Any avid fan of Kenyan television series’ recalls how Citizen TV’s Tahidi High carried the day. Fans, pundits, critics loved the show and its stars. Ted Kitana famously known as Mr Kilunda, was one of the show’s standout actors where he played the role of a typical no-nonsense teacher.
Kitana knew how to keep the audience glued. From his trademark ‘Kilunda look’ (that expression a teacher gives when he has caught a student committing an offence) to his interaction with the students, OJ (Dennis Mugo), Abel Mutua and Shish, teachers like Miss Morgan, even with the subordinate staff like Omosh.
Kenyans.co.ke sought to find out the 43-year-old’s whereabouts, having taken a long break from film and TV.
On Wednesday, September 16, Kitana spoke with this author on the Tahidi High acting days, the media industry, his businesses and creating employment in Kangundo, Machakos County where he relocated to.
For starters, fans would like to know where you have been since the show stopped airing. Is it a sabbatical, or will you be back on screen?
I am not sure of that as I do not know what the future holds. I relocated to Kangundo, Machakos County and ventured into farming. This is one constant source of income and I learnt this trade when I was still young. I also opened a salon with a barbershop too and an M-Pesa shop. I have employed four staff with the exemption of those at my farm. However, I still have a house in Nairobi where I spend some days when I travel to the city.
How does it feel like to be a pioneer of Kenya Television films and series?
(Laughs) It feels great knowing that we impacted positivity to the youth and they look up to us and appreciate our work. We created paths for the current stars and it is amazing seeing people succeed now. Whenever you also walk in the streets, you are mobbed by fans who you take your time to speak to and interact with. We laugh and reminisce on the good old days.
Any new projects you have been working on?
No, I am not engaged in any project. I took a break from everything. I used to do motivational talks for years since 2009 and I inspired a lot of youths in institutions too. When these young people see you on TV, they can’t believe that you exist and are real. Those talk shows changed lives. However, Covid-19 scaled down most of the physical activities.
What was your most memorable day on the set of Tahidi High?
(Laughs) For me, every day was a memorable day as I went to work. I loved my job and I love my current ones too. I used to be punctual and I loved interacting with my fellow actors. I remember how I used to check on my script or suits just preparing myself. I was so passionate about it.
You managed to portray a no-nonsense teacher. Is there any semblance between the strict teacher and you as a person?
(Chuckles for some time) I am a very happy person. I love laughing and I am generous and outgoing. I am so approachable. However, if you cross my line, I will give you the Kilunda look and reprimand you a little bit.
How did you land the role on the hit TV show?
I didn’t audition yes, but I started acting long ago in the theatres where I attracted massive crowds. I built my connections there and also worked at Nation Media later on. Back then I knew Lydia Gitachu (Teacher Chebii on Tahidi High) and I asked her to inform me on audition dates. I attended, but having been in theatre for long I passed upon arrival and I believe we did one of the best shows ever.
What about your dream of becoming a lawyer? Is that still in the books?
When you are in high school, all you ever dream about is being those top jobs, lawyer, doctor, pilot etc. However, I realised despite education coming first, all you have to do is what you are passionate about. When I came back from Europe, I found myself at Tahidi High and that’s how the story unfolded.
I was not okay with some aspects of law like lying to protect murderers as I felt it affected my integrity. Nonetheless, it is a good career and if used positively changes lives too. I help out through consultations.
What are your thoughts on the current state of the film industry?
We have come very far. From the days of Vitimbi and local shows where skeleton scripts were used to actors forming their own lines, to digital media and branding.
We now have promotions through international media and also streaming sites. Actors can earn from all angles. However, social media is a dangerous tool too, from cyberbullying to unworthy content that needs regulation.
Are there any regrets worth mentioning from your acting days and being a celebrity?
I have none. All I can recall is being conned by producers but we used to handle that. I learnt how to invest and how to develop myself as a person and that aided and shaped me.
How is your wife fairing on and the family?
(Laughs) We are good, happy and blessed to be alive. That’s what matters, right?
My answer: Yes it is!