairobi.

    A Library at United States International University-Africa (USIU).
    A Library at United States International University-Africa (USIU).
    Daily Nation

    With the urge of pursuing greener pastures, Onyango decided to relocate to the university's campus in California in the US. However, he had to change schools after the University dropped his course.

    Onyango later got an opportunity to study at Califonia State University where he struggled to complete his four-year course because of financial difficulties. Having arrived in the US with Ksh40,000 for his allowance, he was forced to do odd jobs to fend for himself.

    ‘My first job was as a dishwasher and a busboy. I also worked at the wages department of the school and later in the evening worked at a pizza shop," he narrated.

    The 1992 IT graduate completed his degree after seven years and decided to follow his passion for acting in Hollywood. 

    However, the dream of the Kenyan-born actor did not materialise as it was not easy getting opportunities as an actor. Onyango disclosed that after several attempts, he got the opportunity as an extra in a movie.

    "When I was working in the streets, I saw a sign advertising for actors as they needed extras. When I got home, I called in and that is how I got the role where I worked for over 50 to 60 movies,

    "The extras are the people that will always be in the background. It is not easy because sometimes you have to sit on the set for even 16 hours. The pay was okay though as we would take home roughly Ksh5,000 per day," he revealed.

    Further his role as an extra opened other opportunities to teach cast members how to speak Kiswahili. His knowledge of the national language also saw him get promoted to the category of extra who are allowed to speak in a scene.

    Nonetheless, Onyango was not content with his role as he wanted to move up the ladder.

    Little did he know that taking his 7-year-old daughter at the time would see him get his first acting role in Tears of the Sun, a 2003 film that earned him Ksh25 million. 

    "I was taking my kids for auditions, My daughter Mary who was 7 years at the time started speaking on how I would act. After that, the casting director came to me and asked me if I would audition for a role in the movie,"  he revealed.

    After his talent from the movie was noticed, Onyango got other opportunities and was picked as the lead actor for Beautifully Broken (2019). 

    Among movies that the Hollywood star has featured include God's Not Dead, where he played Reverend Jude.

    A poster of American move, God's Not Dead
    A poster of American move, God's Not Dead