The three part series illuminates the risks of unprotected sex and the party hard lifestyle of urban Kenyan youth through the lives of six college students.
Capital Lifestyle had a candid interview with the male cast. David Omwange, 23, plays Skola. Anthony Mwangi, 24, plays Kennedy, Pepe Haze, 22, plays Ty and Nicholas Mutuma, 21, plays Leo.
In this very hot exclusive, David, Tony, Pepe and Leo talk love, sex, alcohol and HIV/Aids.
First things first. Have you all been tested for HIV?
Tony: Ninajijua. We were all tested after. It did not make sense not to be. I had never been tested before, that is where I am like Kennedy. Being tested is the biggest exam of life.
Nick: After production, we got an email from MTV telling us we would be doing awareness campaigns. When we were tested I was in the window period so I was very scared. I remember there was a night I could not sleep. The next morning I went for the test and it was very empowering. We did not want to be hypocrites.
Pepe: People can tell when you are lying. It would have been awkward for us to come out to discuss serious issues without being tested. The first time I did, I had not even had sex. I was like “I do not know why I am doing this,” but I just went with the boys (laughs).
David: Yes, I did six months ago at university.
What made you go for the auditions?
Tony: The message in it made me go for the audition. I was happy I would take part in a sequel that would speak to people in a practical way. This was MTV, who would not want to be part of MTV (laughs).
Pepe: I have never acted so for me it was a bit of a stretch. I was excited that it had something to do with HIV/Aids. I did not know I was going to make it. I was shocked when they kept calling me for more auditions. I was shocked mpaka (until) the end.
Nicholas: I heard about the auditions from my agent and I just knew I had to get this. This was MTV.
David: Pepe called me and told me there were auditions and I decided to come. I found all these big names and was like “Aah these guys probably know who they want.” I was not expecting anything out of it.
Did you know each other before Shuga?
Pepe: I knew David, we are both in Daystar University but I have met him (Tony) a couple of times. He is an amazing singer, you see him everywhere, “Anto neosoul.”
Tony: I know Pepe. He is an amazing spoken word artist. I know Nicholas from Tabasamu and I respect his hustle. When I saw Nicholas, I was like “Aah this guy has got a part, because he is in Tabasamu.”
Did you expect Shuga to be this good in terms of quality of production and popularity?
Pepe: Yes. I wish you saw how serious everyone was. It is one thing when you shoot a regular video, but in this one the photographer loved his work, the producer was obsessed with it, the director was so keen about detail.
Nicholas: We worked hard too. We would meet during weekends to bond even before shooting just to get to know each other. If there is no chemistry, it will also show on the screen that there is no connection.
Tony: We have also become very close off screen.
In mid November Nick, you went to Zambia for a screening of Shuga?
Nick: Zambia was amazing. They really related to the film, which was great because HIV/Aids is a cross border issue. There was a testing booth right outside the cinema and the youth there went and got tested. The movie has some sheng and they were really trying to read those subtitles. They understood everything. They laughed at the jokes. They loved Tony (laughs and pats Tony’s back).
Tony: (laughing) I was not there and I am so jealous. This guy, from what I know is that every lady between the ages of 18 and 40 years was on his case. Be honest; tell us.
Nick: Ok, there was love of course (laughs) I think we all got that love (blushes). We went on radio shows, on TV, on the news.
Did you get more love in Zambia than in Kenya?
Tony: It is like the saying the prophet is never accepted in their own place. I know Kenya people love Shuga now, but when it was launched, there was no hype. Probably it is because we only had a media launch. Nick and I will be going to Mombasa, Malindi and Voi for four days to promote public screenings in December.
Do you see any of yourselves in your characters?
Pepe: I share with Ty the idea of not rushing into relationships. I feel sometimes people waste their time and other people’s time. There is a lot I want to achieve. In that way I see myself in Ty. He is focused in his life.
Tony: In some ways, I am very much like Kennedy the comedian. In life though, I am a careful person, I am a straight up guy. I am principled. Kennedy is not principled he has no focus. Life is too long so I have to make sure I live it right now. It is not short coz if it was, I would be dead right now.
Nick: I play Leo; I am the saved boy, the churchgoer, the underdog. Leo is me, four years ago. I can relate to him especially with the peer pressure he goes through. He makes many mistakes. I have made the mistakes that he has. I also saw a bit of me in Skola played by David. I used to be reckless and careless, especially when I joined university.
David: Unlike Skola, I love one woman. Like him, I have the energy. I would not be as courageous as Skola is in the series. I would take a longer time to declare my HIV status.
The series has pushed the envelope when it comes to matters sexual. Were any of you concerned?
Pepe: I was worried about the shower scene. They told me you are going to be 80 per cent naked. I was like “What does that mean?”
David: We were all told about the story before auditions. Despite all the drinking, nudity and sex there is a bigger picture, which is get tested.
What was the toughest scene to shoot?
David: The day we shoot the VCT clinic scene was by far the most depressing. Then we did not know why. All our energy levels were low. The whole issue of HIV hit home and reality sunk in.
Tony: I was not talking to anyone. People were moody from cast to production. I felt the nurse (Lucy Nyaga) in that scene was not speaking to the characters we were potraying, but to us. I told myself I have to be tested.
Ayira is a bit of a player and she puts Ty at a lot of risk. Like TY would you go back to Ayira?
Pepe: To be honest I believe I would. For me when I love, I have decided, I am loving you and that is it. Ayira was the centre of his universe and if there was someone, I loved that much as Ty did, I think I would go back.
Nick: I have ever gone back, but things are never the same.
Tony: Easier said than done. I know for a fact I would black that person out.
Are any of you in a relationship?
Pepe: Right now, I am single, but I am waiting. I am waiting because I have this work I have to finish I am in school and I need to graduate. I cannot lie and tell any woman that I will be focused in a relationship. When I do get a woman I will focus on her (smiles).
Tony: My girlfriend is Stella. She is a law student at University of Nairobi.
David: Yea, (smiles). I have been chasing and chasing and finally… We have know each other for one and a half years. We started acknowledging each other in the last four months is when. No names. She is a very private person.
Nick: I am fresh out of a nine-month relationship. I am single right now.
Have you taken anything from this experience?
Nick: I think we were casted very well. Our roles really fitted who we were. Leo was kinda naïve and I think I am also kinda naïve.
Pepe: They gave us the roles and we grew in them. Before the movie, I was a people pleaser. I have realised you cannot please everybody.
Nick: The quality of this series is a great challenge to our Kenyan directors to up their game and stop pocketing so much money.
David: This film has reinforced what I already knew about HIV/Aids. I am only one or two people from the virus. It is not a foreign virus.
So when and where will Shuga be screened?
Tony: On MTV Base every Wednesday at 10pm. On KBC every Thursday at 9.50. On NTV and KTN every Friday 9.50 and on December 1st World Aids Day, Citizen will screen the three episodes back-to-back. Everyone should be tested. Do not do it for your partner do it for you.
What do you think of SHUGA and the CAST?