MARITZBURG College old boy Sparky Xulu, who has always dreamed of landing the perfect role, has finally seen all his hard work and perseverance pay off after he was cast as the lead character for the first season of Mzansi Magic’s new series The Herd.Having performed in plays since high school, after matriculating Xulu went on to Rhodes University where he studied the arts, eventually coming home to complete his degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. For nine years thereafter, Xulu worked in the industry in various roles, performing in and producing theatre plays and starring in a few television series until he finally got the call to act as the lead in The Herd this year.“It’s been a long ride. Throughout my journey of trying to make it in this industry, there have been a lot of tough times. This role could not have come at a better time though because I feel like I was much more prepared this time, having previously had experience on television,” said Xulu. Xulu said that his previous role on a television show was tough because he had to adjust to television acting, having only had experience in theatre acting before. “I learned how to tone down my acting for television and add a subtlety to my acting as opposed to the dramatics of the theatre,” said Xulu. Expressing his relief at receiving a call-up to do a reading for the role, Xulu said that he was lecturing at the time when he received confirmation that he had landed the rule and that it lifted his spirits at a time when he was feeling down. “In this industry, there are a lots of ups and downs and, when I got the call, it really motivated me to see that my work is paying off and that people are becoming trusting of my skills as an actor and performer,” said Xulu. While working on The Herd, Xulu said that he was exposed to different kinds of actors and actresses of a different calibre, which he learned from in order to make him better. Not one to focus on himself only, Xulu helps out at a local NGO for Pietermaritzburg entertainers called the PMB Arts Collective where he, along with others, helps out young artists by providing help and a platform for them to get their talents out there.“I want to make a valuable contribution to my field and city. It’s not just about me, it’s about all of us making it in this tough industry,” said Xulu.Thanks to his most recent role, Xulu has become a famous man in the city of Pietermaritzburg, with people recognising him on the street.“It feels good that people recognise me but more especially that they appreciate me for my work. It feels good to have that validation coming through from people who are letting me know that I am doing a good job,” said Xulu pleasantly. The Herd can be seen on Sundays at 8 pm on Mzansi Magic.