A Kenyan media friend of mine Ann FB’ed that she had google-stumbled on a Kenyan in The US that is doing very good in an industry that most find very difficult to penetrate…and especially if you are from the netherworld dubbed “Third”. She in fact said she thought he was an Italian…a Black Italian because they are there…but on reading on was pleasantly surprised to find that Edi Mue Gathegi…is a Kenyan. I will not go into how she thought he was Italian with a name like thaaat!
I myself live here and had never heard of him. And that, I discovered, is because I am not exactly a fan of TV series like House. I am impatient and cannot understand why I have to wait til next week to find out if the man died! It took a prod from his aunt Rosemary Mulembo née Mue, an old good friend of mine and my sisters’ from Kenya National Theater Balcony halcyon days, to go watch a movie in which her nephew was “starring”. I was like “what?…Starring where?” I was even more stunned when she mentioned the title of the movie “X-Men: First Class”…and now I was convinced that we in the diaspora are sometimes crazy and like to tell stories!
I hauled myself off to Princess Theater and sighed as I settled into my seat to watch keenly in case I missed the flicker of a miro dude in a crowd scene who might resemble people from my motherland. I can live with that. And I had to tell Rosemary that I went because she would catch me later on FB (can you tell I live there?) and would ask if I had been. Lordy! Lordy! Somewhere and sometime into the movie a guy appears and Yes!…He’s cute and has the most adorable accent I ever heard…Nice! Needless to say the experience was riveting and I resisted the urge to turn around and tell the guys behind me that “Darwin is Kenyan…and I know his Aunty!”
I guess most people have missed out on who Edi is because he certainly did not grow up in theater in Kenya and is relatively unknown in Kenyan theater circles. He discovered himself and his acting inclination when he was already here in the US. Rosemary Mue sounded so proud, and as she should be, when telling me about her nephew. She startled me more when she told of how far he has come from his birthplace in Uhuru Estate to the dizzying heights of Bel Air Los Angeles and the US film industry in general. He has truly made it, one can say, judging by his resume of work and his most important roles as Laurent in the films Twilight, its sequel The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Darwin in X-Men: First Class.
Born March 10, 1979 in Eastlands, Nairobi, Kenya, Gathegi grew up in Albany, California. As an undeclared undergraduate at the University of California, Santa Barbara, he was more interested in playing basketball and was good at it, until he injured his knee; this plunged him into a depression so he took up an acting class as an “easy course”. That is where he discovered his love for acting. Afterwards, he studied at New York University’s Graduate Acting Program at the Tisch School of the Arts, graduating in 2005. Gathegi’s career began in theater,and his stage credits include Two Trains Running at the Old Globe Theater, As You Like It, Twelfth Night, Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Cyrano de Bergerac, among others.
Gathegi’s first professional role was the Haitian Cabbie in the 2006 film Crank. Though he had originally auditioned for the role of Kaylo, the producers gave the role to Efren Ramirez and instead offered Gathegi an appearance as the Haitian Cabbie. He was dubious at first about performing a Haitian accent, but was coached by a Haitian friend. In 2007, after guest-starring on Lincoln Heights and Veronica Mars, Gathegi went on to star as Bodie in Death Sentence, Darudi in The Fifth Patient and Cheese in Gone Baby Gone. He later had a recurring role as Mormon intern Dr. Jeffrey Cole on the television medical drama House, his character was often mocked for his religious beliefs by Dr. House, who himself is an Atheist.
He also guest-starred on CSI: Miami, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and Life on Mars in 2008 before being cast as Laurent in Twilight. When Gathegi first auditioned for the 2008 film, adapted from the same-titled first book in Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight series, he had not heard of the series and was not aware that his character was a vampire. He now has read the whole series and calls himself a hardcore fan. He also played A-Guy in Son of Magnet and he portrayed Eddie Willers in Atlas Shrugged (2011), based on Ayn Rand’s novel of the same name.
That is some really good resume that I dug up on him after watching a few of his movies. And he truly is a gifted actor taking his roles seriously and making a recognizable effort to portray his different characters accurately. He never looks the same in the different roles and that is the mark of a seasoned and marinated actor. Edi has great comportment and carries his interviews on his roles and career exceptionally well. He def has to do a good job seeing he has had to act with and against some of the big Hollywood names like Kristen Stewart (she is the poster child of the Twilight movie), Taylor Lautner, Robert Pattinson, Hugh Laurie (Dr House), Omar Epps, David Caruso (CSI: Miami)and Morgan Freeman (Gone Baby Gone). He is certainly for me an actor who is also in the league of other African greats like Chiwetel Ejiofor and Idris Elba.
He currently features on The CW’s Beauty & The Beast as Kyle, ABC’s Family Tools as Darren Poynton and ABC’s The Red Widow as Leon. In 2011 he was nominated for Featured Actor in a Play for the role of Franco Wicks in the Geffen Playhouse production of “Superior Donuts.
Edi is young and certainly has a long way to go in his chosen industry. I am amazed at how he has curved a niche for himself and grown his art and standing in this industry quietly without the attendant maua or kelele that some of us make when we get a walk on role or appear in the local daily caught in a crowd scene. He has humility and those who have met him speak of how he is so easy to get along with and talk to.
He is certainly a guy to watch out for and a sign to other upcoming actors that it can be done if taken seriously. He also signals that one needs to take their craft seriously enough to also get some book knowledge behind it. He epitomizes Kenyans doing really good in the Diaspora.
©NjeriOsaak is a trained journalist, a Public Relations Professional and a College Speech Communication Teacher / Consultant, currently based in the United States.