Role a cut above rest

The Sunday Independent - - LIFE TV -

GAY roles on the small screen have been few and far be­tween. With rare ex­cep­tions such as War­ren Masemola’s Thoko Chan­nel in the SABC sit­com, Ses’Top La, and the blond hair­dresser played by Themba Ndaba in an­other sit­com,

Streaks, the oth­ers have been un­con­vinc­ing.

Although I be­lieve that Sello Maake Ka Ncube is one of the great South African act­ing tal­ents, I think his Kgosit­sila is over the top.

But along came Khaya Dladla, 27. After 17 years in the in­dus­try as a stage ac­tor and clas­si­cal dancer, Dladla reached the apex of his craft as a gay man in Uzalo.

His char­ac­ter, the nosy and lo­qua­cious hair­dresser is the main rea­son why view­ers tune in to watch SABC1’s most pop­u­lar Zulu novella. It is a far cry from the for­ma­tive years when doors were banged in his face dur­ing au­di­tions. He started very young. At eight he was al­ready a pro­fes­sional bal­le­rina. How­ever, his child­hood dream was to be a screen ac­tor. A com­bi­na­tion of his per­sis­tent na­ture and con­fi­dent per­son­al­ity was in­stru­men­tal in his suc­cess as one of the coun­try’s adored ac­tors.

Such was his de­ter­mi­na­tion to have his act­ing tal­ents recog­nised on the small screen, he lit­er­ally had to kick in doors that were closed in his face.

When he landed small parts he re­jected them be­cause he thought he de­served bet­ter. When he got the gay role, it was ini­tially in­tended as a back­ground char­ac­ter work­ing in a hair sa­lon and def­i­nitely with lit­tle or no di­a­logue.

How­ever, Dladla’s spon­ta­neous, cre­ative and in-your-face per­son­al­ity even­tu­ally pushed for more recog­ni­tion for the ir­re­press­ible hair­dresser.

The view­ers fell in love with his char­ac­ter and cam­paigned for more vis­i­bil­ity, leav­ing the pro­duc­ers with lit­tle choice. “The suc­cess is con­fir­ma­tion that all along I had what it took to suc­ceed. All I needed was the op­por­tu­nity to ex­press my ta­lent,” he told me.

He ac­knowl­edges that be­ing a ho­mo­sex­ual man in real life has given his gay char­ac­ter the au­then­tic­ity. The fact that he is the first gay ac­tor to por­tray a ho­mo­sex­ual char­ac­ter in a TV show is an achieve­ment that gives him sat­is­fac­tion and pride.

It has cat­a­pulted him into an am­bas­sado­rial role for mem­bers of the LGBT com­mu­nity. And as ex­pected, he is not im­pressed by the gay por­tray­als that have graced our screen in re­cent times. His ob­ser­va­tion is that they are not au­then­tic and would like to see more ac­tors from the LGBT com­mu­nity be­ing given gay roles in our dra­mas.

Dladla’s char­ac­ter has grown from an un­at­tached hair­dresser con­cerned about other peo­ple’s love af­fairs to hav­ing a ro­mance with a gay man but strug­gling to come out pub­licly with his sex­u­al­ity.

Uzalo airs on SABC1 from Mon­day to Wed­nes­day at 8.30pm, with an om­nibus on Sun­days at noon.

Khaya Dladla plays his Uzalo ho­mo­sex­ual role com­mend­ably and, in so do­ing, cre­ates an aware­ness for the LGBT com­mu­nity.

SAM MATHE

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