Ex-child star Malik Lemmy a.k.a Govi on fame, Machachari and comeback in crime thriller
He may be only 23, but Pepeta star Malik ‘Lemmy’ Lemuel has been acting for the last 17 years. His first gig was in Makutano Junction before he took on the role he’s popularly known for to date – playing Govi in Citizen TV’s drama Machachari.
Arguably Kenya’s biggest show at the time, Machachari turned Malik and other young actors like Kamau Mbaya into household names. But how does one deal with such immense fame at such a young age?
“I’ve always appreciated the experience because I think being famous that young and for a long time has made me never want to live a life that isn’t mine,” Malik says. “It has really helped me not to be this egoistic guy.”
His family, and especially his mother, has been very instrumental in helping him stay grounded and not letting fame get to his head.
“Coming from a family that is laid back, I live life differently. My mum really talks to me and tells me, ‘Remember the days you had nothing.’ When you think about that, it changes your whole way of living,” Malik says, adding that it was a blessing when Machachari came to an end in 2019.
“I really needed a breather. I’d been on the show from 2005 to 2019; that’s a lot of years for a child.”
However, even with its end, Malik has never truly been able to escape the shadows of Machachari’s fame. He’s still always referred to as Govi by fans, and by the media who continue to pen headlines about him. But he’s learned not to let it bother him.
“I always have this favourite saying: ‘Usiache mbachao kwa msala upitao’ [which loosely translates to ‘Don’t insult the hand that feeds you’]. I feel like it’s the people’s problem, if they still want to see me as Govi. It’s okay as long as I’m still doing other things and I’m still relevant.”
The Showmax crime drama series Pepeta is essentially a comeback for Malik, his first major role after Machachari. It’s a chance for Kenyan viewers to see him as more than just Govi as he takes on the role of Dimore.
“It feels amazing to be back,” Malik says. “So many people have expectations and their questions are going to be answered.”
The new crime thriller is also a chance for him to explore his depth as he plays a character he describes as “no ordinary guy… Dimore is a character with so much depth, and so much to give in life.”
Dimore is also a “bad boy” with a kind of complexity Malik enjoyed exploring. “He has his good side in that he’s always there for his friends, especially Junior [played by Brahim Ouma]. But he doesn’t like his other team players because he feels like they’re trying to take the glory from him,” Malik explains.
He adds, “Sometimes he’s a chill guy, sometimes he’s too egotistic, thumping himself on the chest. He’s not a guy you can figure out easily because it’s like he has two personalities in one body.”
This experience working on Pepeta, which streams a new episode every Thursday, was nothing short of extraordinary for Malik, getting to play a role that really stretched him and challenged him.
Filming in Kibera brought back many memories, of having had that kind of life in his early years.
“This role has been a blessing. I had great people on my side day by day. I did a lot of stunts, I got injured, I was happy, I was sad, I was broken down,” Malik says.
“I was in every spectrum of life, and that’s not what you expect from a Kenyan setting most of the time. But it’s something that we can talk about, even in many years to come, that we did it. We brought something to life that wasn’t easy to do.”
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