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5 Top Kenyan Actresses and Where to Find Them

They are some of the country's most celebrated talents

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Serah Ndanu Teshna – Igiza, Pieces of Us

Most people will agree that Serah Ndanu has always been in a league of her own, from her Kalasha-winning role in Rugged Priest to her femme fatale role in Dorothy Ghettuba’s Swahili soap opera Sumu la Penzi. But perhaps her range on screen is most evident in her distinct portrayal of warring twin sisters Linda and Nicole in the Kenyan Showmax Original thriller series Igiza.

This is Ndanu’s comeback role after her two-year absence on screen, and quite a challenging one that required her to do lots of research, rigorous workshops, and intense coaching from legendary stage director Dr Julisa Rowe.

For this role, Ndanu has received immense praise from fans on Twitter, and from her co-stars Kevin Samuel, who’s wowed by the complexity of her performance and Blessing Lung’aho, who has described her as “such a giver in a scene.”

Also catch Ndanu as the spoilt rich girl Joey, alongside Brian Ogola, in the drama series Pieces of Us on Showmax.

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Sarah Hassan – Críme and Justice, Famous

Sarah Hassan gained immense popularity when she appeared in Citizen TV’s long-running high school drama Tahidi High.

Recently, the New York Film Academy alumna has starred in and co-produced Plan B, winner of Best Movie East Africa at AMVCA 2020 and AMVCA nominee Just In Time (her second collaboration with Nigerian filmmaker Lowladee), which recently earned her a nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy at the AMVCA 2022.

In perhaps her most-challenging role yet, Hassan stars in the first Kenyan Showmax Original Críme and Justice as the dedicated Detective Makena, pushing to make her mark in a male-dominated space. For this role, Hassan won Best Actress at the 2021 Kalasha Awards.

You can also find Hassan in the Showmax music drama series, Famous, where she plays Dr. Talash, a mysterious therapist who gets entangled in a love affair with popular Nairobi rapper Magic (played by Khula Budi).

Mumbi Maina – Salem, Críme and Justice

Winning a Kalasha Award with her debut role, Mumbi Maina’s works includes Mali, Jane and Abel, How To Find a Husband, La Femme Anjola, Nollywood’s psychological thriller, which recently earned her a nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama at the 2022 AMVCAs.

Internationally, Mumbi has appeared in the hit sci-fi series Sense8, as the defiant journalist Zakia Asalache, and in the fourth movie in The Matrix film series, The Matrix Resurrections, in 2021. Mumbi garnered more praise in 2021 with her role in Reuben Odanga’s feature debut Nafsi, her biggest local comeback project in five years.

In February 2022, she appeared in the first episode of Críme and Justice S2 as Charles Ouda’s clueless partner, caught in a conspiracy she didn’t sign up for.

Currently, she plays Zahra, a woman who falls from grace in Maisha Magic Plus telenovela Salem, which is also available to stream on Showmax.

Catherine Kamau – Sue na Jonnie, Ma’Empress

Popularly known as Kate Actress, Catherine Kamau has appeared in Tosh Gitonga’s rom-com Disconnect in a show-stealing role that earned her a Kalasha nomination for Best Supporting Actress, and in LowlaDee’s rom-com Plan B. Most recently, she starred in the AMVCA-nominated film A Grand Little Lie, and Rueben Odanga’s Nafsi, her first-ever drama role.

In recent years, one of her most popular roles has been in Sue na Jonnie, Maisha Magic East’s Kalasha-winning comedy-drama series, with all 13 seasons now residing on Showmax. Here, Kate played the titular role of the street-smart Sue, a role that earned her a Kalasha Award for Best Actress in 2017.

In Ma’Empress, her other role on Showmax, Kate plays a naive, humble housewife, alongside an ensemble cast of female leads Naomi Ng’ang’a (You Again), Nyokabi Machari (Chaguo), and Minne Kariuki (Single Kiasi).

Brenda Wambui – Monica, Selina, Subira

It has been refreshing to see Brenda Wairimu pivot from her usual good girl roles to portray the titular role of Monica, a young woman who lies and cons her way to the top in the Showmax drama series Monica, alongside screen legend Raymond Ofula and Ephy Saint.

Further embracing her darker side, Brenda stirred up some trouble playing the unhinged Rosette in the award-winning Swahili telenovela, Selina, which came to an end in April after a five-year run. All six seasons of Selina are currently available to binge-watch on Showmax.

On Showmax, Brenda also stars in Kenya’s entry to the 2020 Oscars, Subira, in the titular role as a free-spirited Muslim girl who struggles against traditions and gender stereotypes to live out her dream of swimming in the ocean. It’s a role that won her Best Actress at the Kalasha Awards in 2018.

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