18 July 2017

Mugambi Nthiga plays a villain with a knack for comedy

What better way to get through the coldest month than immersing yourself in the hottest Kenyan show on ShowmaxNew Beginnings is an authentic Kenyan soap opera that tells the story of Sean, a man who wakes up from a coma after five years, only to find out that his wife is already married to someone else – his best friend. And you thought your love life was complicated!

New Beginnings “isn’t just like any other show out there”, as Mugambi Nthiga swears. A cast member himself, Mugambi plays Randy, Sean’s younger brother and a shameless opportunist who tries to extort money from Sean (under the pretext of having cared for him in the hospital) to pay off his gambling debts.

Mugambi answers some of our questions about Randy and tells us why New Beginnings is a show not to be missed.

How was playing Randy different from your previous roles?

I’d got accustomed to playing pretty put-together people. Whether they were good or bad, they had clear objectives and went after them. Their conflict was largely internal. Maybe it’s because of the nature of this series, but Randy is never ever settled on one thing. He’s always going after the next thrill; and paying for the last one.

Any challenges playing this role?

Insignia works a little bit differently from the conventional production house. They adopt a more guerrilla, on-the-fly style. That was new to me, and as much as the filming was often no longer than a few weeks per season, it was arduous and demanding. We were often exhausted for the duration of shooting, but the work would turn out quite alright.

Randy is practically a villain. He gets into everybody’s business and uses it to his own advantage. How does he feel when he’s at the peak of blackmailing people?

Believe it or not, Randy has a conscience. He really believes that his schemes serve a greater good, even if all he’s trying to do is save his own behind most of the time. He does feel some guilt about screwing people over (except when it’s Catherine), and he looks forward to settling down and putting all of that behind him. Whether he succeeds is another question.

Who do you think is more evil, Randy or Catherine?

No question. Catherine. She is evil personified. She’d destroy anyone who gets in her way.

Do you think Randy has any redeeming qualities?

He’s a funny guy, and he’s fiercely loyal to those he loves; yes, even Sean. Get Randy on your side and you’re assured he’ll look after you, even if he plays other people to do so. And sometimes, even you.

Have you ever watched yourself on New Beginnings? What goes through your mind when you see Randy in action?

Yes I have. Especially in the last season. I enjoy watching Randy, to be honest. He and I are very different, and it’s refreshing to see someone I’m playing screw up more colourfully than I do in real life.

Any important life lessons you’ve learnt from playing Randy, from the show in general or from your co-stars?

The most important one: professionalism always shows, even when the camera is off. Take your job seriously and it’ll show in your performance.

Any famous role by a famous actor you’d like to play if given a chance?

Off the top of my head? Red from Shawshank Redemption (played by Morgan Freeman), Charles Babbitt from Rain Man (played by Tom Cruise), and any principle role on Black Panther (have you seen the trailer?!).

Other than New Beginnings, you’ve also featured on Nairobi Half Life and Groove Theory. Of the three, which role are you most proud of? Why?

New Beginnings was a great experience. On Groove Theory, I was more of a writer and director. Nairobi Half Life, though, that will always be special. It was many firsts for me, and an ideal actor’s experience. I love that it’s still an enduring and endearing film.

Watch Groove Theory, Kenya’s first music TV series, and acclaimed Kenyan film Nairobi Half Life now on Showmax »

You were a stage actor for a while before you ventured into TV and film. What have you gone through to become the actor you are today?

Oh, it’s been a great journey. I am genuinely glad that I got to start on the stage, and the transition to screen has happened very naturally. I have been driven by the desire to be better at every opportunity. The journey continues.

Is there anything you would have done differently to get where you are today?

For sure. I’d be more intentional about doing things in spite of fear and self-doubt.

For the upcoming actors out there, what are your secrets to success or simply good acting?

There are no secrets. Just try and fail and try again. To borrow the overused saying; Fall down seven times, get up eight.

Be sure to catch all the thrills, scandals and a very odd love quadrangle in New Beginnings on Showmax.

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