From Kakuma to the Silver Screen: The Inspiring Journey of Athiéi

Athiéi is a talented film actress with a unique background. Born in the Kakuma Refugee Camp, located in Kakuma, Kenya, she shares South Sudanese heritage from both sides of her family and is the middle child among five siblings. In 1996, her family made a significant move to Perth, Western Australia, where Athiéi’s remarkable journey in the world of acting began to unfold.

Her initial exposure to the acting world commenced in 2009 when she attended her first professional acting classes at Actors Now. However, Athiéi’s educational pursuits also reflect her diverse interests and dedication. She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communication and media Studies and Political Science and international Relations, which she earned from the University of Western Australia.

In 2018, Athiéi embarked on a new chapter in Sydney, Australia, where her acting career truly began to flourish. Her talents have graced television, theater, and film productions, marking her as a versatile performer in the entertainment industry. Notably, she is set to make her debut in the world of feature films, portraying the character Tina Honsou in the upcoming production, “Streets of Colour.”

Athiéi’s journey from Kakuma to the Australian stage and screen is a testament to her passion, dedication, and unwavering commitment to her craft. With a promising future ahead, her presence in the world of film is sure to captivate audiences and leave an indelible mark on the industry.

FilmCentral Magazine recently caught up with Athiéi and here’s what went down:

Can you tell us more about yourself?

I’m currently a Sydney-based actor, but I grew up in Perth. I love and enjoy achieving my dreams and watching others do the same.

How did you get started in the entertainment industry?

From a young age, I’ve always had a love for acting. Drama was my favorite class in school, and I had my first professional acting classes when I was 15. I knew I wanted to be an actor early on, but it wasn’t until a couple of years after graduating from university that I decided that I was going to commit to my dreams and pursue acting as a career. I began, again, by seeking training and auditions, and soon enough, I was landing work and experience in the entertainment industry.

What do you like most about acting?

I love that acting can transform you into another human being and another world. The liberating use of imagination as an artist means that our possibilities are limitless. My character could be a lawyer, a rockstar, a mother, or a twisted or complex character, and I get to explore that story and that world. I get to learn about it. I get a glimpse into it, and I get to translate it to other people. What an opportunity! Acting is so powerful, and not only do I get to enjoy or be a part of the human experience that is right in front of me, but audiences can be inspired, entertained, and taken on this journey

Tell us about your role in the new film Streets of Colour. What was your character like and how did you bring it to life?

I play Tina Honsou in Streets of Colour. Tina is the sister of Akachi, and Tina and Tez have a son together. Very early on, viewers can see that her relationship with Tez quickly goes downhill for more than one reason. To avoid spoiling the film, I can say that his inability to get clean from drugs was one of them. Tina is a strong character who is fiercely protective of herself, her future, and her loved ones. When bringing her to life, I found it most helpful to look internally for insight and answers to many deep, reflective questions that helped uncover her story.

What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?

Throughout my career, I’ve been fortunate to have worked with directors – including Ronnie – who carry themselves with kindness, flexibility, and professionalism. This deepens and expands my own ability to carry these qualities forward when collaborating with others. With Ronnie, I also learned that passion, faith, and hard work can go a long way.

What are some of the difficulties of the acting business?

Rejection. To face rejection and to STILL pick yourself up and move forward despite it. Another challenge is navigating through instability while fighting to stay true to your dreams and other areas of your life.

What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?

There are so many pathways that you can take and ways that you can approach bringing a script to life. In order to believe a story, it must be truly seen, heard, felt, and understood. So there is this journey of uncovering those invisible things that are not seen or shown in the script so that they may be seen, felt, and heard by an audience when brought to life on screen. How an artist goes about this is unique, and the approach can be different with each film or work.

What do you do when you’re not filming?

I like to read books, go for walks, and listen to music.

What has been the most memorable experience of your career so far?

Being a part of this film, Streets of Colour. I had a lot of ‘firsts’ with this film. My first feature film role and the experiences that came with it (from preproduction to release). My first red-carpet premiere event experience. The first time, I did a behind-the-scenes interview for a movie. My first film as an actor to screen in theatres – and so on (the list goes on). And to be able to do all this through sharing a meaningful and significant story – what an honour! It has been such a rich and all-encompassing experience. I am grateful to have worked with everyone who made this possible. I feel blessed.

Who have been the most interesting people you’ve met so far?

I’ve crossed paths with many interesting people, but here are three special shoutouts to Ronnie, Rahel & Yolandi. Ronnie is a passionate and gifted director. I admire his authenticity, uniqueness, and wisdom; he carries that with him everywhere he goes. Rahel is not only an extremely talented actor but one of the kindest, most professional artists I’ve worked with. How he carries himself, both on and off screen, is inspiring and remarkable. And our skilled and hardworking producer, Yolandi, always fills the room with her loving, glowing presence. What a beautiful, kind, and talented human being she is.

If someone is going to make your life into a movie, who would play you?

When I can see more actor representation (of people who look like me or very similar), I’ll be better able to answer this question authentically. At the moment, two actresses come to mind, but they are ten or more years my senior. And anyone else who comes to mind is not an actor. So, for now, my
sister is the best fit.

What are your future plans? Inside your career or out of it.

Working in various acting roles and being exposed to different kinds of acting experiences on screen.