Trevor Gitonga: The Next Big Name In The Kenyan Movie Scene

I am a fan of movies and when it comes to amazing talent I always can’t help but get inspired admire the performance in awe. It always tells me that there is a lot to be done with my talent. I always try and learn as much as I can and this young boy has a lot to offer on stage. “Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist.’ Pablo Picasso

Trevor Gitonga is the starring of Leo, a Kenyan film that has redefined the culture of films, in that its subtle themes and production team and cast are one of a kind. I got to know Trevor when I was in primary school back in 2007. He was by then appearing in the kid’s show, Angel’s Café on Citizen Television. He is multi-talented! He is also a poet and musician besides being in theater, television and film acts. In his latest film role, he stars along Kenyan television personality Jeff Koinange, Hollywood actor David Morin, actor Paddy Mwangi, Gowi Odera and Chris Kirubi.

He is humble and talks closely to his fans, a quality that will surely propel him to greater heights and get to join the likes of Lupita Nyong’o (12 Years a Slave) and Edi Gathegi (Twilight Saga: New Moon, X-Men: First Class, Crank) who are both Kenyans.

Leo The Movie Theatrical Release Poster.
Leo The Movie Theatrical Release Poster.

Hi mentor and manager is Stella Kagendo, a talented gospel artist, whose songs include ‘Down on my knees’ (2010) and green songs like ‘Mteja Maji and ‘Tunza Mazingira’ which reflect her passion for environmental matters. Stella is also a Goodwill ambassador for Change Mind Change Future organization.

Trevor has passion for a greener future. He has in the past participated in the UNEP Tunza initiatives in Durban, South Africa as well as in South Korea and Kenya. His poetry has a unique form of creativity, unmatched wit; complex imagery that often reminds me of 18th century author Jonathan Swift, whose definition of (excellent) style is ‘correct words put in the correct places.’

Leo: Dare. Dream. Believe

This is a movie directed by Jinna Mutune, an East African film director who’s character can be best described as passionate, persistent, inspiring and tenacious. This must have been a good reason why she identified with Trevor and cast him for the lead role. One friend blogger says, ‘She ate, slept, lived and breathed Leo.’ The deep love for her job is reflected in her blog about the movie’s journey, the strong message in her words and desire to bring Kenyan talent to the international limelight, something that was achieved through training and mentorship.

Trevor on the set of Leo
Trevor on the set of Leo

The film crew included renowned Hollywood film maker Abe Martinez, who specializes in cinematography and is credited with films like Fast & Furious, Spiderman 3, Ali and Hancock-in which starred Will Smith.

The movie is a story about an ‘awkward’ Maasai boy born to a less fortunate home. He has to strive against the odds to achieve his dreams. His character has fairytale-esque, otherworldly thoughts about being a superhero, which he realizes he is not.  He then focuses on making his dream come true: to be the best he can in life.

The film seeks to show the power of dreaming big.  In Like a Virgin, entrepreneur Richard Branson addresses a Kenyan dreaming of making his small debut business work. She is frustrated that her workers are demanding slick working conditions and a higher pay. She describes Richard’s recommendation ‘practically impossible.’

In response, Branson says, ‘When I started Student magazine I had hardly any money to pay my stuff…the furniture limited to a few beanbags and some desks and phones…but the thrill and promise of possible success united us and ensured that we all worked along hours in cramped conditions.’ (P.193)

Leo Premiere
Leo Premiere

Richard has since grown his Virgin brand big. Recently, supermodel Kate Moss celebrated her 40th birthday on his Necker island.  Princess Diana, Eddie Murphy, Titanic actress Kate Winslet, Prince Harry and One Direction‘s Harry Styles have since holidayed there after he acquired  it in 1979. That is the power of dreaming big and not giving up; if Jinna didn’t do that, Leo would have been a buried dream, as she puts it. The movie has since been test screened in Houston, London, Paris and has had support from UNESCO for the cultural themes it portrays. They include a positive image for Africa as having potential. It has also showed on Fly Emirates and South African air.

I got to interview him and this is what he had to say!

Me:   Who is Trevor?

Trevor:  I find out something new everyday. What I know thus far is that I’m a driven young entrepreneur with an insatiable desire for success, and blessed with the gifts necessary to see the success through. I’m a writer as well (stories, scripts and poetry) and I hope to put out some of my work very soon. As much as my heart is in the film industry, I have great aspirations in the corporate world as well.

Me: What response have you gotten from your role in Leo from the
audience? Was there a criticism or some sort of negativity?

