Although Benjamin Ochieng trained as an IT professional, he has always been firmly entrenched in the arts. “As the second eldest of seven boys, I wanted to be the first one to go to college,” he says. So he relocated from Kenya to the US to pursue a Bachelor of Science Degree in Computer Science. After graduating with his degree from California State University, Stanislaus, he moved to Los Angeles to pursue music and acting.
Music was Benjamin’s first love. He had played in a rock band while growing up in Kenya and was lead guitarist of his college rock band, High Voltage. When he moved to Los Angeles, he marketed himself as a bass player because the industry was flooded with many other talented guitarists. He regularly performs in Hollywood Clubs with his current band In Lieu Of.
During his early days in Los Angeles, substitute teaching by day and performing with his band by night, Benjamin chanced upon acting because it was really easy to get side-jobs as an extra at the time. He discovered that he really enjoyed being on set: “I feel so good in front of the camera; I feel alive. I love acting because it gives me joy and fulfillment.”
Over time, Benjamin took an acting class and started getting cast for more serious roles. He has acted in TV shows like General Hospital, The Shield and X-Files. His film roles include Kwame, for which he won the 2009 Best Actor Award at the Mexico International Film Festival, Default and Tears of the Sun, among others.
As a teen, Benji was an avid fan of James Hadley Chase, an English author who wrote close to a hundred crime novels. Benji read all of them. He also read all of the Sudden novels, by English author Oliver Strange and American Louis L’Amour, his dad’s ten volumes of the Encyclopedia and the dictionary—from cover to cover.
Inspired by all this reading, Benji and one of his younger brothers wrote crime novels about their neighborhood in their school notebooks. Within no time at all, the neighborhood kids started lining up outside their house, taking turns at borrowing the “notebook novels” and pushing the brothers to write more.
Benjamin recently reprised his talent as a prolific writer, developing several TV shows, movies and a documentary. He is working on his own projects in between film roles. “The challenge with acting is getting signed and getting funds for your projects. However, the internet has changed the game. Now you can make some good stuff and put your own stuff online.” He is working on a web series sitcom called Dysfunctionally Organized, which he hopes to start shooting in the Fall.
All of Benjamin’s screenplays begin in Kenya because he wants the world to take note of Kenya as a thriving location for shooting movies. Kenya recently got global exposure at the 66th Cannes Film Festival as a prime destination for movie production. “Another reason I set my films in Kenya is because I want my actor friends there to have opportunities to be in awesome movies.”
Benjamin loves giving back to the country that raised him. He currently supports ODILA orphanage in Kisumu, Kenya and says, “If I had more money, I would set up a foundation to give back even more.