With over a hundred episodes aired on Maisha Magic Plus since its inception on April 11th, 2022, Salem has gripped fans all over the country and beyond. Filled with captivating drama, the series has scooped numerous awards and gathered an admirable amount of devotees over time with a star-studded cast featuring the likes of; Melvin Alusa, Illya Frank, Bryan Kabugi, and many more.
On August 10th, 2022, Mumbi Maina who played ‘Zahra Mufasa’ one of the main characters in the show for the first five months of its television dominance announced on social media her departure due to unavoidable circumstances and then on got replaced by Illya Frank. Without giving out the details for her departure, this left fans speculating.
Illya Frank helmed the character from August 2022 and was welcomed by fans until March 28, 2023, when she also took on social media and announced her exit but in her case, highlighted the reasons behind her withdrawal from the show.
Players in the industry should also be reminded to be making decisions with greater transparency and consideration for the artists involved. Actors and crews in our local industry need to learn how to speak up and stand for what is right, honest and healthy onset.
The culture of fear needs to end,as artists should not have to compromise their well being for the sake of their careers. It’s time for the industry to create a safer and more respectful working environment. The industry should be the one to nurture creativity,not exploit it and it’s time to speak up and demand better as a community.
She also wished her new replacement Jackie Matubia all the best and showered gratitude to her fans for their support and enthusiasm. A few days later, after Illya Frank’s exit, Melvin Alusa, who played the main character in the show ‘Melchizedek Karani’ took on to social media and released a statement announcing his withdrawal from the show. A portion of his statement reads;
I am dedicated to my craft and have honed and mastered my skills for close to 2 decades. I must therefore, preserve and protect it jealously. I unfortunately couldn’t bear the toxic work environment anymore. The bad leadership, emotional blackmail, gaslighting, manipulation and health hazards,led to an environment that became impossible for me to perform my role as an actor, and to deliver powerful moments to the role and story as a whole. It’s at this point that I felt the need to leave with my dignity intact and my head held high.
I am now requesting the Salem Production team to manage the welfare of their actors and crew many of whom are suffering in silence.
The statement fueled soaring responses from fans and artists alike who condemned the actions of the production team and the issues addressed. Over the years, there have been raging campaigns from actors over harsh working conditions in different production companies, and in the wake of Alusa and Frank’s exit, artists have gathered once again online to figure out solutions that can be put in place to protect the welfare of Actors and Crew members in the Film industry.
A solution that has been mentioned over the years amidst the Kenya Actor’s Guild’s inactive state, is the formation of an Artistes’ Union, an association set to protect and nurture creativity not only for the Actors but also for the crew members resulting in better quality work hence enjoying our craft even more.