Bilal Mwaura has always been somewhat of an underrated master of his craft. In the last few years, moving between stage and screen, he’s delivered scene-stealing performances in the crime-drama Nganya, thriller film 40 Sticks, Kenya’s first action film Mission to Rescue and A Grand Little Lie where he takes on a Houdini-esque role that stamps him out as one of Kenya’s finest actors.
And if his work in the last three years is anything to go by, he’s thrived more in darker roles that demand a certain mean streak from him. Like his latest role in “The Taxi Killer”, the second episode of Crime and Justice S2, now streaming on Showmax.
“As an actor, I want to play all types of characters since I consider myself a chameleon and showing range is important,” Bilal says. “Having said that, I love villains more. They help me dig deep into the human condition, which I believe is our primary concern as artists. We are soul excavators and villains help us face the darkest parts of it.”
Bilal plays episode two’s titular taxi killer, a serial killer masquerading as a taxi driver and preying on young women after a drunken night out.
“The reason he picks young and drunk girls? Power. The helplessness in their eyes is an absolute turn on for him. It is a dark space to occupy, and spending a lot of time in isolation helped me access the depths of it.”
Bilal didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for this role since he jumped into it right after auditions. “I didn’t have a lot of time to research so my preparation process was more intrinsic.”
He created a backstory for his character which helped him centre him and get it right. “I believe in getting into the character’s emotional core. Why does he do what he does?”
He also found himself tapping a bit into “the stillness” of Anthony Hopkin’s Hannibal Lecter (The Silence of the Lambs). “He played somewhere at the back of my mind,” he reveals.
Unlike most criminals that detectives Makena (Sarah Hassan) and Silas (Alfred Munyua) have dealt with in the past, the taxi killer hides in plain sight, too confident in his technique and camouflage, easily moving from country to county without being detected.
As his body count increases, Makena decides to go undercover at a nightclub to catch him before he strikes again. One thing leads to another and ultimately Makena physically faces off with the monster in a motel in a scene that Bilal describes as one of the best he’s ever done.
He talked about the scene extensively with Hassan before, during and after. “The synergy was perfect,” Bilal says. “Sarah Hassan was an absolute sport, and the stunt coordinator was my kind of crazy. This combination, not forgetting the episode’s director’s (Adam Neutzsky-Wulff) keen eye, made the scene what it is.”
For this episode, Bilal is joined by other guest stars such as Foi Wambui, who makes an unexpected return as Rehema (S1 episode 2 victim), Nyokabi Macharia (A Grand Little Lie), Maryanne Nungo (Supa Modo), Kevin Maina (Makmende), Brian Ngatia (Too Early for Birds) and Joseph Wairimu (Nairobi Half Life).