From panel beater to actor: How 'Skeem Saam' changed Tshepo Senatle's life

Tshepo Senatle (Photo: Tshepo_Senatle)
Tshepo Senatle (Photo: Tshepo_Senatle)

Cape Town - He was working as a panel beater when he got the call that changed his life. His workplace had a "no phones during working hours" rule so when his phone vibrated in his pocket, he considered ignoring it.

But something in him told him to answer it, so he did. And with that call, Tshepo Senatle was on his way to becoming an actor. The call led to his big break into the acting industry, and now he’s known as Koloi on one of the biggest shows on TV, Skeem Saam. In the SABC1 show, he is a high school learner.

He lets Move! in on who he is in real life.


Tshepo has gone from being what he calls a “township actor” at community recreational halls to being on the small screen and it is still surreal. “When I look back where I had to start to get here, I am really proud of myself,” the 23-year-old says. Growing up in Ottosdal, North West, where there weren’t a lot of resources and dreams of stardom were just dreams, he managed to push through.

“I was surrounded by people who would say ‘I am ridiculous’ when I dreamt big. It is then I realised my dream was really big for where I grew up.” In 2016, with only a bag full of clothes, he took a taxi to Johannesburg.

“At the time my grandmother, Ousisi, was working as a domestic worker in Northcliff. But I could not stay with her in the backroom she had at her workplace. I asked to stay with friends from back home who were in Johannesburg,” he recalls.


He came to Joburg expecting to find work immediately in the show business industry, but it took a while. Having a grandmother and mother who had reservations about him being in the big city made him push himself even more.

“I told myself I was not going to disappoint my mother, Kefilwe, and grandmother again. After not being able to further my education due to financial reasons and having a one year- old son at the time, I had to make things right.” After months of struggling to find work as an actor, he got an opportunity to be an extra. “I didn’t even think twice. I was an extra on Skeem Saam. I can’t even remember what I was doing in those scenes.

“I was probably passing by or something. You know, extras don’t talk,” he says with a laugh. He then became an extra on other shows such as Mzansi Magic’s Isibaya. “After the rejection and no after no I kept the faith, but it was hard.”

But, in the meantime, he had to make money. Before getting a job at a panel beating shop, he was a parking marshal at Montecasino in Fourways just to try to pay rent in Diepsloot, a nearby township.

“I would skip work, make excuses so I could be on set as an extra, it was hectic. But like with the panel-beating job, I had to quit to fulfil my love and passion for acting,” Tshepo adds.


Since he started working on Skeem Saam, he feels really good about what the future holds. “I must be honest, I just love my job. I love what I do,” he says.

READ NEXT: Actor Mothusi Magano joins Skeem Saam cast.

He is the breadwinner at home, his gogo is back home in the North West and he has to support her, his mother and his three siblings, Tshepiso (17), Ali (13) and Anes (10). “It is fulfilling to do this and be able to support my family too.”

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