At 25 years old, Faith Kibathi is an established Thespian breaking into the TV and film space. Her dream of becoming a performer was sparked when as a young girl she watched her mother crack up when watching re-runs of Vitimbi. No matter how many times she watched the same episode she would always crack up. She then realized that acting as a craft has power.
Her journey in film started in 2014 when she was cast for the feature film ‘Consigned to Oblivion’ that was directed by Marcus Maina. Here she played a victim of retrograde amnesia. She then focused on her journalism degree and then joined KU TV as an anchor. Acting as a gift is a curse when abandoned so she left journalism and went to join Sammy Mwangi’s Thespian ensemble, Heartstrings Entertainment. Here she got cast in ‘Return to Sender’, and ‘Kenya on Sale’ among others.
For now, she is part of the vibrant cast of the soon to be aired series ‘This is Life’. A role she acquired by responding to a Facebook post calling out for auditions. She is acting alongside Blessing Lughaho and Melissa Kiplagat. The show is written and directed by Jennifer Gatero who has also directed the famous ‘Mother-in-Law’ series on Citizen.
Please tell us a little about yourself
I am from Nakuru; a town girl. I played the main role in ‘Consigned to Oblivion’ by Marcus Maina in 2014. It was my first play. Before I had only acted in high school plays and whatnot. Last year I joined Heartstrings Entertainment in September. Now I am here acting in This Is Life.
How did you get into acting?
I have always been passionate about acting. From a young age, I enjoyed taking up roles in plays. However, I studied Journalism at the University of Nairobi. But I still did not feel at home. I even tried anchoring. I worked at Kenyatta University TV from last year March to August. When I felt this was not working for me, I quit and that is when I joined Heartstrings Productions. The transition was very easy for me since I have always wanted to be an actor. I knew this was the path I wanted to follow. Looking back I am glad I made that decision. I am happy. I am proud to say that this is my job plus I get to go to work in my jeans and my t-shirt.
Apart from passion, was your decision to move into the film industry motivated by anything else?
Passion was my driving force because one thing is for sure, it was not about the money. There is money in the film industry but before you get there you have to have gone through a lot. When getting into acting you should not think about money. You should also strip away any notion of being famous or popular real quick. That does not come just like that. You have to establish yourself. You need to work hard and then maybe, just maybe someone will appreciate what you do and try and make you into a brand. That is the positive eventuality. However, it does not always happen especially in Kenya. As a country, we are yet to get to a point where you know that once you get into the film industry, you are assured success.
You have to push yourself and be smart while doing so. Sadly, people will try to take advantage of you. We are still struggling to find ways to ensure that does not happen but we have a long way to go. So it becomes a challenge for people who are trying to get into the industry. Where people are paying you through exposure. We should not still be doing that. We should appreciate the talent and time that people put into this work. As an actor, I am encouraged to give more if I am well compensated. If we do not take care of the people we work with, there is no way the industry will grow. Yes, we are growing but I believe there is so much more room for growth.
Thinking back to your childhood, what was your first experience with acting?
It was just being cast in those singing games most of us did as children. And I was just having so much fun with kids my age as the adults gave us directions. I was just so happy jumping up and down. The fact that people wanted to come and see me doing what I was doing and yet I was having fun doing it made me think about doing it as a career.
Who are your acting influences?
Internationally, I like Angelina Jolie. She inspires me. She can convince you that she is whatever role she is playing. I just love how you get to fall in love with her characters. And I hope that someone will see me for the variety of things I can do, not just selecting me for specific roles. Locally, I love Kate who acts in Mother in Law, and Serah Ndanu. I love how they showcase themselves.
What advice would you give to someone who is starting out in the industry?
It is normal to be afraid and to go to an audition and worry about whether you impressed the judges or not. It is also normal after an audition to think that you have gotten the role and you have not. You are like, I am sure I have gotten this role, I am so sure. Then you wait for a callback and nothing happens. But you must move on with life, do not give up. Keep going for auditions. Actually for me to get a role in ‘This Is Life’, someone encouraged me to go. And I did not know it was Jennifer’s production. So I looked at what roles they were looking to fill and what they wanted from those characters.
Immediately I realized that the way the story was set up, everyone who is in or wants to join this acting industry was going to be at the auditions. We were to go with a friend so I called her up and told her that I was not sure I would come along with her. I, however, encouraged her to go. Then she told me to just try it out. So eventually I decided to try my luck and now here I am. Sadly, she did not get picked. And these things happen. You take someone for an audition and eventually you get picked as opposed to the one who pushed you into it.
