In the new Showmax series Pepeta, singer Judith Nyambura, popularly known as Avril, plays the role of Nduta, a woman who is a fortress of comfort to a football coach who turns to her for moral support.

Based on the real-life story of Harun ‘Rio’ Wathari, the series captures the dreams and realities of the youth in Kibera, known for churning out the top football players in the country.

The show is all about crime football but Nduta happens to be Biki’s (the football coach) go-to pillow whenever he feels he needs comfort to the point where Nduta feels overwhelmed. This results in her reaching a breaking point which involves a lot of emotions that are separate from all the crime that is captured in the series.

From the beginning, auditioning for the role, Avril did not think that she would land the role, the reason being it had been a while since her last acting role. She was not sure she could be able to reach the level of vulnerability the character demanded.

“I had to audition in front of Charles Owuda, who is a big name not just in Kenya film but in Hollywood. Being there and him just telling me that I can own the role boosted my determination. I did the audition and I had a callback and the rest is history,” Avril said.

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Shot in Kibera, showing the poverty levels that families live in and how boys and girls are introduced to the life of crime at a very young age, the whole experience was somehow harrowing to Avril.

“I feel that this film is soo timely because if you look at what is happening around us there is such an upsurge of crime and this story tends to address that issue. Reading the script and acting the roles put the entire cast into that reality and it is a whole roller-coaster of emotions,” she said.

“I am a mother and when we shot the first episode and there is a scene where a young boy is arrested for something he might have done. This is happening in real life. The other day I remember reading a story about a boy who was arrested inside Nairobi National Park. As a mother it breaks my heart. I have a young boy who 10 years from now will probably be faced with some very tough decisions, and I don’t know whether I would have equipped him enough to be able to make those decisions,” she explained.

Avril’s first acting role was 10 years ago in the popular TV drama series Shuga, where she acted alongside Oscar Award winner Lupita Nyong’o. She also acted in Sumu la Penzi.

However, music remains her first love and she is not going to give up on it anytime soon.

“Film goes hand in hand with music because for Shuga the first role I got was a musical role I went to audition for a musical role. So I am not in any way running away from music or reinventing myself. I acknowledge that I have received not so much positive feedback for some of the songs that I have released, but that has not made me give up on music,” she said.

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Featuring a predominantly young cast, including some who have never been seen on screen before, Pepeta stars Brahim Ouma (Famous) in his first-ever lead role as Junior.

The cast also includes Malik Lemuel, who makes a major comeback since Machachari, Dedan J. Onyango (The Real Househelps of Kawangware), Lwanda Jawar (Sense8), Avril Nyambura (MTV Shuga), George Mo (Borderline), Wycliffe Eravuna (Selina), Marrianne Nungo (Supa Modo), Brian Ngaira (Baba Twins), and newcomers Eric Aswani, Fridah Mumbe and Suzanne Karani.

Pepeta is produced by CJ3 Entertainment and directed by Vincent Mbaya (Country Queen, Chaguo), with Damaris Irungu (Crime and Justice), Charles Ouda (Waiting Room, Makutano Junction) and Abigail Arunga (How to Find a Husband) as writers.

“The first thing that attracted me to this story is that it’s based on real-life events. I was sold the moment I heard about it. Shoutout to Rio because it’s not easy to tell your life story and allow people to come in and show it to the world. It’s a very brave thing, and it’s an important story and I think what we’ve done on this show is going to shake the industry,” Vincent Mbaya said.

Pepeta premieres on Showmax on November 24.

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