TANIA SHAKIRAH KANKINDI is an actress and voice-over artiste who has appeared in a number of local movies and television series.
However, she is now spreading her wings, having starred in a Kenyan drama series, Volume, which premiered on Netflix last December, making her one of the first Ugandan actors to appear in a Netflix original series.
Quick Talk had a chat with her about her life as an actress. Who is Tania?
My name is Tania Shakira Kankindi. I am a voice-over artiste, an entrepreneur, commercial model and an all-round filmmaker.
Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Nansana, though I was born in Rwanda, and that is where my origins are. [Tania’s parents moved to Uganda during the 1994 Rwanda genocide.] But I am Ugandan now because I have spent all my life here.
Have you always wanted to be an actor?
Not necessarily. But when we were growing up we used to watch those Nigerian movies and envision ourselves as actors. But I never thought that I would ever be one because I thought that actors were only in Nigeria.
When I finished high school, I came across an announcement of Mariam Ndagire’s acting school, and I joined. My mum, however, put a condition that I still had to continue with my other studies; so, I had to join university as well and I did film school and university concurrently.
Before graduating at film school, every student had to first go audition for a movie role and that is how I got into the film industry.
What did you study at university?
I studied Mass Communication and Journalism. Actually, all my life I wanted to be a journalist, a Luganda news anchor to be specific, because I loved how calm and respectful the language is. I even went ahead and got skilled in the language; I know how to read and write it.
As a voice-over artist, I can also translate from English to Luganda and vice versa
Did you get a chance of practicing journalism?
By the time I graduated, I was so much into film but then I realized that it wasn’t making me money; so, I went into public relations. I mostly did music public relations where I worked with artistes such as Sheebah and Ykee Benda.
But because I was still very passionate about acting, I just couldn’t get myself to stop and after working with Ykee Benda for three years, I got a role in the Power of Legacy series at NTV and I couldn’t do both jobs due to conflicting schedules; so, I quit public relations.
How was it like working in the music industry?
It was a real hustle, fast-paced and very chaotic, but also very fulfilling. I did a lot of projects and campaigns with Ykee Benda and it was very wonderful to see how well they turned out at the end. That industry needs when you are very hard-headed and I am too peaceful; so, I had to leave.
What are some of the movie productions you have been involved in?
Quite a lot but the most recognizable ones include The Coffee Shop on Urban TV which was my first TV series, Invisible Cuffs which got me my first nomination in the Uganda Film Festival awards in 2016, My Husband’s Wife which won me Best Supporting Actress at the Uganda Film Festival awards in 2022, My Sister’s Keeper, Power of Legacy series on NTV, The Kojja on Pearl Magic and most recently Volume on Netflix. I have also done some short films like Jangu and A Good Catholic Girl. [Clap, clap, clap!]
Well done! Tell me more about this Netflix drama
Volume is a coming-of-age drama series which follows a talented young musician from humble beginnings who gets entangled in dubious dealings while chasing his dream.
The character I’m playing in Volume is Tanya. Tanya is a boss in her own right. She’s a student but more enterprising than others. She runs her own music shows around campus.
She’s a go-getter, aggressive. She loves a good time and everything that comes with it. She’s very stylish, she loves music. In as much as she’s always around people, she’s a closed-in person, and doesn’t let people get to know her that much.
How did you scoop this role?
I saw an audition call online and I auditioned. I sent a video online, after which I was called and went to Nairobi for the physical auditions, and I got the role.
What does being part of a Netflix drama mean for you?
It means that I can still make it anywhere in the world. It just reinstated the fact that I am not meant to be enclosed in one place and I need to spread my wings a bit more. It was the first time I set out to try a different director and a different country, and it paid off, which has been encouraging for me.
Did you know Kiswahili prior to filming? [The drama series is done in both English and Kiswahili]
No [laughs lightly] I do not speak Kiswahili. On set when my fellow actors and crew would talk to each other, I had to remind them to speak English.
When I got to Nairobi, my script was in Kiswahili; so, I had to find a friend to help me translate. I am learning the language though, because I believe to make it in their industry, you have to know Kiswahili because unlike us, they are very proud of their language. Their movies or series are like 60 per cent Kiswahili and 40 per cent English.
What role haven’t you played yet which you would like to play?
I think a character that doesn’t speak, because it is very challenging to portray emotions if you are not talking; so, I would like to see how I would handle that.
And what is the most challenging role you have played so far?
My role in Volumes challenged me a lot. It challenged my skills and my personal life.
What is your take on the local film industry?
I started acting nine years ago but where we were then and where we are now is such a huge step; we have grown so much. In terms of production quality, we are getting better. We have people who are willing to put in the work and I am sure in a few years, we shall be so much better.
Have you had any embarrassing moment on set?
I think I have. It is hard to say that I haven’t but I just don’t remember; maybe because it wasn’t that bad. But even the fact that you as an actor come on set and you keep forgetting your lines yet the script was given to you months ago is embarrassing.
Your best actors……
Internationally, I like Viola Davis; her acting is very intriguing. Then in Uganda, Michael Wawuyo Jr is very good. I actually keep saying that I need a film with him.
Is Tania in a relationship?
Yes I am, and very happy. But I don’t want to say so much about it; you know people tend to want to spoil good things.
Any upcoming projects in 2024?
There are some projects coming up. I am not at liberty to reveal some productions because we sign non-disclosure agreements. What I can reveal right now is that I have a new TV series called Borders (which January 27 at MOTIV).