Acting is about lying, or so the saying goes, and the best liars are the best actors/actresses. This statement has been debated for many years, but it’s hard to argue that the best actors are not great at portraying a character convincingly. One such actress is Mama Nyaguthii, who is known for her role as a tough landlady on the popular Kenyan TV show, Papa Shirandula. Mama Nyaguthii is so good at acting that she created a perception that her TV character is actually her in real life.
However, there are many interesting facts about Mama Nyaguthii that viewers may not know. First and foremost, she is not Kikuyu, but rather Luo, and her real name is Mary Airo Adhiambo. Mama Nyaguthii got her deep Gikuyu accent from interacting with Kikuyus while growing up in Kangemi. She learned the Gikuyu language as a child and mastered the deep accent, which came in handy in her role on Papa Shirandula.
Furthermore, Mama Nyaguthii’s character on the show imitates a real-life granny in Kangemi who is a landlady. The actress has shared in past interviews that there was a lady in Kangemi called Cucu Wangari who was very mean to herself, despite being very rich with many rental houses. Cucu Wangari lived in a one-roomed timber house with her very old mother, and Mama Nyaguthii’s character imitates her.
Another interesting fact about Mama Nyaguthii is that she is not disabled, as she portrays on the show. Mama Nyaguthii walks with a limp on Papa Shirandula, but in reality, she wears high heeled shoes. She is also not a granny, as her TV character portrays. Due to her portrayal of an old landlady, Mama Nyaguthii created the impression that she is a senior citizen in her sunset years, but she is nothing like that. In real life, she looks elegant and can be seen rocking booty shorts.
Mama Nyaguthii is a trained paralegal by profession and works for Legal Resources Foundation Trust in charge of training paralegals. She is also the Coordinator of Paralegal Support Network (PASUNE), an umbrella body for Paralegals in Kenya. She mostly practices in the prisons, where she helps inmates who cannot afford the services of lawyers. Mama Nyaguthii gives them free legal education, especially on the trial process, so that they can self-represent themselves. Mama Nyaguthii was at Langata Women’s Prison doing her legal clinics to the remand inmates in 2007 when Charles Bukeko (Papa Shirandula) called and offered her a role in the TV show.
Acting is not Mama Nyaguthii’s main hustle. Many people thought Mama Nyaguthii is a full-time actress like many thespians, but actually, she spends most of her time offering legal advice to inmates in prisons. Mama Nyaguthii stated in a past interview that she does not do rehearsals at all. She only needs to look at a script once and then shoot. Her acting takes very little of her time. She is only needed once or twice a month, which means she has the rest of the days to serve the inmates and