JDC’s Uncle Mo and Tyra Abok at it in Ugandan TV drama

Uncle Mo (left) being interviewed by Flavia (right) while Tyra Abok looks on

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The idea of having young children star in a show was unusual until about 20 years ago. Today, however, a number of productions feature children as the main stars. One of these is the popular Juniors Drama Club (JDC), currently in its second season on MultiChoice’s Pearl Magic Prime channel that was recently introduced on lower DStv and GOtv bouquets from DStv Access and GOtv Plus.

Flavia Tumusiime interviewed the young and talented Tyra Abok who portrays Queen together with Comedian, and creative Moses Kiboneka, also known as Uncle Mo, playing the character Gerald in JDC, on Home of Our Stars, providing insight into the experience of working with young actors.

Reflecting on her experience joining JDC, Abok recounts, “My journey to JDC was interesting. This is my first series where I am the main character, and we had to audition.” She continues, “During the audition, they gave us three roles, and each girl had to play Queen. I decided to stand out by switching through all three roles, which I think made a difference.”

Uncle Mo shares a different story, highlighting a scene from his script. “There is a scene where my character argues with his wife, when they lose their children on the first day of school,” he recalls. “That scene resonated with me and convinced me to join the production.”

He adds that working with children is as interesting as it is challenging. “These kids are incredibly sharp; they know their lines perfectly and deliver them on cue,” he says. “It’s tricky for the adults, who often forget their lines, requiring multiple takes for a scene.”

Echoing these challenges, Abok states, “We follow a call sheet and work on a schedule, much like being in school. It becomes daunting when adults forget their lines, especially in scenes where you have to cry repeatedly for multiple takes.”

Abok shares that she has enjoyed working with the adults on the production. “The adults are friendly, encouraging, and easy to talk to. When I first met Uncle Mo, I was very scared, but as I got to know him, I found him to be approachable. He may be the only adult you can sit down with and have a conversation.”

Uncle Mo agrees, adding, “People often perceive me as unapproachable because I am very quiet and calm when meeting new people for the first time.” Despite this, he explains that over time, they have developed a family-like bond, which helps the show run smoothly. “We’ve become an extended family here. It’s no longer just colleagues; we’re a family now.”

Regarding handling fame, both stars share similar experiences. Abok explains, “After the first five episodes of JDC, some girls approached me, and that’s when I realized people were watching me.” Uncle Mo, despite being an established celebrity, is still surprised when recognized by the public, as he perceives himself as an ordinary person.

Many actors face challenges with the public distinguishing between their TV personas and real lives. “Moses Kiboneka and Uncle Mo are the same person to me. I’m just now learning that there’s a difference when people point out something I say and connect it to what the comedian Uncle Mo would say,” Uncle Mo remarks.

Abok says, “For me, there is a clear split between the two. Tyra is very shy and would never be as confrontational as Queen is.” She adds, “At school, only my friend group treats me as Tyra because they know me personally. The rest of the school treats me like they would Queen. My whole family appreciates me and helps me to grow into the character I portray.”

JDC has garnered significant love from audiences, even receiving awards. The two stars credit the directors for this success. “Allan Manzi, the director, has produced major shows abroad, and he brings that wealth of experience to our set. You can see it in how he works with actors and resolves situations,” Uncle Mo praised.

Abok added, “It’s so easy to work with both directors. Nisha Kalema crafted the role of Queen to fit my personality, which gives me confidence, and Manzi always allows me to improvise when I feel stuck.”

Regarding boundaries they wouldn’t cross as actors, Abok says, “I would take on any role as long as it doesn’t compromise my relationship with God or the morals my family has instilled in me.” She adds, “It’s important to maintain self-respect because some people can’t distinguish between your character and who you are in real life.”

Uncle Mo echoed this sentiment, saying, “Everything I do is for my mother. If a role would seem disgraceful to her, I would never take it.”

They shared their views on the future of the industry. “In a few years, the outlook for our local content is bright. We’ve invested a lot in telling our Ugandan story, which is significant,” Abok stated.

Uncle Mo added, “I’m glad the industry has reached this point. We have come a long way, and it’s great to see us appreciating both our struggles and successes as a film industry as we grow. We are no longer emulating films from abroad. We’re on the right path.”

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JDC airs every Thursday at 7:30 pm, with repeats on Sunday on MultiChoice’s Pearl Magic Prime, channel 148 on DStv, and 303 on GOtv. 

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