From Mjengo Guy to an Actor..The Inspiring Story of “Mother-in-Law” Star Charlie

February 26, 2018

Kenyan thespian Patrick Oketch is a household name on Kenyan TV having established himself on Citizen TV’s comedy-drama “Mother-in-Law.”

He is renown for his role as “Charlie” but his journey to the top has not been easy. At one time, he was fired after just three episodes of another Citizen TV show; “Tahidi High.”

While Oketch’s acting endeavors have often served as an inspiration, it is his background story that is the more inspiring.

Here’s Oketch’s untold story from childhood.

How was your childhood?

I was born 34 years ago in Mathare where I spent the early days of my life. Later, we moved to Madiwa in Eastleigh in 1987.

In 1991, aged just 10, I lost my dad. That meant my four brothers and I had to depend on my mother. Since I was in a boys only family, I found it difficult relating to girls.

In fact, most often, my idea of ‘tuning’ a girl was no more than a rather uncouth approach of walking up to her and blurting it as it is: “Naitwa Peter, nakutaka. Nipende!”  I got so many slaps instead of love. And you can imagine how hard it was with the face I have! Growing up, we never had any luxury or comfort. Missing meals was the order of the day.

 How was your school life?

I was not admitted to the university, having fallen short of the cut-off mark by just a point. It was painful since I was considered to be in the same category with students who scored ‘Ds’ and ‘Es.’

Worse still, the guys who went to college came back with swag. Some would boast about their courses, like say anthropology, which left me wondering what in God’s name that was.

 So, what options did you explore?

I decided to be a tout, but it was too demanding. Waking up every day to shout, “Tao! Tao! Tao!” was just too much. I later got a job at a mjengo. Since I saw no hope in studying, I never went back to school.

My younger brother applied for me to join a teachers training college which my aunt graciously offered to sponsor. So, I enrolled to train as a teacher, though my heart was not in it.  I later became a P1 teacher at Thogoto, before landing a teaching job in Soweto slums, earning Sh3,000 per month.

 What happened next?

In 2007, I quit my teaching job.  Armed with the art of writing letters (I used to write letters for my friends’ girlfriends in high school for Sh20), I trekked from Embakasi to the Kenya National Theatre where I met comedian Jalang’o.

We had a chat and he asked me to translate a 200-page play into Dholuo. I worked on the document for 48 hours and it became the popular Mayie Love.

For the first time in my life, I earned Sh5,000, even though the payments came in installments. I auditioned for commercials, but despite Tony of Redykyulass doubting me for being a new face, I qualified.

Was this your biggest breakthrough?

Not really. I got into Tahidi High and was fired after only three episodes. Then in 2008, Mother-In-Law was just starting and I got a call to play the role of Charlie.

The drunkard Charlie is my own creation, it wasn’t the original script. I started writing the scripts and for almost a year, I could not get credits. But I knew where I was going. Now, I write them with all the credits and get paid well for it.

How has your life changed since joining the cast of ‘Mother-In-Law?’

Life has changed. I am now happily married with a family. But that’s not all. I am now a second-year theatre arts and film student at Kenyatta University.

I am there on a full-time basis. I am going far because I am standing on a rock, not sand.

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