Nairobi sensation ‘Sense8’ to start shooting season II
When Netflix, the American provider of Internet streaming media, made the official announcement last weekend that it would be producing the second season of science fiction online drama Sense8, one could almost hear the sigh of relief from all the Sense8 fans in Nairobi who watched Season One religiously.
They’d been holding their breath waiting and hoping for this good news.
There are a myriad of reasons for the broad-based popularity of the sci-fi series about eight different people who discover they have a mental and emotional connection that’s inexplicable but compelling.
The main reason for its popularity locally is that Nairobi is one of the eight cities where it was filmed and more than 20 Kenyan s are featured in the cast, many of whom are known either for their roles in local TV sit-coms, films like Nairobi Half-Life or for their work on stage.
Quite a number are extras who only appear on one or two episodes, like Harry Ebale who plays a traffic cop and Krysteen Savane who plays the wife of Jela, the matatu conductor.
But then there are actors like Paul Ogola (who was one of the gangsters in Nairobi Half-Life and is a regular with Heartstrings Theatre), who has a major role as Jela in the Kenyan portions of the series.
Peter King also has a significant part as a crooked killer politician. And Chichi Seii plays the mother of Capheus (Ami Ameen), the “Van Damme” matatu driver from Kibera who works closely with Ogola’s conductor Jela, but also connects telepathically with the other members of Sense8.
It also didn’t hurt that more than 100 Kenyans were part of the production team. According to one of the series’ producers, Ginger Wilson of Ginger Ink, many more Kenyans worked as part of the production, either in security (including Kenyan Police whom she says were most cooperative) or as drivers, caterers and other sundry jobs.
All of them spread the word around that Sense8 was something special to watch.
Unfortunately, Netflix doesn’t yet stream its online media to Kenya. Nonetheless, hundreds of Kenyans joined the 65 million Netflix subscribers who began watching the enigmatic series that was launched on June 5.
Lyne Were, like a multitude of Kenyans, started watching the series shortly after the 12th and last episode landed on DVD.
JUST BE PATIENT
“You may not understand the first episode, but just be patient,” said Ms Were. “It will start making sense by the third episode, but wait for the last two episodes. They are absolutely amazing,” she said.
While some people had a problem with the series’ treatment of gender issues, it has been well received by Kenyans especially because Nairobi plays a prominent role in it.
So do the cityscapes of Berlin, London, Seoul, Mexico City, Reykjavik, Chicago and San Francisco.
The story shifts quickly all over the globe, so fast that one won’t know when they’ll be brought back to some stunning sight in Nairobi, be it Kibera or KICC, the Globe Cinema flyover or OTC.
But according to Ginger Wilson, Nairobi wasn’t the first choice for the screen writers, Lana and Andy Wachowski and J. Michael Straczynski.
“They were thinking about South Africa, but Tom [Twyker, founder of One Fine Day, the film company that partnered with Ginger Ink to make Nairobi Half Life] kept pushing for Nairobi, insisting there was incredible talent right here.”
The Wachowskis (makers of The Matrix Trilogy) finally agreed. For instance, they thanked Paul Ogola after seeing his performance as Jela, telling him he had given “so much more than they had ever anticipated.”
Ogola had heard a few days before Netflix’s official announcing of Season Two that he would be in it; but according to Ginger, the choice of cities for the new season are yet to be announced.
“But the main eight leads will definitely be coming back,” added Ginger who will be involved if the Wachowskis come back to Kenya.
“Incidentally,” she said, “The Making of Sense8 has just been released so Kenyans will probably have it by next week.”
Meanwhile, for live theatre, Nairobi groups are staging Kikuyu comedies: Friends Ensemble are at the Alliance Francaise while Johari Productions are performing at Phoenix Players Theatre.