Fab five among brightest stars in acting class of 2020
The showbiz class of 2020 includes five rising stars - Sicelo Buthelezi, Ntobeko Sishi, Ama Qamata, Tshepo Senatle and Rosemary Zimu - that have positioned themselves for stardom.
Just three days into the Covid-19 lockdown in March, the country was introduced serendipitously to breakout actors Buthelezi (Teddy) and Sishi (Ntokozo) when Gomora premiered.
The pair managed to immediately create desirable personas - something that many work on for years - by portraying high school boys with teenage angst. So much so that the daily drama, returning to Mzansi Magic on Monday after a production break, dethroned The Queen as DStv's most-watched TV show.
Buthelezi and Sishi agree that they walked into the new decade filled with hope that their stars would take off - they just didn't expect it to happen so soon.
Durban-born Sishi was based in Cape Town when he sent producers his audition tape and eventually landed the role of a boy who accidentally kills a business tycoon in a botched hijacking.
"I walked into 2020 feeling hopeful that things would go my way. But I could have never imagined that I would be working on such a great show," Sishi says.
"It's been incredibly humbling to see the love people have for the show. When we first read the scripts, we knew we had something special on our hands but still, the response from the viewers has been overwhelmingly positive."
Gomora has 2.51-million viewers, according to the latest data by the Broadcast Research Council of SA.
Sishi, 22, has proven a man of many talents as videos of him singing and hitting all the right notes went viral.
He also holds two BCom degrees from the University of Cape Town (UCT).
"As a child I always had a passion for the performing arts and I found my voice at the age of eight through a video game where you have to sing and hit all the notes. I then decided to perform and write music," Sishi shares.
The role of Teddy could not have come at a better time for Tembisa-born Buthelezi, who had studied drama and performance at the Market Theatre Laboratory. He landed the audition after he saw a casting call on Instagram.
"This is definitely the role I have been waiting for to launch my television career," Buthelezi says. "I feel so overwhelmed by the love from the viewers. I'm not entirely surprised by it; I receive it all with gratitude."
Buthelezi and Sishi's Gomora co-star Qamata (Buhle) is making international moves.
The 21-year-old starlet leads the cast of Netflix's second African original series, Blood & Water, that debuted in 190 countries on Wednesday.
Qamata plays 16-year-old schoolgirl Puleng Khumalo who sets out to investigate the cold case of her older sister's disappearance at an elite school.
The Eastern Cape newcomer confesses that it has been a lot of pressure carrying such a big show on her tiny shoulders.
"It's an incredible honour. To represent young African talent on a global platform like Netflix is a huge privilege and I hope we make the continent proud of our work," Qamata says.
While many were introduced to Qamata as feisty Buhle in Gomora, she filmed Blood & Water last year.
Her plans to continue with her studies at UCT this year were put on hold after landing the role of Buhle.
"I was preparing to go back to school and resume my studies at UCT but I got a call from Lulu Hela, the series producer, literally a week before I was supposed to register and she told me that I got the part," Qamata recounts.
Before landing his comic relief role of Koloi in Skeem Saam, 23-year-old Senatle had given up on his acting dream after being rejected for so long.
The father of four-year-old Khumo was working full-time as a panel-beater before his breakthrough in the SABC1 soapie.
Senatle had auditioned for another role on the show but didn't get it.
"At the time I was employed full-time and had to risk my job for a dream - one I had longed for and perhaps had lost a bit of faith in getting," Senatle recalls. "I prepared for almost three days for the auditions and I didn't get the role."
But he was later called back to audition for the role of Koloi, which has taken Mzansi by storm.
"The love I have received is absolutely overwhelming. A request for selfies and how to get a job in the industry has become my daily routine."
Sebokeng-born actress Zimu is getting ready to make her debut as Warona in The Queen as the daughter to Mildred, played by Kuli Roberts.
But Zimu is already showbiz royalty, following in the footsteps of her late uncle and gospel sensation Neyi Zimu. Her aunt is veteran radio presenter Nonn Botha.
"I grew up around all my uncles and aunts and I adopted something from all of them," Zimu says.
Zimu has already made her acting mark playing Veronica in Isidingo, but her upcoming role in The Queen promises to be her biggest yet.
"She's different to any other role I've played and I fell in love with her as I was reading the character bio. I didn't have any doubts about whether or not I would be able to make her come to life," Zimu says.
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