We had a chat with the charming actor Nick Ndeda about his upcoming movie 18 Hours.
KENYABUZZ: Describe in three words the experience you had while filming 18 Hours.
NICK: Learning about time.
KENYABUZZ: What were your first thoughts when you read the script?
NICK: A story as compelling as this, written in this fashion, is the kind of film I want to do.
KENYABUZZ: How did you get the lead role of the paramedic?
NICK: Kevin (the director) approached me a year ago and told me about the idea of the film. We discussed what approach he wanted to take with the film and the characters. We clicked and a couple of months later we were on set filming 18 Hours.
KENYABUZZ: Tell me more about your character and the influence he has on the movie.
NICK: My character (Zach) is loosely based on the real-life paramedic Brian Odhiambo. I say loosely because his expertise as well as physical and mental highs and lows are definitely almost identical with Zach’s. He is the pulse of the movie in that, from the moment he gets to the accident scene, every other action, frame by frame, moves at his pace. We see the physical, mental and relationship shifts he goes through in 18 hours.
KENYABUZZ: Was it extra pressure knowing that the movie was based on a true story?
NICK: I knew that the dignity of the real-life people depicted in this film had to be respected. I just wanted to do them justice in my capacity as a performer.
KENYABUZZ: How much of your character is built on the real-life Brian Odhiambo and how much was your own interpretation?
NICK: A lot of my source material came from the story on the internet, along with several discussions I had with Kevin (who had the opportunity to meet Brian) about how he carried himself. As a performer, I added my little kinks to the character such as enunciation, a back story, walking style and even blinking. I blink like my eyes are on crack, so on camera I always have to make the conscious effort to not blink so much!
KENYABUZZ: How is it filming a low budget, fully Kenyan production like this one compared to a huge continental production like Shuga and Jacob’s Cross?
NICK: To be frank, the only thing that differed between 18 Hours and the others are that Jacob’s Cross had a snack bar and Shuga had candy. I am really impressed by how Rocque Pictures carries itself; as a legit film production company. From our Production Co-ordinator Ian Wanjohi, our Assistant Director Ruguru Phoebe who always kept an updated call sheet and bent over backwards to accommodate all the actors, to a solid wardrobe department, they were all very professional. And to top it off, a director who respects actors and the acting process. It was great fun and very refreshing to see young filmmakers with an eye for quality, experimentation and representing Kenya!
KENYABUZZ: Did you really almost die when filming Jacob’s Cross?
NICK: Yes! I was filming in a lightning-prone environment and the lightning was frequent at the time. But we had to do that scene. So, we prayed to have it done in one take… and we did!
KENYABUZZ: Rumour has it that you speak fluently in 7 languages…
NICK: Six! English, French, Luo (really well), Swahili, Spanish (I get by), Sheng (only when arrested or at the market…whichever comes first).
KENYABUZZ: Which one of all the characters you’ve played is closest to your personality?
NICK: It would have to have been a character I played in a Phoenix Players production called “A Sting In The Tale” with Eddie Mbugua. It was about two murder mystery writers who are trying to write the perfect murder mystery so they start to plan each other’s murders. The character was similar to me (not because of the murder thing!) because what he did – acting, scripting, radio, creative writing and speaking – is literally my day to day.
KENYABUZZ: If a casting agent rang you accidentally to offer you a huge Hollywood role meant for Nick Mutuma, would you run and do it?
NICK: I think the moment they Skyped me and noticed that devilishly handsome looks and a rock star body – I have NOT, they’d figure it out!
KENYABUZZ: Give us your honest summary of the Kenyan film industry in one sentence?
NICK: A casualty in need of an ICU bed at a hospital without any ICU beds.
KENYABUZZ: Tell us something interesting about you that most people don’t know.
NICK: I used to paint. I think I did that well, but for the life of me I cannot draw, it’s so weird.
KENYABUZZ: If you were to have dinner with one actor, dead or alive, who would it be?
NICK: Audrey Hepburn. I’d like to know whether she ever believed she’d do “it” and by “it” I mean become Audrey Hepburn.
KENYABUZZ: What’s the worst criticism you’ve ever received about your acting?
NICK: My voice is not, how do you say, regular? So, in high school everyone called me “Oh, heavens!” because those were my first lines in a school play (which was a huge hit FYI). And I said them in the croakiest Nick Ndeda voice imaginable. I was 15.
KENYABUZZ: Which one do you enjoy doing most; TV, film or radio?
NICK: Each has its own cool things. TV gets you a TV audience, film gets you a film audience and radio gets you a radio audience. I want and love them all.
KENYABUZZ: What are Nick Ndeda fans called? Do you have any wild groupie stories?
NICK: LOL! To the are Nick Ndeda supporters – those who will go watch 18 Hours at the cinemas; those who will come watch my play “What Happens in the Night” at the Daystar University’s auditorium in Hurlingham on October 14th, those who tune into X Breakfast every weekday morning and the XFM Weekly Top 30 every Saturday morning on 105.5 XFM – thank you for the support. And if ever a name is coined up for Nick Ndeda fans, let it not be Ndedarians! Wild groupie stories? Nah fam. I just take pics with people and sometimes get drinks from them. But mostly people just look at me sternly as if trying to ascertain that it’s me.
KENYABUZZ: Finally, what’s the one thing you want audiences to feel when they watch 18 Hours?
NICK: The need to demand for better health services. This is a country where the nurses can be on strike for 100+ days while clinical officers are on a go-slow. A country where the national hospital only has 21 ICU beds and all that the law and policy makers seem concerned with, is their own job security. I hope too that the audience is thrilled by the great leaps which Rocque Pictures, Kevin Njue and this fabulous cast took to put Kenya on the map!