Images by: Mlungisi Mlungwana | Creative Director Ayanda Sithebe | Make-up by Phumzile Mhlongo |
Editor: Mandisa Vundla
Actor Spaces kicks open a new chapter for the new wave of actors pouring into the industry termed, ‘The New Breed Actors’ series. NBA is set to profile, espouse and document the talent, work and intentions of younger actors who are claiming the industry as their home and are here to stay. Some of these actors have toiled in the shadows of the industry for years and have only recently been rewarded with their breakthrough roles.
Our offices were abuzz with anxiety cushioned by excitement and sleepy eyes dusted clean with conceptual makeup as the preparation for the inaugural NBA feature took way. We kicked off the series with a group discussion between eight actors pertaining to issues around the industry. Bucket loads of laughter coupled with healthy debates around acting, its purpose and both its ability and failure to create a sustainable living, was the order of the day.
The roundtable discussion was chaired by Ayanda Sithebe (C.E.O), Mandisa Vundla (Editor) and myself, with actors Thulani Shange; Zikhona Bali; Jezzriel Skei; Leiden Colbet; Samke Makhoba; Thulani Mtsweni; Lauren Jenae and Zimkhitha Nyoka as our guests.
Founder of Actor Spaces, Ayanda Sithebe let us in on the inspiration behind the ‘New Breed Actors’ series.
“Actor Spaces is such a unique space in the industry that is there for actors and is dedicated to acting and actors. We found ourselves playing catch up to the industry because there has not been a source like this before. It was very natural for us to take a look at the older generation of actors, but in the process of reviewing the site and seeing all the older actors I said to myself ‘shucks! Are we really closing the door on these dynamic young actors?’ ”
Sithebe elaborates further.
“With the new breeds, it’s us really taking actors that have done work, whom we foresee a potential for sustainability in this industry. You can tell that they are not doing it for the fame. We noticed with the group we had for the inaugural feature, that it’s people who are really engraved in the craft. You can see that they live this and that is it.
A good example is Thulani Mtsweni whose acting background I am aware of. He has been doing this since around the time that I met him when he was 18 and he has been on it! His break only came in 2017/18. That tells you something. That is someone who is not going to go back and do anything else. There’s nothing else.”
The NBA series is set to run bi-monthly to nurture a space for celebrating a new generation of actors who we believe have great potential in further cultivating the authenticity of the acting space in South Africa and its neighbouring landscapes. Here’s a hint on what to expect.
“I strongly believe art has the power to change tomorrow, today.”
I am almost completely convinced that Thulani is at our offices to conduct a class or workshop. The perceived idea of his experience in the acting industry proves to be true as the conversations throughout the day continue. What relays as fairly new is his visibility to a greater audience. SABC 3’s Isidingo has become the window in which audiences see the work and intensity of this artist. Thulani details how he has had many opportunities to hang up his acting wings as the pursuit of a career in the industry seemed far out of reach. His genuine love for this art form is what carried him to this point, where we have the opportunity to share in his journey.
With earphones safely plugged into his ears, we saw more dance moves than we heard words from the youngest actor in the group. There must be something to the youngest Golden Horn winner in South Africa. 2013 was the year which introduced us to this young talent through the film Four Corners which was heavily loaded with industry greats. Jezzriel calmly explains how he had to complete high school before pursuing his acting career.
He aligned his education to his passion by completing his studies at the National School of the Arts. Each response that follows from this young man is carefully considered. In gist, “I really want to do this” he says.
Before her breakthrough role, Zikhona Bali has worked multiple jobs to keep her head above water.
“I have been in the industry for quite some time but I had to make money on the side. I have been a property broker, bartender and I have taught English. I did a lot of theatre before I became visible on tv.”
A lady never reveals her age and Zikhona’s role on the popular Mzansi Magic drama Isthunzi could have also foxed you into believing that she is new to this industry. Her journey thus far speaks to many a-NBA-conversation such as sustainability, casting procedures and visibility.
Ayanda Sithebe reminds us that “Aspiring actors may not necessarily relate to an older actor but may relate better to a ninja of a production like Isthunzi. These aspiring actors look up to the younger generation because it is a direct reflection. They see themselves in these actors. NBA is created for that aspect as well; to inspire.”
Alternative work seems to play into the lives of many of our guests. Lauren Jenae who encapsulates a more tempestuous character in the role she plays on the Mzansi Magic Lockdown series begins to explain how this has played out in her own life.
Lauren tries to keep her work interrelated. She works as a presenter on the radio as well as a newsreader to supplement her acting work.
She speaks on an approach to auditions that could potentially place you in a position of being remembered. She sticks out her tongue and slips out of her natural more poised character to relay how the beginning of finding a role can occur. She also shares how she got cast for her role in lockdown.
Our earliest arrival of the day was actress Leiden Colbet whose entrance even preceded the arrival of some of the team members.
She is a project manager for a church organization in between auditions and productions. Leiden began cultivating her acting chops in high school through lead-roles in Shakespeare plays.
Today the Lockdown cast member switches between very high heels and flats, complete silence and definite responses as she engages with both familiar and unfamiliar members of this eight-part group.
“I have never done anything different. I went straight from school into theatre and now television. Right now I am trying to find the balance between theatre and television.”
Thulani walks into the television space sometimes carrying controversial roles such as the homosexual character he embodies in the Ikhaya series. In conversation, Thulani refers back to his training which is more theatre-based. With names that only differ in dictation, Shange and Tsweni converse as peers although Thulane is much younger than his namesake. Acting seems to have bridged the gap between these artists and as the day continues, their counterparts melt into pots of humour, debate and gestured conversation sometimes driven by Shange.
Her Instagram bio introduced Samke as a director, editor, voice-over artist and actress. Dstv viewers are privy to the character of Zandile which has Samke delivering a heavy and hilarious performance for a commercial advert. I adjust my perceptions when Samke clarifies her age and reminds us not to be fooled by appearances. Her resume should speak to this fact but as the NBA space is noting, visibility seems to have become an “unfair” measure of an artist’s work.
If the South African film Vaya did not also boast the presence of more notable and seasoned actors, would the world have become aware of the driven potential carried in the small frame of Zimkhitha Nyoka?
Recently travelling between Cape Town and Johannesburg this cliché reflecting actress gives the production her full attention despite the weight of her schedule. Dynamite does seem to come in small packages as Zimkhitha’s hands move vigorously when she is pressed to deliver a particular point. Her native tongue; isiXhosa, peers through from time to time as the actress speaks of her work as well as the industry ills that rub her up the wrong way.Zimkhitha graduated with distinction from the Lady Grey Art Academy.
Her strong opinions as far as the South African acting industry and its current state is concerned are hard. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for this amazing talent.
We humbled to have met the group that forms part of this inaugural feature. Actor Spaces believe that through this series even the older practitioners may learn a thing or two or at least remember why they began this journey. You can look forward to reading more on each actor as the NBA series chapter unfolds.
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