Ugandan fashion mogul, Sylvia Owori, bought her way into the film as an extra at an auction that acted as a fundraiser for Maisha Film Labs. Other prizes included a "12 Years a Slave" DVD signed by Lupita Nyong'o.
The filmmakers intentionally cast newcomer actors in leading and supporting roles to introduce a lot of fresh talent with regards to young actors required for the film. A mixture of South African and Ugandan youth were cast in various roles. The only big name actors in the film are Lupita Nyong'o and David Oyelowo.