AN ENSEMBLE OF LOCAL ACTING TALENT
IF YOU WERE ASKED IN A PUB QUIZ TO NAME A WORLD-FAMOUS SOUTH AFRICAN STAR, YOU’D YELL CHARLIZE THERON AND WIN THE POINTS. WE RECKON IT’S TIME MORE OF OUR TALENTED ACTORS HIT THE GLOBAL LIMELIGHT, AND HERE ARE THREE WE TIP FOR THE TOP.
Shooting the film Sometimes in April made Pamela Nomvete reassess the way she views her chosen career. The film about the Rwandan genocide saw the cast spend three months on location researching the story.“That job lifted my idea of why I wanted to be in the arts. It went from being totally self-centred to realising that the arts can have a profound transformational power, because you can walk out of a performance – after experiencing a story – as a different person from the person who walked in,” she says.
Nomvete has a loud and ready laugh and describes herself as a large actress, then guffaws and says she doesn’t just mean in the physical sense – she has a large presence that fills the screen.
She was schooled in the UK after her activist parents were exiled during apartheid, making her a South African with a global outlook. She worked in British theatres for years and featured in the classic TV soapie Coronation Street. In South Africa she recently starred in the moving play Meet Me at
Dawn, and you’ll next see her as a prison boss in Mzansi Magic’s drama series Lockdown.
The reason too few South Africans make it big abroad is because they abandon their identity, she believes.“South African performers often copy American or English styles, instead of showing who they are.You are linked to your country, so bring that to the table, because that will always make you unique.”
Gaining international experience is excellent, but then come back and bolster South Africa’s arts scene, she argues.“America
and the UK built their industries to where they’re recognised globally and are economically viable, which we still haven’t cottoned on to here. Even people in the industry see it as a hobby, not a profession.”
Nomvete has written a programme to help other performers unleash their talents, but they must work harder at making theatre and film more accessible, she says. “Most people here watch TV and think it’s only a certain type [of actor] that goes to the theatre, and we have to make that crossover. In the ’80s in the UK as a black African actor you didn’t have a market, but it didn’t stop you getting together with friends and creating your own work, and that energy made the industry flourish and made it more inclusive. Actors in South Africa have the mindset that it has to be given to you, not worked for.”
Slim and muscular Warren Masemola has carved out a niche playing the bad guy in movies, and more sympathetic characters on TV. He’s mean and moody in the Western-style film Five Fingers for Marseilles, and a riot of camp fluff and feathers as Thokozani in the TV comedy Ses’Top La.
This versatile man can sing, dance, and act in five different languages, and is mesmerising on stage if you catch him at the theatre.
Last year he was a big hit at the Toronto International Film Festival where two of his movies debuted – Five Fingers and The Number, which will be our next chance to see him on the big screen.
That Masemola looks tough just proves what a great actor he is.The “true him” wants to use his talent to challenge the way that people slot others into stereotypes.“I want to bring change into the world, and – with my talent being acting – people will get to know what I stand for, and it’s love,” he says. “The characters I take on are very revolutionary and I advocate the change that is needed in life to make humanity love.”
His favourite role so far has been in the SABC 1 drama Tjovitjo as MaFred, a pantsula dance group leader who pushes the youngsters to use their skills to escape from poverty. “I love it because the character stands for the voiceless and faceless communities where people don’t have anything to use to get by other than their talent,” Masemola says. “MaFred is my favourite character because he advocates love, and if we love enough, we can reach out to each other and touch lives in a positive way.”
Masemola says his dream character is:“Everything I haven’t played – I believe I can play 50 more characters that I haven’t tried out before.” And 50 more after that, we hope.
You may recognise Lemogang Tsipa from the telenovela Isithembiso, or as the lead in Beyond the River, playing a young man on the wrong side of the law who finds a different future through canoeing.
Soon he’ll appear on the big screen alongside Warren Masemola in The Number, a brutal story about jail gangs, and as a teacher in the true life movie The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind, filmed in Malawi. “I’ve worked in all mediums but my primary focus is TV because it has a bigger audience,” he says.
Tsipa aims to go global, but he also wants to fuel the home-grown industry. “I’d like to see myself in Hollywood, but I’d also like to work at home and try to grow the film industry here. It’s a money thing – all artists want to survive, and overseas you make a better living. Here you struggle to get projects off the ground and get money approved for a project.”
At 27,Tsipa comes from the internet generation that lives much of its life online. “I’d love to produce a lot of online content and have it sponsored by corporations and make it free for people to watch, covering South African issues or general things that most people in the world feel,” he says.
Masemola says his dream character is: “Everything I haven’t played – I believe I can play 50 more characters that I haven’t tried out before.”
First Page: Pamela Nomvete as a prison warder in Lockdown, and on stage with Natasha Sutherland in Meet Me At Dawn. Second Page: A moody Warren Masemola in the film Five Fingers for Marseilles. This Page: Lemogang Tsipa has made a name for himself,...