In the first episode of the music drama series Famous, now streaming first on Showmax, a young star (Nikita) struggles to remain relevant in an industry that is too eager to move on to the next best thing, and to remind her that she wouldn’t be as successful without Magic (Khula Budi), her famous rapper-producer boyfriend. After being embarrassed during an interview on national TV, Nikita starts to question what she really wants from music and from Magic, a revelation that sets her on a path to self-discovery and a new musical experience.
Michelle Tiren, the newcomer who plays Nikita, struggled to find her character at first. “I just thought she was doing the most. But then I realised that I was judging her as someone else instead of just being her,” Tiren admits. “Once I understood this, I started to get her, and this made it a lot easier for me to play her. Still, so many things she does make me roll my eyes but I’m really enjoying getting to know her and exploring all sides of her.”
One of those sides is pushing aside the fame she has enjoyed over the years and finally confronting her feelings for Magic, like she does in Episode 1, even though Magic quickly reminds her that she’s nothing without him.
For Tiren, who, until Famous, had only appeared in a few short films like the MultiChoice Talent Factory production Ensulo, Nikita allows her to explore the emotional range she’s never experienced before. However, she admits that preparing for such emotional scenes, especially those with Magic, are always tricky.
“I find that planning for such emotional scenes removes its authenticity. I’m not saying not to prepare but just don’t plan to react. I had to be in the moment, be fully there and to react in that moment,” she says.
Unlike Nikita, who kicks off with a dwindling music career and an uncertain love life, Nyota’s star is just beginning to shine as she gets a chance of a lifetime to audition for Magic and his team.
Bryanna Wanjiku, the young actress who plays Nyota, has so much in common with her character. For one, like Nyota, Bryanna is a newcomer in the TV industry in Kenya. Nyota is her first major acting role after featuring in numerous smaller projects, including popular Instagram videos with Kamau Mbaya (Machachari).
It’s a role that she says feels aligned with and one that was destined to happen, even as it came with pressures to get it right. “The pressure was to do justice to this long overdue story and to live up to the expectations of my big debut,” she says.
Like Nyota, Bryanna is also an upcoming singer who’s trying to dip her toes in the music industry. So she mostly drew from her personal journey and lessons to portray this role. “Stepping into Nyota’s shoes was a real test, delving into some of my personal life choices. All I had to do was breathe life into her.”
This role is also very instrumental in how young Kenyan dreamers are seen, a responsibility that the 23-year-old doesn’t take lightly as she introduces Nyota to viewers. “I wanted to represent my generation the best way I can.”
Famous is now streaming on Showmax, with new episodes releasing every Monday.