Ainea Ojiambo is perhaps Kenya’s most prominent and busiest TV bad guy, from his days in Makutano Junction, Nairobi Half Life and Demigods to his recent roles like the dirty cop Juma doing Nana Tandala’s (Sanaipei Tande) bidding in Maisha Magic’s telenovela Kina, and the crooked prison warden Musa in the Showmax thriller series Igiza.
In the new Showmax political thriller series County 49, Ojiambo takes on the role of Okusimba Sibi aka Ox, the deposed Governor of Bwatele County. Ox plays a stereotypical African politician – charismatic, deeply corrupt, deeply loved by his supporters, and with just enough capacity for dictatorship if left to his own devices.
Why does Ojiambo like to play bad guys?
The actor has mastered the art of playing corrupt men who are either at the top or very close to the top.
Like any good TV villain, Ojiambo has had his fair share of hate from fans.
If the first two episodes of County 49 are anything to go by, then his new character Okusimba is about to make some viewers really mad, if they aren’t clenching their jaws already. When we first meet him, Okusimba is facing criminal charges for abuse of office, treason and corruption (and more), an onslaught that was led by the new governor Nerimah Mkung (Wakio Mzenge).
Okusimba is a man who’s more interested in politics, power and money, than family, as Ojiambo describes him. He has a score to settle with the government, and his recent legal troubles, and unexpected conviction, strengthen this resolve, setting off a chain of events that threatens to bring Bwatele to its knees.
He feels betrayed, and he feels that the country owes him because he fought for it,” Ojiambo says. He finds Okusimba interesting in many ways. For instance, the way Okusimba’s monologues take him back to his early days on stage before he transitioned to TV.
I used to do a lot of Shakespeare when I was young,” he reveals. “And my character Okusimba does a lot of monologues where I have to change characters in between.”AINEA OJIAMBO
With these monologues, Ojiambo says he’s had to dig deeper to capture the emotion that each scene demands.
When he first read the script for County 49, he called director Likarion Wainaina. He wanted to understand what Likarion saw in him that made him the perfect actor for such a role which he describes as his most challenging yet. “I want you to do something that you’ve never done before,” Likarion told him.
Likarion and Ojiambo have worked together before on stage, a few movie projects, and on the telenovela Kina, where Likarion directed some episodes in season one. “He’s one of the directors who really challenges me a lot, and who really understands me. Every time I do a project with him, there’s a new me that comes out,” Ojiambo says.
As he ponders his next role, Ojiambo jokes about moving away from bad guys to a more romantic role.
I think next time, I’ll go for an Alejandro type of character, a romantic guy so that I can show people I can also do romance, the kind of role that will make people cry when they see me frustrated in love,”AINEA OJIAMBO
Fun fact about Ojiambo: A licensed gun holder, he lent his weapon expertise to the cast of County 49, teaching them how to handle guns since the show is heavy on the action and gun fights.