18 July 2017
Grace Kahaki on her “explosive” New Beginnings
In 2014, Grace Kahaki was nominated in the Best Television Series Comedy/Drama category at the Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards for her TV show Prem, an achievement that opened the doors for even greater things. Now she is one of the few female directors taking the Kenyan TV industry to the global stage with her highly successful TV series New Beginnings.
Featuring actors like Mugambi Nthiga (Nairobi Half Life), Joed Kariuki (How to Find a Husband), singer Habida and Maya Hayakawa, New Beginnings is the latest Kenyan show on Showmax this July, with Season 1 having launched earlier this week.
Now let’s get into the mind of the woman who co-wrote the script and directed it.
As a Psychology major, how did you end up in the TV industry?
I am a creative, I’m in love with art, and everything I chose to surround myself with gravitates towards the arts. Before I graduated I got an internship with Insignia Productions, and the pieces just fit, I learnt all my new skills on the job, and the rest is history.
As a player in the TV industry in Kenya, what do you think about internet streaming services like Showmax and the future of television?
I think like all industries, you must evolve and keep up with the times. The way that we are watching TV and consuming content is changing. Streaming is the latest form, it’s convenient and affordable.Who knows about the future … we might be watching movies on our manicured nails! The options are endless.
As the director of New Beginnings, how do you feel about its launch on Showmax?
I am excited, speechless and grateful. New Beginnings is like my baby, and as one of the few women directors in the industry I am honoured to have a project that I have put my blood, sweat and tears into showing on Showmax. It’s a milestone in my career.
Tell us more about New Beginnings. What can the Showmax audience expect?
New Beginnings is fresh, exciting, and explosive; we take storytelling to a whole new level.
What’s the creative process that goes into directing a show like this?
Lots of workshops, and asking why, why why! The process is very involved, there is a lot of research and interaction with the cast to try to bring out everyone’s best performance while dealing with limited time on set.
Which character was the hardest to develop? Why?
The character of Catherine. She’s so complicated, and has multiple complex layers. Finding an actress who made this character her own and brought out a new dimension was a challenge, but we were lucky to find this in Denise Gordon.
There has been a lot of debate about telling the African story. What do you think is the African story?
I think it’s not about telling THE African story, but it’s about telling YOUR African story. Telling YOUR truth as an African.
New Beginnings has a number of “twisted” characters like Catherine, Lexi, Randy and even Derek. As a director, how do you get into the mind of such flawed characters to bring out the “worst” in them?
I think for anyone to bring out a truthful performance of a character, the actor shouldn’t judge the character. If you judge your character then your performance won’t be true. Don’t think your character is crazy. You have to believe what they believe.
Other than New Beginnings, what shows have you written or directed?
I directed our first TV series Prem together with Philippe Bresson; he’s my mentor and a revolutionary cinematographer. I’ve directed a new comedy series Arnold and Bundi, and eight of the Africa Magic Original Films.
What’s the best part about your job?
My job allows me to work with people, putting together all of the creative juices: acting, writing, cinematography, and so on, to create a piece of art. The best part of my job is that it never gets old and it never gets boring. There are so many stories to be told” I’m just lucky to get to tell a portion.
Which famous director do you look up to?
Ava Duvernay, her work is just dripping with beauty, she’s a magnificent storyteller.
Desperate Housewives or Game of Thrones: which one would you like to direct if given a chance?
Wow, talk about a contrast. Game of Thrones, without a doubt, because of the range of characters, set design, themes and issues.
Which TV show are you currently watching on Showmax?
The Young Pope! That show has me hooked.