Nyambi Nyambi: Profile of a Rising Talent

Originally published on The African Magazine (www.africanmag.com) November 5, 2009. http://africanmag.com/ARTICLE-1444-design004

He is young, ambitious and most importantly, talented. He is the new face to watch out for in theater and film, and he goes by the rhythmic name, Nyambi, Nyambi.

Nyambi was born in Oklahoma, United States by Nigerian parents. As a child, he enjoyed impersonating his favorite television characters, especially the ones from the 90’s hit show, In Living Color.  Nyambi explains that his parents would often dismiss him for “acting up,” but that it did not deter him from expressing himself. Ironically, he affirms he was shy and quiet as a child.

In middle school, he participated in Oratory competitions, which involved interpreting people’s work. While in College on a basketball scholarship and a business degree major in hand, he performed at the Martin Luther King gala. For this, he went out of his way to not only memorize the 1963 Speech MLK gave after the racially charged Alabama church bombing that killed four black girls, but to also channel MLK. The experienced left him with a very exhilarated feeling. When a mentor informed him that what he did was act and not merely impersonate or “act up,” it gave him the validation he needed to pursue acting. 

Since then, Nyambi, who graduated a year ago from NYU’s graduate acting program, has involved himself in many short films and theater productions including Kulakuta-a theater show about Nigeria’s sociopolitical climate under the former dictator and late head of state, General Sani Abacha.  By the way, Kulakuta was the name of the mini-republic Fela Anikulapo Kuti, Afrobeat pioneer and musician, created in Nigeria in the late 70's as part of an anti-government resistance effort. Nyambi, who is also a Fela fan, looks forward to extending this production into a film. In this, he hopes to explore the relationship between two political prisoners and how they handle their predicament, one of them using his imagination, while the other using more of a practical approach. 

Nyambi explains that the story carries both tragic and comedic tones. He is so committed to the authenticity of the script he plans on visiting Nigeria to do more research for the production. 

When asked about his goals as an actor, Nyambi responds without hesitation that his goal is “to capture and celebrate humanity in the good and the bad.” He also adds that he wants to tell true stories about people; especially African people. Chiwetal Ejiofor, Nigerian internationally renowned actor, whose work includes Inside Man with Denzel Washington and Dirty Pretty Things, is his favorite actor. He also admires Sophie Okonedo, a renowned British Nigerian actress who played Don Cheadle’s wife in Hotel Rwanda among countless movie roles.

Nyambi eagerly shares with me his career highlight was performing his dream role in the Broadway play, Joe Turner’s Come and Go at the Belasco theatre in New York city. This experience occurred by chance when one of the characters lost his voice. Nyambi covered for him, adding that it was “the single most amazing experience” of his life. He also describes it as “a spiritual moment” gaining the love and support from the cast and audience.  

Currently, Nyambi is in Philadelphia for a production of Coming Home by South African playwright, Athol  Fugard. Coming Home,  a play set in South Africa is about a woman who leaves her grandfather’s farm for Cape Town to pursue a career in music only to return after his death with disappointment, a secret and a young son. Fugard was hailed in 1989 by Time Magazine as the greatest active playwright in the English Speaking World. 

Besides acting, Nyambi is passionate about sports including football, tennis and volleyball. He also has a passion for slam poetry, old blues music and exploring and learning new things.

By Ebele Chizea. 

Update: Nyambi is currently best known for playing the role of Samuel in the CBS hit show, Mike & Molly which premiered September 20, 2010. 

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