22 May 2016 – SOUTH African-born actress, Malie Thekiso, has managed to get her tiny foot in the US entertainment scene’s door with her debut short film having been nominated by two prominent film festivals in the States.
Though relatively unknown in the SA theatre and film industry, Thekiso hopes to use her experience from the US to make a name for herself on the local scene.
“Yeah, I am relatively unknown in South Africa. But acting has always been part of my life, since pre-school. I was also heavily involved in drama at university, though auditions were few and far between,” says Thekiso.
Two, is a short film telling the story of childhood friends of opposite sexes whose friendship is tested when one has to leave town for good, was shot in Harlem in New York.
Thekiso got the role after being contacted by Tannis Spencer about auditioning after Spencer – the film’s writer, director and producer – saw monologues Thekiso had posted on YouTube.
She stars alongside Rafael V. DeLeon.
Released last month in the US, the film has already caught a few eyes in the indie film world, competing for monthly as well as annual awards at the Miami Independent Film Festival and the Los Angeles Cine Fest.
As for the film’s future, Thekiso says: “I am more than optimistic that South African audiences will one day see this film.”
Since returning to South Africa, Thekiso has bagged two deals, to film skits, 30-second reality-style inserts for MTV Base, and a part in a television series called “The Commune”, which is set and filmed in Johannesburg and aimed at a pan-African audience.
It is starting to look like she was destined for show business, but Thekiso, whose parents wanted her to study politics or economics, says she didn’t even mention to her parents that her interest was in acting until recently because she was scared that they would disapprove.
So how did the 24-year-old from Ruimsig, west of Johannesburg, who graduated from Wits University in 2014 with a BCom triple major in Politics, Philosophy and Economics, become a film star?
“I didn’t know how to tell my parents that I wanted to be an actor. But I’m glad I did the degree first because it has taught me that there’s nothing I want to do in this life except acting,” she said.
Once she had her degree under her belt, Thekiso says, she dropped everything and headed for the prestigious New York Film Academy.
“I was given a part-scholarship by the academy, something like 30 percent of the fees. But my poor parents had to foot the rest of the bill,” Thekiso said, adding that her parents did support her dream when she eventually told them about it.
As for how difficult it was to get a break in the American industry as a foreigner, Thekiso said she realised that she had to use her unique selling point, the fact that she was a foreigner, to her advantage.
“When I auditioned for the Film Academy, the issues of immigrants were not as heightened as now. But as an outsider, I quickly learned and I was willing to work a thousand times harder. I also used that element of being different to my advantage,” she said, adding that her accent was a definite winner. – ANA