Stephen Tongun: Hollywood Star Narrates How Living in Kibera Helped Build His Career

  • Netflix's Spiderhead cast: Miles Teller (left) and Stephen Tongun at the movie premier on June 11, 2022.
    Netflix's Spiderhead cast: Miles Teller (left) and Stephen Tongun at the movie premier on June 11, 2022.
    Getty images
  • Over the past years, reports on refugees who not only survived the horror of living in concentration camps but thriving in various disciplines have been making rounds on social media.

    In the case of Stephen Tongun, his sheer determination and willpower moulded him to become one of the most sought-after Hollywood stars. However, three decades ago, his life was seemingly in a bottomless pit with no end in sight. 

    While speaking to Capital FM on Tuesday, August 2, Tongun detailed how life challenges and struggles while living in Kibera slums made him brush shoulders with the likes of Chris Hemsworth, a superstar. 

    The star-studded cast of Netflix's movie; Spiderhead
    The star-studded cast of Netflix's movie; Spiderhead
    Getty images

    Born in Juba, Tongun was forced to separate from his family and fled to Nairobi due to the civil war in South Sudan.

    Becoming a refugee at a tender age, Tongun did not envision his life would change one day. His family later joined him and they lived in Kibera for 12 years. During this period, Tongun admitted that he developed passion for art, specifically acting. 

    "I remember while in Kibra, we would contribute a few coins with a few of my friends to watch local movies. This totally fascinated me," Tongun remembered.

    He then started doing skits while still living in the informal settlements with the hope that his star would eventually rise and that he would sign up as a mega actor one day.

    Tongun, however, was lucky to receive a humanitarian visa to go to Australia. 

    He steered towards majoring in law after facing bullies in school. The former refugee noted that the incidents drove him to advocate for justice. 

    "I wanted to help people who are finding their footing, particularly refugees who are dealing with immigrational laws to become important people in the society."

    Not giving up on his passion for acting, Tongun began entertaining his friends at the university - realising that he had a knack for making people laugh. 

    He joined the drama club and was selected in various roles to play different characters. 

    "I've done about three Shakespeare plays, and other international musicals. We had a sold-out show a couple of years, but this time we will be touring regions in Australia. In my case, acting wasn't enough as I wanted to do more, such as engage in musicals," Tongun explained.

    The thespian received minor acting roles as he gradually worked his way up. Currently, he has acted in movies such as Escape from Pretoria, Never Too Late and Fate of the Night.

    He has also featured in the TV series Stateless and Danger 5. His latest feature film, set to star on Netflix is Spiderhead alongside Chris Hemsworth. 

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