When I meet Fidel Maithya, I force him into a silly game I like to play with actors – Kiss, Marry, Kill. He swears it will get him in trouble. After all, picking between Helen Keli, Brenda Wairimu and Joyce Maina can be daunting even for a man who’s been labelled Kenya’s Idris Elba by online fans.
Could be his half grey beard but Fidel dismisses this comparison. “Idris is one of my favourite actors alongside Denzel Washington but I’m nowhere close to him, and I’m speaking in terms of talent and the work that he’s put forth. I can, however, relate to his struggle. Most of the actors or personalities that I follow made it later in life and they put in the work to be where they are. Maybe one day, I can live up to the fans expectations. But I have to thank him (Elba) for making grey hair look sexy.”
Fidel plays the beloved Dr. Leshan in the Swahili telenovela Selina, a role that has earned him a stream of online fans who can’t seem to get enough of his fond friendship with Helen Keli’s Patricia. Although he’s tight-lipped about where this relationship is heading, he shares more about his role on Selina and what it means to act alongside Kenya’s screen legend Raymond Ofula in his first major TV role, Monica.
Your character Dr. Leshan, has been a fan favourite from the moment he joined Selina, do you have anything in common with him?
I think we are both rounded individuals who have the best interest of their friends at heart and who always want to be right but we may not be perfect on how we want to achieve this goal. We are also both passionate and very protective as well.
Where do you see Patricia and Dr. Leshan’s relationship going? Do you think they’ll have a happy ending?
They will go where the writers want them to go, I can’t really comment on that. But I can say they share a very strong friendship; Dr. Leshan has always been Patricia’s friend and he’s always been looking out for her. And now especially with her health in jeopardy, I know he has Patricia’s best interest at heart since he is her doctor.
That scene where Patricia slapped you a few weeks ago was so unexpected and shocking to fans. How is it working with Helen Keli?
That slap was supposed to be fake but Helen Keli (Patricia) ended up slapping me for real and I reacted exactly how the director wanted me to. We had a good laugh about it later. She’s one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with, you can say she’s my best friend on the show.
Selina has quite a huge following, did you anticipate it was going to be the success it is today when you joined the show?
It surprising how this show is watched and loved by so many people, even kids. When I’m walking down the street, kids stop their parents to tell them “I have to talk to Dr. Leshan.” It touches my heart because you know it’s a genuine feeling if it comes from kids. How Selina has been received by the public is a credit to the producers, and even Odanga (the director) who is at the helm.
Do you have any say on where your character should go?
When you are making a show, sometimes it’s a collaborative effort – from the writers to the directors to producers to even the actors. We (actors) are like the first fans of the show, and during the table reads especially during the start of a season, we ask a lot of questions regarding our characters’ actions. It’s a very open process that is very collaborative.
How do you feel when you watch yourself on Selina?
I watch a bit of it but I switch shows when my part comes on. There are some creatives who like to watch themselves, and that’s a good thing, because it gives you an opportunity to check yourself and know where you can improve. I do that sometimes but I don’t like it. I don’t even like listening to my voice
What’s the most uncomfortable thing you’ve ever had to do on set?
As an actor, you are never really uncomfortable because acting is supposed to take you to those places where you are not comfortable since it’s never the real you. I remember in Monica, there was this kissing scene and I wasn’t really ready for it. But the director and the actress involved made it really easy for me. It’s a good thing that we were all friends on set so it was such an easy process. It was uncomfortable because everyone wanted to witness that scene but we pulled it off.
Talking of Monica, Raymond Ofula who plays your onscreen father is a force to reckon with, how was it acting alongside an actor of such caliber?
It was very intimidating in my head but once I was on set, he made it so comfortable for me. I don’t think I’ve ever been across a more talented individual and legendary in that aspect who’s just so down to earth. He was very accommodating, especially during scene rehearsals. He’d even give me pointers on what to do, how to stand, where to look and the like. And he is a true professional on set, always on time and the fittest 70-year-old I’ve ever seen.
Between Monica and Selina, which one would you say is your proudest role?
I’m very proud of both roles but to be honest, Dr. Leshan has been the most challenging role I’ve played so far, but also the most rewarding. The love I get on social media is immense; of course, I never take those things seriously but you feel like fans are so invested.
Which famous TV show would you star in if given a chance?
The Wire. It’s one of those shows that people didn’t really appreciate when it was on until after it had aired 5 seasons. It was way ahead of its time. There’s a bias there because Idris Elba started there as well. The thing I find most amazing about The Wire is the fact that some of the actors were from a different culture and a different country (Britain) and they killed their roles straight to the Baltimore accents.
Catch Fidel on Selina S1-4, as well as Monica S1-2 on Showmax.