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From grass to grace: How hawker landed major role in movie that won at Uganda Film Festival

by Editorial Team
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By Hussein Kiganda

When victory comes, no one else knows the struggles one has passed through to achieve it.

The public often just sees the joy on the winners’ faces.

Well, Cosmos Sserubogo, who won the Best Supporting Actor in Feature Film for his role in Tembele during the ninth Uganda Film Festival Awards Gala on June 3, has a story to tell; one of toil and misery.

The awarding ceremony took place at the Uganda Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Nakawa, Kampala.

As the guests gave him the deserved silence so as to hear his speech, all he could shout out was “Hallelujah”.

His eyes were teary, lips shaking and his voice so faint, yet loud.

The joy he had, mirrored something beyond what the crowd could see. The Kampala Sun sought him out for his story.

Cosmas Sserubogo exclaiming after winning Best Supporting Actor in Feature Film for his role in Tembele during the ninth Uganda Film Festival Awards Gala at the Uganda Institute of Information and Communications Technology in Nakawa, Kampala on June 3

Who is Cosmos Sserubogo?

Sserubogo is the first of five children born to Rose and Mugagga Kyagambidwa on November 24, 1994.

He grew up in Entebbe and Kampala slums like Katanga, Kimanya-Mulago, Nsambya.

He lost his father when he was a child, so he took up his father’s role as a way to help his mother raise his siblings.

In the course of the fight for survival, Sserubogo lost his mother, too, in 2014, consequently becoming the head of the child family.

He narrates that it was an uphill task to head a family when he, too, was young.

“It wasn’t easy, especially when our mother died. I am the eldest in the family, so I automatically took up the role of being the parent. I had learnt several survival skills from our mother. I used to sell snacks on the roads and this is how I managed to look after my siblings and myself,” Sserubogo narrates.

Sserubogo studied at St. Peters Primary School and St. Peters Secondary School in Nsambya.

His highest level of education is Senior Four.

Sserubogo tried to go to college for a course in performing arts, but considering that he had a family to take care of, he chose family over his desires. 

He discovered his talent in film when he was at school. He narrates that he used to be part of the music, dance, and drama club and he was passionate about singing, dancing – generally performing.

Sserubogo recalls the many certificates he scooped as a young performer in school.

“Although it was a hustle to pay school fees, it was fun at school, especially when I performed and won. I have several certificates from my performances. I just loved to entertain people,” he states.

To kickstart his entertainment dream, he tried out music in 2018 with Cosy Lucky as his stage name.

While living in a Catholic mission in Nsambya, Sserubogo recorded a number of songs and tried to rub shoulders with big names in the music industry to make his mark in the music industry to no avail.

He decided to concentrate on street vending, but in 2020, the COVID-19-induced government restrictions on movements forced him back home.

It was until Sserubogo started selling eggs along the roads to the people who were walking to and from Kampala, that he realised he could mix entertainment and business.

“I joined egg vending because we had been stopped from going to the city and it was the only thing I could do with the little savings I had. I stood along the roads to wait for those that were going and coming from the city centre. To lure customers into buying from me, I would sing, dance, and act for them. It worked as my business expanded from one tray to five trays daily,” he narrates.

How he got his first film gig

Sserubogo acts as Segi in the movie Tembele. He was at his best and he indeed deserved the accolade he got.

Well, he revealed that he got the gig from one of his customers.

As he entertained the passersby, a friend called him to be part of a few local drama skits. He took the bucket of eggs with him on the set.

A movie director called Andrew Tumanyane took a keen interest in Sserubogo as he bit into the eggs he had bought from him.

It was not long before he came back to pick him up for Tembele’s cast.

Tumanyane, who was the productions manager of Tembele, says he saw something unique in Sserubogo and had high hopes that he would become a great actor.

He noted that he was bold, disciplined, and quick to learn. 

“I was touched by Cosmas’ way of living. He would carry a bucket of boiled eggs on set so that he could sell them to his fellow actors. He was a well behaved actor who was quick to learn, so we exchanged numbers and kept in touch. A month later when Morris Mugisha (producer) wanted a cast, the first picture I showed him was that of Cosmas and immediately he wanted to see him. When I called Cosmas, he rode his bike and came right away. Morris loved his willpower and immediately cast him for Segi’s role,” Tumanyane narrates.

Morris is known by many actors as one who doesn’t take on first-timers in the industry. He is the kind of producer who wishes to have the best of actors on his projects. How he accepted to take in Sserubogo who was still a first-timer is a miracle to the actor. 

Sserubogo wonders how he was entrusted with such a big role in the movie and how he managed to act the very day he was given the script. 

“It was my first time in film, my first movie, and my first role. As soon as they gave me the script, they told me to get on set and I do not know how I did it,” he says.

Morris says his team did not think that Sserubogo, being a first-time actor, could pull off the role.

He says he was almost convinced by their stance, but when he analysed Sserubogo, he realised he had all the qualities he wanted, so he took the risk to have him play a major role in the movie.

Morris also hails him for his willingness to learn.

Morris Mugisha holding his Africa Movie Academy Awards for his movie Stain

“When I first saw him, his humility and willingness to learn fast, and heed to principles of acting blew me away, considering he was a first-timer. Because I am a believer that some people are natural-born performers, I didn’t bother to look elsewhere as much as part of my team didn’t endorse him. I went on and gave him a chance to take his shot on the big screen,” he says.

“He is a hard worker, a vibe to reckon with, modest and vibrant, exactly what the character Segi in Tembele required. All he needed was polishing and fine-tuning and to perform for film. Cosmas evolved into Segi.”

Now that Sserubogo has made a mark in the film industry, he believes he can take on other roles and hit bigger screens.

He hopes that other big directors and producers will consider him for roles.

Sserubogo is, however, not giving up on his business of selling eggs along the streets. He wants to expand it using the money he won from the Uganda Film Festival.

“I have not yet got the money I won in the awards, but when I do, I want to grow my egg business so that I become a wholesaler, spare some money to shoot some music videos and then look after my siblings,” he says.

While so many writers struggle to pen down African stories, Sserubogo’s story is one of the few that needs to be told using the film language of a movie.

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