The last time Charles Ouda was on our screens, he was the host of #Discover254 alongside Sarah Hassan – a magazine-style show that celebrated homegrown talent: a welcome addition to television that further cemented our perception of Charlie’s easy, confident demeanor and natural affinity for the screen.
He is now based in New York pursuing his passion in theatre. And it was a move that was taken with the realization that he had reached a point in his career where he was doing more presenting and writing and not enough acting. He made the big move in 2014, applying and receiving entry to the Lee Strasberg Institute in New York.
And he’s been busy, currently working on three projects as he navigates the process of securing funding for an off Broadway production of his own play.
But was acting always in his blood? The talent was present, he says. But so was shyness and under confidence: “[It forced me] to build personas to cope…” Formal training has given him the space to be a person who wasn’t scared of being judged as well as discipline, drive and an appreciation of the craft.
Charlie was born and raised in a big family. Studying at St Mary’s School allowed him the opportunity to pursue the arts. He played the flute and dabbled in singing in the school choir, “I was the fat boy who sang alto…’ he reminisces.
Singing, acting, TV – he loves them all, but adds that there have been periods when he has been better at some: “I think around the time I released Superstar produced by Dan Aceda, I was coming into the musician phase in my life. I am still a musician… but it is no longer the lead. But I have learned that as an actor, you can pretty much be anything that you want…”
His influences are many and varied, citing John Sibi Okumu and Mumbi Kaigwa: “I saw her in an amazing performance of Ntozake Shange’s ‘For Coloured Girls” … Mumbi was and is absolutely captivating…!” Others, from Ian Mbugua to Mkamzee Mwatela, Nice Githinji and Nick Ndeda also deliver great work, he says. With respect to music, “Eric Wainaina and I have a long history. Eric gave me my first break in Lwanda: Man of Stone.”Others are Dan Aceda, The Villagers Band, Silas Miami: “If you haven’t heard his EP ‘Withdrawal Symptoms’, go and find it… He is one for the NOW!” and of course Sauti Sol also make the list.
The really long list.
Although not surprising for a man who understands the importance of championing talent.
It’s not all been highs. Losing his mother and brother within a short space of time was particularly tough, especially as he tried to gain his footing in a brand new environment.
And outside of work? “ Eh… I write poetry. I don’t know… I cook… I sing… I watch movies…”
So a regular guy. Only one who is working to give a script he wrote the Off Broadway debut it needs. Oh yes, a film is also in the works.
So you know… he’s a special kind of regular.