“A spoilt rich boy with no voice” – Lenana Kariba on playing Reagan in Selina
Lenana Kariba keeps it real as he shares his character’s strengths and weaknesses in Selina S4. Watch our interview with him on the set.
Once upon a time, Lenana Kariba had a thriving signature afro that won many hearts on screen, from How to Find a Husband to News Just In, to House of Lungula. When you watch him playing the role of Reagan Mackenzie in the Swahili telenovela Selina, however, Lenana has a nice clean fade, a transition that was necessary for this role.
But this is not a post about Lenana’s hair, and it’s not all we discuss when we sit down for an interview on the set of Selina.
“[Reagan] tries to be a man but he finds it very difficult because he is living in the shadow of his wife who’s very controlling. He tries to fight but it doesn’t work out very well for him.”
A meek and mild man
Lenana plays the eldest son of the Mackenzies, Reagan, who Lenana describes as a “spoilt rich boy”. Reagan is also a man of very few words. In fact, he hardly ever speaks; he’s always in the background and everything around him, from scheming to take down his younger brother Nelson (Pascal Tokodi), to any decision on his marriage, is controlled by his wife Zoe (Mbeki Mwalimu). It helps that Lenana is a character who stands out in even his quietest scenes, or we might not notice him at all.
“[Reagan] tries to be a man but he finds it very difficult because he is living in the shadow of his wife who’s very controlling. He tries to fight but it doesn’t work out very well for him,” Lenana says.
Big shoes to fill
Not many actors have had to do what Lenana did – he was cast in Selina in Season 3 to replace the late Kone Nouhoum in the role of Reagan. They were big shoes to fill for any actor in Kenya but he eased into the role with the help of Mbeki, his controlling on-screen wife.
“She knew that me coming in to play this part as someone who already did it, she wasn’t trying to bring the Reagan out that Kone was. She was like, ‘I want to see what you are going to do and we are going to play off that, and I’m going to work with what you have to give me.’ Working with her has been very easy.”
Like Pascal Tokodi confessed in a previous interview, Lenana also struggled with having to speak fluent Swahili on the show, a challenge that has really helped him grow as an actor.
“Anyone who’s watching this right now who knows me knows that I struggle with Swahili…and it’s funny because even the people who speak Swahili on Selina really struggle with it. You should see us on set…it’s really difficult. The script comes to us in Swahili and even the way it’s written is not really the way Kenyans speak.”
In the interview, Lenana also shares more about Reagan’s strained relationship with his brother Nelson, describing him as “the Simba of everything that’s happening”, and finishes off by revealing some of his best-kept secrets in a game of “Never Have I Ever.”
In new episodes of Selina S4, watch Reagan finally learn to stand up for himself and take his wife to task for some of the dark secrets she’s been hiding from him.