Trevor: The response has been astoundingly positive! In fact, I was even a little alarmed that there were was no, so to speak “hate” from the online community and I’ve happy about that. I guess the only negativity came from myself. A performer is always his own biggest critic, I guess.

Me: Do you think that the average Kenyan teen would make it in this
tightly competitive industry?

Trevor:  The average teen? Uh, well I don’t think that anything or anyone “average” could thrive in the kind of world we live in today. The competition is insane and standards of competence keep going higher and higher. You need something special to distinguish yourself from the crowd, and I think that applies to every area of life.

Me:    What is your favorite musical instrument?

Trevor: That’s not a question I hear everyday. Um, I love the sound of cellos and harps. My God, I’d kill to take harp lessons!

Me: Your favorite book?

Trevor: Why are you torturing me like this! Honestly, whenever I pick up a new book I feel as if it’s the best I’ve seen so far. But recently, Khaleed Hosseini’s ‘A Thousand Splendid Suns’ blew me away, as well as Dan Brown’s ‘Inferno’.

A Thousand Splendid Suns. Trevor's latest read.
A Thousand Splendid Suns. Trevor’s latest read.

Me: How do you explain your non-mainstream character in what you do,
how you do it, and the way you think?

Trevor:  I wish I could explain the direction my career has taken, but it amazes me as well! I just got into it to do a few commercials and maybe get a little cash on the side. Actually I was 8 when I started this and I didn’t much about money, it was more about trying new experiences and skiving school (not that I’m condoning it) and now it’s enormous. When taking on a role I must always read the script thoroughly, even to a point that I know my co-actors’ lines – just so I can wrap my head around the mindset of the character. I even write notes on him, and simulate scenarios and try to imagine what my character would do. I remember when I was rehearsing for my school play in November, my role was so conflicted and twisted that often I would shout at my friends in frustration from the voice of the character. It’s all about becoming the person, and not just pretending you are.

Me:  Art and class work can be challenging, man. How do you get it done?

Trevor:  With difficulty, believe me. I’m in boarding school right this minute. It needs great time management skills and dedication. You have to remind yourself that even thought you’re working, your education is still vial because acting is a fickle business, it could all just end tomorrow. Unfortunately, security in acting doesn’t exist, but a worthwhile education gives you all the security in the world. That’s what keeps me going.

Me:  With the year 2014 year seeing a string of Hollywood releases that
are movie adaptations, say Maze Runner, Divergent, Lone Survivor,
Captain America: The Winter Soldier; which Kenyan book would you want
to see on the big screens?

Divergent: a much anticipated 2014 film , 'the next teen film frenzy' - ABC News. It is an adaptation of Veronica Roth's book of the same title.
Divergent: a much anticipated 2014 film , ‘the next teen film frenzy’ – ABC News. It is an adaptation of Veronica Roth’s book of the same title.

Trevor: Yes, I particularly loved the book Divergent! I’ve always had a soft spot for political movies and so Wahome Mutahi’s epic “Three Days on the Cross” is my obvious choice. With a good screenplay (written by me) and a good director, that adaptation could challenge the likes of Captain Phillips!

Me:  What is your biggest challenge so far?

Trevor:  Eish, why so serious? Everyday is a challenge. But the biggest challenge of all, is remembering that despite my many personal hurdles I’m a public figure and I must act as such and conduct myself as such.

Me: Recently, Transformers director Michael Bay had a meltdown on
stage at a Samsung news conference, whole campaigning for Samsung’s new curved 4K television. This happened when the autocue jammed, and he walked offstage. How would you advice budding actors on coping withstage fright?

Trevor: Don’t fight the stage fright, but channel it into passion for you performance and DON’T LET IT SHOW. Even after doing this as long as I have, my heart drops every time I have to make a public announcement or go on stage. I guess, if you are nervous on stage then it’s a sign that what you’re doing matters to you and that’s good. Stage fright never ends!

Me: Favorite travel location and dish?

Trevor: I’m a sucker for sushi and/or Italian, you don’t even know! I love Far East Asia and all its culture, so maybe South Korea. But if I had the choice to pack up and relocate to Florence, Italy I wouldn’t think twice!

Florence, Italy. Trevor's favorite spot on Earth!
Florence, Italy. Trevor’s favorite spot on Earth!

Trevor has a bright future ahead, and he’s truly aboard an unstoppable train to success! Watch this space for the official interview to get to know more about him and spread word!
You can watch the movie trailer here:


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