Bilali Wanjau Ibrahim is a familiar face on Kenyan television and has been featured in several commercials both on television and print. He played a school bazaar in the popular ‘Tahidi High’ show and now stars as a prison guard in Maisha Magic East’s ‘Jela 5 Star’.
Bilali is best known as the character Junior in the popular Daily Nation promotion TV commercials ‘Utahama Lini’ in 2011 and ‘Utahama Roundi Hii’ in 2013. His breakout role was in the Spielworks Media-produced series ‘Sumu la Penzi.’
He spoke to ArtScene about his craft.
When did you start acting?
I started when I was in high school. While in Form Three I started writing scripts and directing them as well. I got my first break in school after the main character had some problem with the administration, luckily I had learned his lines.
After school when did you get your first paying acting gig?
A day after I finished my last KCSE paper. It was a set book performance and I remember my first director in high school is the one who called me to join his team.
How has the journey been?
It’s had its moments. I have been lucky to do a Bollywood movie Nkupenda Nakutaka which was mostly shot in Kenya with a few parts in India. I have also done a few Africa Magic movies but mostly it has been television shows like Nairobi Law, lies that bind among others. I have appeared in several promotions for Daily Nation too, like Utahama lini, Utahama roundi Hii.
Currently, I play a character called Kasaro in Jela 5 Star. Kasoro is a senior sergeant at the prison.
Where do you get the time to do it all?
It all depends on the contract I get and from there I can be able to juggle the time and make sure I make it to set on time.
How passionate are you about your work?
It started as a passion but now it is work. Now I let the passion work for me.
Between television and movies, what would be your first choice?
Definitely television. A movie is a one-off gig and after you finish shooting, you have no idea when you will be cast again. In television, you can work all year round.
Apart from acting what else do you do?
I am a qualified youth educator and community developer.
How do people react after they meet you?
Jela 5 Star has propelled me to a higher level. Last week during the demonstrations, I was walking towards National Theater and a lorry full of anti-riot police stopped and the driver told everyone to ‘salimia afande’. I was humbled.
Your take on the Kenyan film industry?
I think the government is trying its best in their own way and we will see the fruits later. Some will say the government is not helping while others see it differently. In my own opinion I see a brighter future.