Brahim Ouma is only 21 and he’s one of the acting industry’s new young faces that has been waiting for his big moment on the screens.
Brahim has already featured in a number of commercials, short films and played some minor roles in TV shows including Famous.
But he got his big break on Pepeta, the latest Showmax Original, where he plays the lead character Junior, a 17-year-old boy, who captures realities of growing up in Kibera slums.
“As an upcoming actor, I’m really humbled that I got this role, because so many good young actors auditioned for it,” says Brahim.
The young actor admits that he initially felt intimidated when he bumped into his peers during the auditions for Pepeta that attracted more than 50 young actors.
Pepeta casting director Charles Ouda says it took him 14 days to find the perfect fit for the role.
“We knew Brahim had something special when he came in for the callback,” Ouda says.
He adds, “He took direction well, and was constantly working on the life and journey of his character. He was willing to do the work and even grow his character’s relationships with everyone he was meant to interact with on screen.”
Just like Brahim, Pepeta bring together vivacious young actors aged 12-25 for their first shot in a major production including Eric Aswani, a 23-year-old footballer who dreams of turning pro.
The film industry has been accused of recycling “old faces” and Pepeta provides a chance for the fairly unknown young actors to prove their mettle and make a name in the process.
“I think it's about time. The younger generation have a lot to bring to the table - creativity, energy and zeal. And on behalf of young upcoming actors, I couldn't be happier to be part of this journey. We have a lot to learn, but so far so good,” says Brahim.
He adds, “More young people ought to be given opportunities, not just actors. We also have amazing young directors and scriptwriters.”
His remarks echo those of fellow young actor Foi Wambui, critically acclaimed for her exceptional role in Crime and Justice, who noted that there were a lot of great young talent in Kenya.
In Pepeta, like Brahim, Junior is a dreamer, book-smart and a talented footballer, who has so much to offer the world.
“He hopes to attain his dream of one day becoming a pro footballer,” explains Brahim.
Brahim says he instantly connected to Junior’s story when he read the script.
“I remember calling my parents to tell them that it seems that someone out there is trying to tell my story. The only difference is that acting was my football. You see the way football gives Junior hope; that was acting for me. It has been my redeemer,” he reveals.
Both Brahim and Junior come from humble backgrounds, but Junior’s life in Kibera is more desperate and disadvantaged, so that when hope runs out, crime becomes his only reprieve.
Pepeta is based on a real-life story, but even in such instances, rarely do actors get a chance to interact with the people they’re playing on set.
However, for Brahim, it was a different story as Harun ‘Rio’ Wathari, the footballer whose story Pepeta is based on, was on set almost daily during the six-month filming of the show.
“It was a magical experience. I had to observe him and see how he walks, talks, just to learn a few things about him every day. We were also filming in real places where the events that happened in Rio’s life took place, and this just brought an authentic feeling to the characters, and to the story,” he concluded.
Pepeta airs on Showmax every Thursday.