Gathu, Sanaipei share the secret of their onscreen chemistry on ‘Kina’
Some onscreen couples were meant to be. Like Sanaipei Tande and Jimmi Gathu in their latest roles on Kina, the drama series on Maisha Magic Plus that is also streaming on Showmax.
Directed by the award-winning director Likarion Wainaina (Supa Modo) and AMVCA nominee Victor Gatonye (Dream Child), Kina follows the ruthless battle for survival between the wealthy the powerful and the downtrodden who toil for the rich but reap nothing from their hard work.
At the top are the Tandalas, led by Nana Tandala (Sanaipei), a powerful businesswoman who doesn’t mind getting blood on her hands to protect the empire she’s built.
Fred Tandala (played by Gathu) is her loving and sometimes over-the-top husband who is also the Deputy Inspector General of Police but is clueless about his wife’s under dealings.
In their roles, Sanaipei and Gathu’s onscreen chemistry is undeniable; they can be goofy in ways that only a couple who are not embarrassed by a little PDA and dinner conversations that make their children uncomfortable can be.
It helps that they’ve been friends for years having first met when Sanaipei was still in the music group Sema.
“We’ve known each other since I got into showbiz at the age of 19,” Sanaipei says, adding that this gives them an added advantage to playing a married couple.
“It’s an advantage but even if he was not my friend this is work: you have to completely forget how you feel about someone personally and get into your role,” she says.
Her sentiments are shared by Gathu, who says being goofy and lovey-dovey in Kina is not a problem.
“We can go as far as is needed. I think we are just both lucky that it was the two of us and not strangers,” he says. “It’s funny because that’s just how goofy I am with my wife as well.”
Fred Tandala brings out a side of Gathu we’ve never seen before in his many years on TV. His previous roles have always demanded a certain sense of seriousness from him. Like in the political drama State House where he played the radical President Kajana. Or in Wanuri Kahiu’s Rafiki where he played John, Kena’s (Samantha Mugatsia) liberal father running for office against a powerful rival.
Other than the range of emotions he’s able to embrace as Fred, Gathu also says his role in Kina has given him a chance to capture exactly how Nairobians speak.
“I’ve always wanted to be part of a show where I’m able to speak Swahili, not overtly straight Swahili but just how Nairobians speak. I’ve done a couple of TV shows where I’m always required to speak either straight English or Swahili but that’s not who we are.”
But unlike Gathu, who’s been in the acting scene for years, this is only Sanaipei’s second major role, and her first not only as a villain but a woman who wields so much power.
“I see myself as a very traditional person therefore having to play a woman who’s more powerful than her husband was a bit difficult for me because I had to detach from what I have known all my life and channel this boss attitude,” she said.
Her biggest challenge, she says, is having to bring out the worst in her to portray Nana – a woman who in the first episode alone drowns a man in the river and buries a girl alive.
“When it comes to parts where I have to raise my voice or be violent, it really takes a lot from me. Sometimes I feel like I’ve spent too much energy that I need to rest before the next scene.”