When he used to watch his older brother rehearse for theatre shows, he had no idea that it would one day be his life.
Sphamandla Dhludhlu (27) never imagined that he’d ever be an actor or that he would be part of an Emmy-nominated soapie, The River. It’s been fascinating ride to the small screen, he tells Move!.
AN UNEXPECTED START
He used to accompany his brother, Mandla Dhludhlu, to the local community hall in his township Thokoza, east of Johannesburg, where he watched him rehearse for weeks for a play called Mistakenly Confused. One day his brother failed to show up and after several attempts to reach him, the director asked Sphamandla if he could take on the role.
“The director said I should play my brother’s role because I knew everything about it. I was hesitant because I didn’t know anything about acting, but I had studied the play so well that I knew all the lines by heart,” he says. “I was nervous but I took the opportunity anyway because the director told me the other actors would help me with the dialogue I just had to give it my all.”
At the end of the play he was surprised at how many people commended his performance and that was when he decided he wanted to be an entertainer. “It was one of the best moments in my life to be told I was good at something,” he says.
“My brother not showing up was a weird blessing in disguise, he didn’t have money to take the train, but he was happy to hear I did the role justice.” A woman in the audience told him to take his talent seriously and that he should do so by studying the craft.
THE MAKING OF A CAREER
Determined to make a success of his new-found talent, Sphamandla took the advice and told his father that he wanted to pursue a career in entertainment. “My family gave me all the support and I went to The Market Theatre in Newtown,” he says.
Deep down he really wanted one-onone lessons with award-winning actress Dorothy Ann Gould but couldn’t afford her private lessons. “I approached her and told her I really wanted to work with her but didn’t have the money and she told me she knew someone who would help me,” he says.
She got in touch with Akin Omotoso who was happy to help. In 2015, he got the role of Gazi in a Mzansi Magic film Rise. “After that I got a call to be in Rhythm City as Themba and I was so happy because my biggest dreams were coming true,” he says.
He also got roles in Ikhaya and Thandeka’s Diary, but shortly thereafter the roles stopped coming in. “One thing about this industry is that you can be big today and tomorrow you’re not.” He would go for auditions and wouldn’t get any callbacks.
“I started feeling like I was in the wrong career and that perhaps I wasn’t as talented. In this industry you can go for a lot of auditions and still wait years to get a role,” he says. His doubts diminished as soon as he went for an audition for the role of Mavusana in The River.
“The role was given to me earlier in the year and we started shooting in June. I have been having so much fun on set and I can relate to the character because we’re both from the ’hood but in everything else we’re complete opposites,” he says.
He is currently working on starting his own business but he’s not ready to talk about it. “I’ve always been a business-minded person so I love that I actually pushed myself to start it. It also means financial security because the entertainment industry can be cutthroat. I can easily be left with no role to play,” he says.