Written and directed by Ugandan actor and playwright John Ssegawa, The Honourablez is a political satire-drama series that premiered on NTV Uganda on January 9, 2017.
The series was picked up by Pearl Magic in 2018. The show exposes the vices of members of parliament and other government officials who frequent a local bar in Kampala.
John Ssegawa spoke about the show and its influence on society since the time it premiered for TV audiences.
How did you develop The Honourablez?
There was a gap on television for a local Ugandan television series that is topical and would act as a voice for debate in the public forum.
How has the public reacted to the series?
The Honourablez has received mixed reactions because of the controversial topics we are handling and the styles of delivery. It is a comedy as well as drama in one show, yet our viewers are used to simplicity. Hence some love the style, especially those in the arts industry.
What is the main attraction of the television series?
The art used, the costumes and the set. The story is well played in the media nowadays, hence it is relatable with the people. It’s not an imaginary story. It also features powerful actors and actresses.
How did you come about with the name?
I wanted to write something that replaces the ebimeza. These were open public debates where many issues were discussed. So when the ebimezas were banned and debate went indoors, I felt there was a gap that needed to be bridged. Every television or radio show hosts MPs, so people think that being an MP is being knowledgeable and well versed in all issues.
Why did you choose a bar as the set for the series?
This was from experience. In bars, people debate issues freely and with authority. So to avoid controversy, the bar was the best set choice. I was also targeting the middle-class, which carries a lot of weight in the politics of the country and patronise high-end bars.
The politicians in the series are leading hypocritical lives. Is this a reflection of Ugandan society?
Basically that is it. Every character in the series represents a particular type of thinking and way of life and that is who the politicians are. For example, Pearl (played by Doreen Nabbanja) represents privileged people who think that the underprivileged should take care of them at all times. Honourable Kasozi (played by Philip Luswata) represents politics and the impunity that surrounds it.
The politicians promise to bring development to their constituents and yet they should be focusing on legislation. Is this a misconception of the role of an MP?
Yes. We aim to educate the masses about the role of their MPs.
What are the main messages and lessons for the public to take away from this production, especially now that Uganda is going into elections?
First and foremost, this is a socio-political series. We handle topics according to the television schedule. For example, if the show is going to air over the election period, then we look at the main important message for the voter, like go and vote; vote the right person according to you because we ought not to be controversial. And then we preach reconciliation, that after voting we have one Uganda. Basically our series are based on topical discussions according to the current issues.
Did you abandon your career as an art teacher for acting and film?
I didn’t abandon my career; I thought there are so many ways of teaching, for example, using drama and acting not necessarily in class.