Role a cut above rest
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.