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Stella Nante: I am not trying to become the next thing

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When both NTV and Spark TV’s social media pages carried banners of Spice Diana as the new host of NTV’s show, Mwasuze Mutya, many people knew something was not right. Not that Hajarah Diana Namukwaya does not have what it takes to host a show such as Mwasuze Mutya, but as an active artiste, it is hard to imagine her waking up five days a week to have conversations.

It was almost impossible.

And the online streets were right, Spice Diana was not the host but the guest. However, she was a guest who also got a chance to introduce a new host. The host was Stella Nante.

“It was a wonderful experience doing that first show, especially being introduced by Spice Diana,”  Nante says

Spice and I have a history together, as she was our neighbour in the past. When she had just started pursuing music, we invited her to my sister’s graduation. We did not think she would show up, but she did and even performed. “It was great being introduced by her because we have both come a long way in our careers.”

The actor

An actor, director, producer and now TV host, Nante is not entirely a new face, especially for those who love Ugandan local content.

Nante was the compromised assistant in Doreen Mirembe’s feature film Kafa Coh; the two had initially met when they both acted in NTV’s show, Deception. In fact, it was in the NTV drama that most Ugandans met the actor for the first time.

Her opening show had her hosting artiste Spice Diana and later notable names such as Sam Bagenda, Ronald Mayinja, and Babirye Sarah, the embattled netball administrator.

She had done interviews before, although she says most of them were more of question and answer (Q&A). With Mwasuze Mutya, she says it is a conversation where the host creates rapport with his guests and you listen to understand.

She already likes how the guests react to the interviews. For instance, Mayinja told her he was sorry he became emotional but also said she gave him a reason not to be afraid to speak out.

Of course she also likes the fact that some of her guests have been jolly and funny. “Dr Bbosa was fun and kept cracking jokes during the interview,”she says, adding that he reminded her of the fact that Mwasuze Mutya was not very uptight.

“And the presenter still has a voice and the liberty to contribute to the conversation,” she says.

Nante has had such a relationship with NTV that it is almost not surprising she is hosting a show on the station; she has been part of their dramas such as Deception, Second Chance Uganda, False Dreams and also made appearances in Power of Legacy.

“When we did the TV dramas, most of the time we would interact with the employees, some of whom were presenters or producers and we stayed in touch,” she says.

The Honourablez

When the Covid-19 lockdown happened, many things came to a standstill and film was not spared either. Power of Legacy did not come back, and many of the cast and supporting cast were taken over by other projects.

Pamela Keryeko joined the cast and crew of the hit show Prestige, Tania Shakira Kankindi joined Bakojja, Houlsen Mushema ended up on Sanyu and Nante joined The Honourablez.

Her character on The Honourablez, Dorcus, was a powerful woman whose command was felt on screen; “her monologues were challenging and powerful at the same time. When I was acting in the role, John Segawa told me that if I had to take another role, I should make sure it is powerful and does not relegate me to the background. So when The Honourablez took a break, I barely took roles because I did not believe they added a lot to my career. You cannot come from a powerful character to an extra that passes by,” she says,

But while working with Segawa at Buyu Studios, she took on more roles, such as being his assistant director on The Honourablez, that even when they finished shooting the show, she had something to do.

“But when you are an actor used to being on TV, when it goes away, people can get depressed. At that point, you do not know what you are going to do,” she says, adding that even when she indeed had work at Buyu Studios in Lubaga, she felt like something was missing.

However, Nante says her life took a turn when she lost her father in October. He had been her go-to person for many things and his death almost left her empty. At that time, she left Buyu Studios to embark on a role in film.

“I have only done one feature film, Kafa Coh, so when the opportunity came to be in another film, I took it up. I was hungry for it. I asked the producer what the story was, and when I saw the script, I noticed it was not well written. From a background of aiming higher with roles, I was discouraged by the story, choice of director, and a big part of the cast choices.”

Nante, who hosted Spice Diana as her first guest, says the opportunity to host Mwasuze Mutya came at a time when she was looking to change careers. PHOTOS/COURTESY/ DRAMA DUNCANS

Changing careers

Since she had already left Buyu Studios, she decided to get back to her business of making juice. It is something she started when Deception was done.

“I had continued making and selling juice on the Second Chance set and the cast and crew were supportive; those people would buy juice in bulk. So when I resumed, I had the market, but I knew something was missing. I love making and selling juice, but I knew it was not something I wanted to settle for at this time. My mind was ready for something bigger, but I did not know what,” she says.

“I picked up the phone and called one of the producers of Deception and asked if they had anything happening. I was told to come through and audition.”

She auditioned for a music show and says she did not fit in and was aware she was not bringing it out. She had pictured herself doing a talk show, touching people’s lives and exploring emotions.

“I wanted to be a person who can impact and comfort, so I told the producers what I had in mind, and they said they would call me back. They did not,” she says.

She would later receive a call to audition for something totally different, and another audition and another one.

“The one thing driving me was the fact that I wanted to change careers. When they called me to audition for Mwasuze Mutya, I knew that was it. It was the next thing I wanted,” she says.

She did her first show audition and as much as the producers loved her voice, in her own words, “the Luganda refused; I think I did an introduction mainly in English. They said they would call me. I had heard that statement over and over, “We shall call you.”

Joining NTV

She later got guidance from her brother and practiced using hard Luganda words and by the time she was called in for another audition, she was better than her first.

“I was told I was going to get training for the show,” she says.

After training for long , she says she was downtown shopping when she got the cal: “I was in the corridor of a building when I received the call and the person on the other side of the phone said I was the official host of the show. I was emotional and asked the lady nearby to help me with a stool.”

But Nante knows a thing or two about dazzling on the screen; in fact, it is a thing her family knows so well. For instance, in the 2000s, her older brother Michael Ross Kakooza was Uganda’s RnB heartthrob with songs such as Sinorita, How Do You Love Somebody and Yooyo, among others. He was also a dancer, who would later inspire his young brother, Allan Katongole, to join music.

Katongole, whose stage name is Kutos, recorded a few songs and has appeared in some Michael Ross videos as a dancer. However, it is acting that got Katongole his big break as Oscar Kirunda in the Pearl Magic Prime telenovela Sanyu. In an earlier interview, Katongole said he was introduced to acting by Nante.

“I had introduced my brothers Andrew and George to the director of Deception and they were featured as extras. When they went back home, they talked about their time on set and Allan picked interest; the problem is that he is shy,” she says.

Later, when she was part of Second Chance, the then director, Fahad Mutumba, wanted to cast a family doctor and she suggested Katongole and convinced them he was an amazing actor.

“I went to his place later that day and gave him some tips on approaching the role. The next day, I found him on set, he was already dressed in a robe. When he started acting, he blew everyone away. I was shocked,” she says.

Nante says Katongole is shy but later revealed that he felt confident when he saw his sister on set.

On Mwasuze Mutya though, she has no idea what would happen if she interviews her brother; “I think that would be a crazy interview.”

Nante inherits a big show in Mwasuze Mutya, and she is aware of that fact. She says she knows the show’s track record and reputation, so is she ready to fill those shoes?

“I am not filling any shoes; I am filling my shoes. I am not trying to be the next thing, I am here to be the next Stella Nante.”