As I said earlier, when you get into this industry, be ready to find people who want to take advantage of you. People who want to ask you for favours that may not be up to par with your standards or principles. Just remember who you are and what you want. Once you have that set goal, focus on it. There will be a lot of distractions along the way.
Also keep connecting, when you go to auditions, talk to people. You never know who is seated next to you. Maybe that person will be a writer on the next big show or simply the director of the show you are auditioning for. Just waiting to see how you behave. So make a lot of connections because they really do help you. They can refer you to someone else thus getting you a private audition. And when you make it, do not look down on anyone.
What has been your biggest break or opportunity in your career?
I would say this; working on ‘This Is Life’. I have always wanted to work with Jennifer. So when I found out it was Jennifer’s show I was so happy. So this is really big for me.
Do you act only or do you also write scripts?
For now, I only act. In future, I would like to write a really good script. I have a lot of ideas. However, connecting them is the real issue. But once I do that I will probably write a script and direct it. I want to direct a show one day too.
How long does it take for you to internalize a performance after reading the script?
For this one specifically, I had to go through the whole script. Then I had to ask the director what she was trying to achieve with my character. So she broke down the character for me. She wanted someone sassy, someone who is not afraid has attitude and still sexy. Someone who is conniving. After, I went through the script again, saw myself in it and internalized how I needed to portray my character. So when I am on set I can remember what I thought I would do then see how it will play out. I would say it took me about 2 weeks.
If you had a chance to change something in the entertainment Industry, what would it be?
I would choose appreciation. How we appreciate our artists and how we support our own. From musicians, painters, anyone involved in the creative sector. Appreciation is so important because east or west, home will always be best. If your own people appreciate what you do, it becomes very easy for other people to see what you have to offer. Then it can be encouraging to someone else. They can trace your journey from the beginning. This girl started from there and did this and that. They are then able to follow in your footsteps.
What challenges have you faced as an actress and how have you overcome them?
The call times, sometimes you have to work for very long hours. Even though we enjoy what we do, we are still human. You are the workplace by 5.00 am then you find yourselves wrapping up the day at 11.00p.m. You feel tired and you still have to be on set early the next morning.
Finances are also a hustle but eventually as time goes by you learn how to plan yourself and find out how you can make your income grow. Being smart with your money also comes into play here.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Shy, funny, and this is not a word per say but I am afraid of change.
If you were not an actor, what would you be doing?
Well, I think I would survive in any environment. As long as it is not being stuck in an office behind a desk. Because I feel like an office is too enclosed for my personality. I feel like I would not breathe. And wait, no career that involves physics or business studies e.g. accounting.
Where do you hope to see yourself in 10 years?
I hope to be a brand ambassador for brands like Unilever and Cadburys. I hope to have found my way to the Oscars. Actually, Nimo, the friend of mine who encouraged me to audition for This is Life went to the Oscars this year since she acted in ‘Watu Wote’. So I figured if she can make it there, so can I.
Can someone learn how to act or has it to be inborn?
Well, I would say I was born with it. But if you do not have it, you can work around learning it. You can try coaching, you can even try a number of roles and see how that goes for you. Also, you will realize that there are actors who are more comfortable in theatre, others who are more comfortable in film and others who are comfortable in both.
Theatre demands a lot of time, energy, and input. You will find there is a lot of facial expressions and voice projections required. With film, you can be able to edit something to look as you want it to look but with theatre, if it is wrong you go with it. You either cover it up or die with your mess. And there a couple of people who are good at it. The theatre is very raw so much so it has a thrill to it. So, first of all, find out which of these two work best for you. I am comfortable in both since I started in theatre and now I am in film.
What are your thoughts on the future of the Kenyan acting in the global space?
We will go far. I can see more great projects coming up. I can see creatives challenging each other. And that is where we will see the quality of productions and acting skills increase. We are moving at a very fast pace.
Why do you think this series is important. Why is this a series everyone can enjoy watching?
This series is the bomb. I am so glad I got a chance to be a part of it. As an aspiring scriptwriter, I love the connection it has. It is not just an empty script with words. It touches a lot on relationships. Everyone can be able to relate to it since they have all been in relationships in one way or the another.
Faith acts in the series This is Life with Blessing Lughaho. Find out more about him I Love Playing The Bad Guy But Such Roles Also Come With Their Challenges – Actor Blessing Lughaho