Malawi’s Got Talent…a chat with actor Abraham Ntonya

Photo credit: Oscar Sun

As the Corona Virus continues to spread across the globe, many people have taken this time to work on themselves, be it starting a new hobby, catching up on books and TV shows, or creating art to reflect the current times.

Mkometsi Oscar had the pleasure of chatting with Malawian actor Abraham Anene Ntonya, who is based in California, USA, to find out how he is spending his time during the lockdown. Here’s part of our conversation.

How have you been dealing with your time during this pandemic?

I’ve been blessed to still have a part time job which is keeping me afloat during a very uncertain time not only in America but all across the globe. It’s allowed me to write new content for my acting job and learn a new instrument.

I have seen some of your past projects and short films online, and two in particular stood out for me. The first one is titled “The Infected” and the other, my personal favorite, is “Got Your Nose.” I want to focus on “The Infected” for now. You were able speak Chichewa in that film. How did that come about, and how did it feel to speak your native language in a film shot in a foreign country?

Still from the firm “Captive”. Photo credit: Ryan Liu

Whenever I get to speak Chichewa in any project I do, a large part of me lights up with joy. This role was originally written with an East Asian character in mind. The name of my character was Chinese and the director, Kyle Steeno, wanted someone who spoke either Mandarin or Cantonese. But fate would have it that I nailed my audition and they changed the character to fit me. I suggested the name Chikondi, and I’m very proud to share my langue with the world on this project.

Isn’t it funny how that film falls in line with the pandemic going on now?

Yeah it is a little strange in the sense that we are required to social distance in order to keep this invisible enemy from infecting all of us. The character I play is faced with a similar dilemma as to whether or not helping another person during a pandemic is advised. But the human in him can’t keep to the strict rules he gives himself which eventually leads to his downfall. Also, the ending might excite some conspiracy theorists. I won’t spoil it so if people haven’t watched it yet, check it out!

Still from the movie “The Infected”

Speaking of Chichewa in movies, let’s talk about “The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind.” Chiwetel Ejiofor worked really hard to produce this film and learn the language in order to star in it. One of the conversations many Malawians were having is why they didn’t cast a Malawian actor to play the role he played. As a Malawian actor yourself, and someone who speaks Chichewa, what is your take on that conversation?

As someone who has trained for many years and understands the process actors go through to be best prepared for any role, I commend Mr Ejiofor for his work in that movie. To write, direct and act all at once is no easy feat, and from what I understand, this was a passion project of his that he has wanted to produce for many years. For those reasons, I understand why he would want to play that role. Sure, I believe there are capable Malawian actors who can handle the dialogue simply because a native speaker won’t have to work as much to do something that comes naturally. My Chichewa isn’t the best, but I know enough to handle a role like that. I was in the USA working on my own projects and wasn’t on Mr Ejiofor’s radar, so that was a chance missed. If his accent and handling of Chichewa is the only criticism we have about his performance, then I’m willing to let that go and focus on the other aspects of that film that make it great.

What is your favorite movie to have acted in so far?

The movie “Alfred,” written and directed by my good friend Evan Sorosky. Hands down. It was the first time I had anything close to a professional movie set experience. I also wrote most of my monologues too, so that was a milestone for me.

Ntonya playing a leading role as Alfred in the self-titled movie

What message would you like to impart to fellow creatives who might be feeling discouraged right now?

As human beings, regardless of what we get ourselves into, a sense of purpose is a main motivator to wake up every day and take on whatever is gifted to us. This pandemic has thrown a wrench in many people’s plans and it’s very easy to feel hopeless. Please, don’t beat yourself up for feeling this way. If the world wasn’t making sense before, this period might not be any better. The frustration and anxiety is justified. The next step is to give permission to take care of yourself and not to sit in a pit of hopelessness for too long. Easier said than done, but you are accountable for your life. Run your own race in your own time. Motivate yourself to be productive and work on projects life never gave you time to do before.

Be on the lookout for a live interview on Akometsi pages coming soon!

You can watch more of Abraham Ntonya’s films by going to his website: www.AbrahamNtonya.com
and also follow him on:

Instagram: @AbrahamNtonya
Twitter: @AbrahamNtonya

 

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