“We have waited for so long.” Country Queen Stars Speak Ahead of July Premiere On Netflix

Kenya’s first-ever Netflix series Country Queen is premiering on the 15th of July 2022. According to Netflix, this series will be available to over 22 million of its subscribers spread across over 190 countries.

Starring Melissa Kiplagat as Akisa, the series’ storyline is about her past and present colliding when a mining company threatens to wreck her rural home. This situation pits her against ruthless businesswoman Vivian played by Nini Wacera, whose family Akisa is entangled with. The plot further unveils Akisa’s complicated past in a series of events marked by love, betrayal, and conflict between tradition, and modernism.

The Country Queen cast features some of Kenya’s top on-screen talent. They include Melissa Kiplagat, Melvin Alusa, Blessing Lung’aho, Nini Wacera, Mumbi Kaigwa, Muthoni Gathecha, Sheila Munyiva, Nyokabi Macharia, Joel Otukho, Eddy Kimani, Abu Sensei, Nice Githinji, Nancy Karanja, Maina Olwenya, Kael Njihia, Robert Agengo, Oliver Litondo, Vera Atsango, Peter King, Johnson Chege and Raymond Ofula.

While many Kenyans can’t wait to watch Country Queen, the cast and crew are also excited to be in this iconic project. “This is one of the best things that has ever happened not just to me but to the industry. It is huge, and I lack words for how excited I am about Country Queen. We have waited for so long.” Said series producer Kamau Wandung’u.

Characters and Plot

Filmed in Nairobi, Machakos, and Murang’a Counties, Country Queen has bold and well-defined characters. Lead actress Melissa couldn’t hide her admiration for Akisa. “What I love about Akisa is that she is so strong. She hasn’t hardened. Despite all she has gone through, she still has space for love and friendship. I may not have experienced what Akisa went through but I felt the emotions that she felt. It is easy to connect and resonate with that.”

On the other hand, Nyokabi Wa Macharia who plays the role of Akisa’s friend, Ivy enjoyed her character’s venturesomeness. “Ivy is reckless and I don’t think Nyokabi is anything like her. It was exciting to experience Ivy and the kind of freedom that comes with recklessness. I enjoyed her free spirit, the fact that she is not afraid to be herself and is not judgy. As Nyokabi, sometimes I am biased towards certain situations but Ivy is very welcoming. In addition, Ivy comes from a very affluent family, a role that I haven’t played before. She is well-traveled and proper, so it was interesting to do research about what rich people do hahaha! The best thing about our work is that we play.”

Country Queen
Kamau Wandung’u, Melissa Kiplagat, Nyokabi Macharia & Mũmbi Kaigwa

Melvin Alusa plays Kyalo a protagonist and key figure in Akisa’s past. “I love my romantic relationship with Anna (played by Sheila Munyiva). It wasn’t straightforward. The complexity surrounding that relationship made it so much fun to play.” He remarked.

“My favorite part about my role is my look. She is very extra, eclectic, and strange. The look helped me get into the character.” Stated Nice Githinji who plays Kyalo’s friend Grace. The actress further noted that shooting Country Queen was quite the experience. “Country Queen is very different in many aspects. From how the storyline is handled, to how my story arc moves, to my character’s relationships and how defined they are. Basically just the whole experience of working with Netflix.”

Country Queen
Sheila Munyiva, Melvin Alusa & Nice Githinji

Ups and Downs on Set

While most of the cast and crew agree that Country Queen was an unforgettable experience, they faced some downs on set. According to Kamau Wandung’u shooting at the peak of the pandemic was the ultimate test. “The experiences were great. We like the challenges. Filmmaking is not an easy thing to do. Always a challenge after another. It takes a village to make a film. We shot this when Corona was at its peak and couldn’t shoot on the first day because someone had COVID.”

Additionally, Sheila Munyiva expressed her predicament during emotionally intensive scenes. “You know those really tough moments that you go through as a human being that are very private? It is so difficult when surrounded by 70 people, others putting up lights, others touching up your face, and then as soon as they say ‘action!’ you have to be the most broken version of yourself. Tapping into that brokenness and making it come alive is so difficult.”

Despite the challenges, Melissa applauded the team’s professionalism as it made work easier. “We had excellent directors Vincent Mbaya, Tosh Gitonga, and Brian Munene. They were really good at first having conversations with the actors to get them in the mood and controlling the set to make sure that it is conducive for emotional scenes which were very important.” She added.

Country Queen on Netflix

Being Kenya’s first-ever series on Netflix, Country Queen is a great achievement for the Kenyan film industry and the cast couldn’t agree further. “It’s about time this curtain opened up for us to be exposed internationally. Our predecessors planted the seed back then and what they sow. We are continuing to water it to become what it is. It is time for us to play in the big leagues because we are equal to the task.” Said, Melvin.

What I like about Netflix is that now more people have access to us. I feel like South Africa already has access to the world, Nigeria is already there and I am so excited that Kenya is on that path.” Concluded Sheila.

You can watch Country Queen on Netflix on both paid and free plans.

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