VICTOR KAMWENDO’S BEAST MODE ACTING
Being a young kid in Malawi with a passion to pursue arts as a profession can be one of the most grueling dreams to have. As you grow up you soon realize that you have to take complete charge of your talent and the direction in which you want it to go by investing in yourself financially and creatively if you are to really make something of it. The Malawian creative industry is never lacking in creative talent, but in arts infrastructure and effective policies that would make it lucrative enough to contribute to the overall economy.
Victor E. Kamwendo is an L.A based actor, born and raised in Malawi. A graduate of Indiana University South Bend (IUSB) with a bachelor’s degree in Performing Arts, one of the first challenges he had to overcome on his journey was acknowledging and accepting that acting was the right path for him.
When he had the opportunity to go to an American Institute as a young kid, he struggled with the fear of letting his family down because of his decision to pursue what he loved. As time went on, his confidence grew through conversations with his peers along with his skill and knowledge about acting as he did more shows and auditions.
The common perspective amongst most African families regarding pursuing arts as a career is that it is a lazy man’s choice. They would rather you study law or something in the medical field than play dress up and several characters as a way of making a living. At 13 years-old and having left Malawi, Victor had to learn to make the right decisions for himself regarding his future which forced him to grow up fast and become independent at a very young age. While in his junior year in college, he finally saw what he was capable of when he got the chance to play the lead character of a play called “A Raisin in the Sun”. He recalls the constant doubt that filled his mind when he performed in other shows, and how differently he felt about himself when he had the opportunity to step outside his comfort zone by taking on a big acting role. That’s when he began to learn a lot more about himself as an artist.
“Auditions, character breakdowns, memorization are some of my favorite things about my work”, Victor says. The process of being locked into a mental state where he creates a world for his character’s likes, dislikes whilst allowing himself to be vulnerable in other moments makes acting an exhilarating and rewarding career choice for Victor.
He attributes his career development and growth as an actor to the great mentors and peers who have surrounded him over the years. They helped him to understand and realize that he was the only person standing in the way of pursuing his own personal goals. With acting, knowing when to revert to reality can be hard sometimes especially after spending months developing and playing a character that is not you. Every actor has a way of snapping back to their real self, Victor adds. Sports, music and fitness are some of the ways he uses to keep himself grounded and to let go of the different characters he creates for his acting roles.
His experience from working with Walter Allen Bennet Jr., a producer, writer and director known for for ‘The Cosby Show” (1991) and “The Steve Harvey Show” (1996-2000), gave him a lot of insight and confidence about his role in the entertainment industry he now belongs to. His experience from the show inspired him to become more driven in his pursuit to further his career and personal growth by performing better than the year before. He keeps his focus in check by setting goals for himself each year and pushing the limits of his capabilities to achieving them in the best way he can through physical trainings, acting classes and other activities that stimulate his mind and add to his experiences.
Victor sees himself making more strides in his acting career. Attending an institution that supports arts and creativity has been useful to Victor in forming good relationships with fellow actors/actresses and other creatives in the industry as well as in navigating the entertainment industry. It provided the foundation for him to work with really talented artists and learn about the entertainment business first hand. Being surrounded by creative minds forces you to get better, work harder and to connect more in the moments of expression, he says. He has learnt to balance between enjoying and executing the process of preparation, immersing yourself in the moment, breaking down scenes and creating scenes. His dedication to his craft drives him to work on it daily and to not get comfortable with what he has achieved to this point.
His family’s understanding and support continues to push him forward from the moment he made the decision to make acting his life purpose. They have respected the decisions he has made for the betterment of his career even if they might have disagreed with some along the way. He recalls always being involved in artistic activities in his childhood which created a good foundation for what would later be his acting career.
When it comes to criticism and being underestimated, Victor sees those as a part of life. He encourages people to focus on things that would benefit them rather than on the opinions and comments made by critics and others. He uses his knowledge of criticism and doubt being a part of the territory of entertainment to focus on his craft and not on trying to prove people wrong. In order to succeed in life, he says, you should not forget the reason why you started doing what you love and fully commit to whatever it is you believe to be your life purpose.
This piece is dedicated to Stephen and Annie Kamwendo who believed in me before anyone else – Victor Kamwendo