Young talents usually go on to be mega stars in various avenues of the arts.
From Leleti Khumalo to Nasty C, a young person with the gifts to become a force in the entertainment industry usually comes from them being afforded the chance to have their talents polished and honed from an early age.
A few South African TV productions have demonstrated their ability to do this by roping in young actor Zekhethelo Zondi.
Zekhethelo has been on a few productions, namely Isifiso, Collision and Shadow. At present she portrays the role of Nqobile on e. TV’s long running soap opera Scandal!
As Nqobile Mdletshe, she is a 12-year-old orphan who is being raised by an older sister who was formally a sex worker. Her brother, portrayed by Siyabonga Gcwensa as Mbuso, served time in juvenile prison. Despite her challenging background, Nqobile has big dreams and aspires to be a pilot one day, and she is very good at math and science.
“She is very sweet and innocent until you speak ill of her brother or sister. All hell breaks loose,” Zekhethelo explains.
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“It is a blessing, many actors wish to be part of such a popular and successful show, however the Almighty gave me an opportunity and privilege to work with a great and talented team,” the 13-year-old actor says.
Zekhethelo claims to have always had a passion for acting even from when she was younger than she is now.
“I have always been an actress from a young age, judging from the videos my mom has of me singing and impersonating characters that I saw on TV. My mom natured my talent by taking us to theater to watch live shows and sometimes took me and my brother to set with her as she is also a freelance actress.“
At the tender age of six, her mother took Zekhethelo to be registered at the Mehlareng Professional Actors and Performers Agency and she has been with the agency for seven years now.
The young actor speaks with the poise of someone with wisdom way beyond her years.
“Being on set is bittersweet, like any other working environment, but I’m certainly enjoying myself and learning a lot from other actors. On my first day I was very nervous, and I felt like I couldn’t breathe, but luckily my mom was there every step of the way and it really helped, a lot,” she explains calmly.
Her favourite character on Scandal! is the role played by veteran actor Melusi Mbele, “who portrays Jojo Kubheka. He is friendly, very respectful to everyone at work, and I love and enjoy doing scenes with him because he is very funny and young at heart.”
There is a long list of powerhouse women whom the youngster looks up to and this includes Zendaya, Nomzamo Mbatha, Ntando Ncube and Thuso Mbedu.
“I aspire to be like them one day in terms of being young, black and successful in all the spheres. I also love how they embody their characters when performing. They deliver and I believe them in each scene.”
Just as we have seen many young talents go on to dominate in their lanes, we have also seen a few stars flame out, disappearing into the oblivion of obscurity, which is something Zekhethelo keeps in mind.
“Being a kid actor comes with lot of advantages and disadvantages, specifically on set. You come across adults who come from different backgrounds and walks of life with energies that are good and sometimes very bad.
“I constantly have to remind myself that I auditioned and got the role not by mistake and that my dream is valid. And the assumption that when someone appears on TV is wealthy can be very challenging too. The support I get from my family and friends is immense. My faith in God keeps me sane.”
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Her career is still very much in its infancy, but she already has a role she considers a standout or at the very least a role she enjoyed playing the most.
“My favorite character that I portrayed is definitely Nozi Gambu on Isifiso season one and two.”
The plan is to keep building on this early success and the next few years will be key to ensuring her growth in front of the camera.
“I’m hoping to perfect my craft and be able to perform on big Hollywood stages, with God’s help I can be the next Nomzamo Mbatha. But I also want to achieve and be successful academically. For me acting is about telling stories and I love and enjoy doing it. When I’m preparing for a role, I firstly analyze the script then I will identify the character’s personality, habits, behaviour and how she thinks then I will tap into my own creativity to bring the character to life.”
Catch Zekhethelo on Scandal! weekdays on e.TV at 8:30pm.