Shalom Nyandiko is evidence that with the right support and encouragement, young people can achieve their dreams.
Born in 2005, in Gaborone, Botswana, to Kenyan parents, she has lived in Botswana, Kenya and is currently in South Africa where her family is based.
With only four years of acting under her belt, Shalom Mong’ina Nyandiko, 14, has had roles in major series like Deep State 2 and The Widow.
Shalom loves travelling and she speaks four languages fluently: Kisii, which is her mother tongue, Swahili, English and Afrikaans.
She is the last born daughter of a civil engineer and a primary schoolteacher who currently based in Secunda, Mpumalanga Province in South Africa.
She has three older sisters: Sheila who is a practicing medical doctor in North West South Africa; Sally who is an IT student based in the eastern part of South Africa and Silver, a fourth year medical student based in North West South Africa.
Shalom’s acting journey began in Grade One when she took part in school plays, but at age 10, Sally signed her up to a modelling agency.
She had no previous acting training yet three years later, at age 13, she has starred in major shows while maintaining her high grades.
She works with voice and accent coaches to audition for different roles. She’s played a Congolese child soldier in the series The Widow and the sibling of an interpreter from Mali in Deep State. Both of these roles required her to learn accents and different languages.
What role has your family played in the growth of your career?
My family is my biggest motivation. They keep me grounded. My sister Sally, who first got me into acting, is also my manager and this makes it so much easier for me. She is my liaison with acting agency and the media.
She scouts opportunities for me and handles all communications, contracts and payment issues. Since I am still a minor, my sister also travels with me to shoots and auditions and works alongside my chaperones and tutors so I am able to keep my school grades up.
My family also insists that I enjoy my childhood, so sometimes when they feel a storyline is too much, they suggest I decline the role. The agency I work under as well as my acting coach are also amazing. They genuinely feel more like part of the family than an agency.
What have you acted in so far that is currently airing?
There is The Widow, shot on location in South Africa and Wales for Amazon Prime Video and ITV UK; Deep State season 2 shot on location in Morocco and South Africa for Fox Network Groups UK and Fox Africa; Commandos: The Mission shot in South African for Belgium-based production.
I am currently shooting a South African drama series. I have also appeared in a commercial for Omo washing detergent, taken part in 1,000 African Voices podcast episode #54 and acted in Angel, a South African short feature story.
Your career has clearly taken off. What does this breakthrough mean to you?
It has blown my mind and I can already imagine waking up in New York someday, and I am excited. The opportunities I have are a first in my family.
What challenges have you faced so far and how do you deal with them?
Some people at school would make fun of me and my career. They’d tease me about how I’m not always at school which made me feel terrible.
Usually whenever this happened, I’d speak to my family about it and they’d help me through it. Other times I’ve just had to be a tough cookie. I also have to keep reminding myself about where my life is headed.
What celebrity actors have you enjoyed working with so far and why?
I worked together with Game of Thrones’ actor Charles Dance on The Widow. He was incredibly funny and down to earth. Also Dr Who’s Alex Kingston, she has a great personality and humour.
Take us through a typical auditioning process.
Well, the agency I’m signed to sends me a script that I study and memorise. I practice my accents depending on the role and get into character.
Auditions are usually held in Gauteng, Johannesburg, which is roughly a two-hour drive from Secunda, where I live. For international work, I do self-tapes with the shared script and the agency sends it back on my behalf.
When I get to the audition venue, I am given a number and we go through two tapings, the first one is a self-introduction and the second is for actual role I I prepared for.
How do you handle the pressure of working at your age?
I don’t really feel the pressure because I do it more as a hobby and something to have fun with, but, I still put a lot of effort into it.
To the young girls in East Africa who see you on the screen and dream of working in film too, what would you say to them?
First, trust in God. Second, nothing comes easy. You really have to work hard for what you want, always. Regardless of your circumstances, pursue your dreams, say focused, and once that is accompanied by hard work and passion, trust and believe that everything will fall into place.
Understand that it takes tonnes of effort and sweat to make it. Never give up. I go for tonnes of auditions, and at one point it looked like I would not get a job. Next thing I knew, I was flying business class to Amsterdam, without my parents.
Hold on to hope.
Where do you see yourself at age 18?
I think I’m going to be quite successful with this career. I’m going to be in university by then, and I don’t know how that’s going to work out but I’d like to think this is only the beginning, by God’s grace. I also plan on working on my singing.