Whenever anyone thinks about a successful Kenyan actor in Hollywood most people think about one person – Lupita Nyong’o. Lupita Nyong’o shot to fame after winning the Best Supporting Actress award at the 2014 Oscars. She was feted for her performance as Patsey in Steve McQueen’s historical drama – 12 Years a Slave. Lupita’s first film role in Hollywood was in 2008 in East River. She subsequently featured in others like: In my genes (2009), Non-Stop (2014), Star Wars: The force awakens (2015), the jungle book (2016), Queen of Katwe (2016). She will also feature in 2017’s Star Wars: Episode VIII. Her latest prominent role was in the blockbuster “Black Panther” that hit the world by storm.
Lupita Nyongo’s record is quite impressive, but did you know that there is another Kenyan who has an equally impressive record in Hollywood. This is 37-year-old Edi Gathegi. Film, television and stage actor Edi Gathegi has earned recognition for his roles as Laurent in the Twilight and Dr. Jeffery Cole on House M.D – Bio.
But who is Edi Gathegi?
Edi Mue Gathegi was born in Nairobi, Kenya, on March 10, 1979. One of three children, Gathegi’s family moved to the United States when he was young and settled in Albany, California. He attended the University of California, Santa Barbara, as an undergraduate with the intention of playing basketball. However, his life dramatically changed when he blew out his knee during training, subsequently ending his athletic career. As a result, Gathegi became depressed and decided he wanted to take, what he considered, an easy course. He enrolled in an acting class and immediately fell in love with the art.
Gathegi was later accepted into New York University, where he studied acting at the Tisch School of the Arts. He graduated from New York University in 2005 and landed his first major role the following year, appearing in Crank with Jason Statham and Amy Smart. The young actor quickly earned roles alongside Hollywood A-listers, performing opposite Kevin Bacon in Sentence and as Cheese in Ben Affleck’s
Gone Baby Gone.
Gathegi was not only turning heads on the silver screen; he was finding success on television. He appeared on CSI: Miami, and earned much recognition and popularity for his recurring role as Dr. Jeffery “Big Love” Cole on House M.D. He has also got a role in popular TV show, The Blacklist Season 3, Mr. Solomon (Gathegi’s character) acts on behalf of The Cabal, an alliance made up of some of the most powerful people in the world. He will be acting alongside James Spader (as Red Reddington) and Megan Boone (as Liz Keen).
As Gathegi’s career began to flourish, he received a suggestion from a casting director about auditioning for a role as a vampire in the upcoming Twilight film. Although initially skeptical, Gathegi went to the audition and earned the role of Laurent in the film adaptation of Stephemie Meyer’s best-selling novel. Gathegi recalls that his skepticism completely dissipated after reading the first book, and falling in love with the story and its characters. Twilight (2008) was an international success, and Gathegi went on to star in the franchise’s second film, The Twilight Saga: New Moon, in 2009. Gathegi earned another high-profile role in 2011, as Armando Muñoz/Darwin in the film
Off the set, Gathegi spends his time traveling, playing sports, reading and watching movies, and prefers to spend his time in New York: The actor once told Vanity Fair magazine that New York City is the only city he’s lived in that has “felt like home.” As one of the most highly regarded actors from Kenya, Gathegi says he only feels it when he comes back home where fans follow and are inspired by his work, on social media and when his relatives tell him he has been featured in newspaper articles.
However, he was accused by some fans of reinforcing western stereotypes of Kenya and Africa in the 2015 US television series Proof, where he played Zed, a medical intern from Kenya. In the series, Gathegi interns under Doctor Carolyn Tyler, who is asked by a cancer-stricken billionaire, Ivan Turing, to find out all there is about life after death and near death experiences. When asked about life after death by the dying billionaire in one of the episodes, Zed said that he comes from a culture that believes Aids is caused by evil spirits and can be cured by rape.
In the series, he also explains that he comes from a poor family and that it was his local chief, who paid for his university studies and internship in the US and in return he would marry the chief’s daughter in an arranged marriage. Some local viewers of the show thought that these two instances painted an outdated picture of the Kenyan society – not the country that is celebrated worldwide for its technological innovation in mobile phone banking.
Although he appreciates local productions, he said it has been difficult to keep up with the Kenyan film and television scene because of his heavy work schedule. In the highly competitive world of Hollywood, many excellent actors often lose focus without even noticing and careers end prematurely. Gathegi said he is working hard not to fall in to this trap and is constantly pushing his limits. It’s only this year where he says he can afford to step back and take a break. His focus for the past 12 years has been to solidify his place in the acting community, to have his name known enough that he can stop continually fighting for roles and instead have them come to him.