How “Nilichoma” Producers Convinced Maurice Odumbe, and JB Masanduku to Join the Show

Nilichoma, the first-ever Showmax Original docuseries in Kenya, is making waves with its gripping narratives of well-known personalities who received unexpected windfalls and subsequently lost it all. Co-produced by Ahmed Deen and Isaya Evans, Nilichoma brings together a 13-part exploration. It features several fascinating stories, including those of cricket icon Maurice Odumbe and comedian JB Masanduku.

Now streaming on Showmax, the docuseries kicked off with the story of Stephen Kevogo, a marketer who, despite earning Ksh 800,000 a week, fell into a destructive cycle of drugs, women, and alcohol, ultimately losing his family and job.

Choosing the Right Personalities

Deen explains the meticulous process behind selecting the individuals featured in Nilichoma. “We had two main criteria for the series: that the people blew a significant amount of money (at least Ksh 1 million) in a short period and that they had very strong characters. From the pool of stories brought together by our research team, along with the curation from the content director, we then set up pre-interviews to get to know the personalities better and select our 10.”

Getting Maurice Odumbe and JB Masanduku Onboard

Convincing prominent figures like Maurice Odumbe and JB Masanduku to share their deeply personal stories was no easy task. Deen recalls their approach: “Our elevator pitch to them was, ‘Wouldn’t you like the world to know the other side of your story? The side you think about at night, the part no one but yourself knows?’ As they absorbed the words, you could see them getting past their initial fear of the truth and possible embarrassment into how the world would perceive them after.”

“For someone like Maurice, all he wanted was his truth to be shared, to get an opportunity to speak out for himself. Same thing for JB,” Deen adds.

Addressing the Sensitivity of Losing Money

Discussing the sensitivity around the topic of financial loss, Evans reveals the initial apprehensions of the featured personalities. “To be very honest, everyone was somewhat cautious and cagey at first. Once we explained that it was about their experiences being shown in an authentic light, without disparaging them or their situation or making something that would poke fun at them and the life they had chosen, they opened up.”

Evans highlights the importance of respecting the individuals’ experiences. “There was a certain amount of respect to be accorded to these personalities, an acknowledgment of the difficulties they were going through and what was to come ahead of them. With that in mind, we granted them full access to a therapist while also making a safe space for them to feel comfortable in.”

The Research Process

The research process for uncovering these stories was both thorough and enlightening. Evans notes, “We were lucky to have mentorship programs with producers from other countries who have done the format before, thanks to Showmax. We therefore knew what to look for and how to go about it. Our team of researchers, led by James Kimani, then went on to unearth the stories.”

Evans continues, “There was a lot of research into case studies of similar situations, follow-ups on towns that experienced booms like this. All in all, it was very interesting to uncover the effect money has on people.”

Besides Stephen Kevogo, Masanduku, and Maurice, viewers can anticipate stories from David Ogot, son of renowned author and politician Grace Ogot, and former Samburu millionaire Gabriel Lengishili, among others.

Email me at agnesopondo@gmail.com