Ainea Ojiambo is perhaps Kenya’s most prominent and busiest TV bad guy, from his days in Makutano Junction, Nairobi Half Life, and Demigods to his recent roles like the dirty cop Juma doing Nana Tandala’s (Sanaipei Tande) bidding in Maisha Magic’s telenovela Kina, and the crooked prison warden Musa in the Showmax thriller series Igiza.
Now, in the new Showmax political thriller series County 49, Ojiambo takes on the role of Okusimba Sibi aka Ox, the deposed Governor of Bwatele County.
Ox plays a stereotypical African politician - charismatic, deeply corrupt, deeply loved by his supporters, and with just enough capacity for dictatorship if left to his own devices.
Why does Ojiambo like to play bad guys? He gets asked this question a lot, more so this year, with two of his biggest productions - Igiza and County 49 - launching within three months of each other.
“Most directors think that I’m able to portray such characters so well, And you know what they say, ‘If you can play a bad guy then you must be one of the best because playing a good guy is easy. Everybody can do it.
“Maybe it’s the authority that I have that makes me play those parts well. I study a lot of men in power, but I think maybe the roles find me because of my physique," he stated.
Like any good TV villain, Ojiambo has had his fair share of hate from fans. “Being a bad guy also comes with the hate, and this has been the case from my days in Makutano Junction to Demigods to Igiza,” he says.
And if the first two episodes of County 49 are anything to go by, then his new character Okusimba is about to make some viewers really mad, if they aren’t clenching their jaws already.
When we first meet him, Okusimba is facing criminal charges for abuse of office, treason, and corruption (and more), an onslaught that was led by the new governor Nerimah Mkung (Wakio Mzenge).
Okusimba is a man who’s more interested in politics, power, and money, than family, as Ojiambo describes him. He has a score to settle with the government, and his recent legal troubles, and unexpected conviction, strengthen this resolve, setting off a chain of events that threatens to bring Bwatele to its knees.
“He feels betrayed, and he feels that the country owes him because he fought for it,” Ojiambo says.
With these monologues, Ojiambo says he’s had to dig deeper to capture the emotion that each scene demands.
As he ponders his next role, Ojiambo jokes about moving away from bad guys to a more romantic role. “I think next time, I’ll go for an Alejandro type of character, a romantic guy so that I can show people I can also do romance, the kind of role that will make people cry when they see me frustrated in love,” he says.
Fun fact about Ojiambo: A licensed gun holder, he lent his weapon expertise to the cast of County 49, teaching them how to handle guns since the show is heavy on the action and gun fights.