AFTER playing Kunta Kinte’s uncle in the remake of the classic slave film series Roots, Bulawayo born actor Peace Nzirawa is looking to follow the likes of Tongai Chirisa as one of the country’s leading lights in Hollywood.
Only a year and a half into his career and without any formal training, Nzirawa has managed to land a role in one of the most anticipated series of the year, a series whose premiere in America last month generated a considerable buzz on social media.
On the set of Roots, Nzirawa joined some of the most illustrious actors in South Africa and Hollywood, with American stars Laurence Fishburne and Oscar award winning Forest Whitaker leading a cast that also includes Mzansi’s Nokuthula Ledwaba and Nandi Nyembe.
Among such illustrious names Nzirawa, born 29 years ago at Tshabalala Clinic in Bulawayo, shone like a beacon while representing the green, yellow, white, red and black of the Zimbabwean flag.
The road to stardom for Nzirawa, who left a promising career in his brother’s accounting firm a year and a half ago to pursue his dream of cracking it not only in South Africa but on the international stage, has been a short but none the less difficult one.
Life is about risks and I took one when I left home over a year ago and pursued my dream of striking gold as an actor in South Africa. I sorted out my papers, found an agency that represents me and a year and a half later I am on the screen as an actor on one of the most anticipated shows of the year,” he said.
Nzirawa, who attended Mahlabezulu Primary School, Ihlathi and Hamilton High Schools, said although he had always harboured dreams of making it as an actor while growing up in Tshabalala, he had not pursued his ambitions while he was still in Bulawayo.
“I never tried to get into acting while I was still at home. Mainly I was a voice over artiste on a part time basis for ZBC, Radio Dialogue and other corporate entities in Bulawayo but it was never something that I took seriously although I always had a passion for film,” he said.
Nzirawa admitted that his family had a hard time accepting his decision to turn away from accounting.
“In Zimbabwe you know your family wants you to grow up and be a doctor, accountant or lawyer so my family struggled with my decision. It was only after they saw something was coming out of chosen destiny that they started supporting my decision,” he said.
The emerging actor said that the experience of being on the Roots set had been intimidating for him as most of the cast and crew were people he had always admired.
“Some other actor might have looked at it as a small role but for me no role is small. For someone like me who has only been doing this for a year and a half with no formal training, it was fascinating to be in the proximity of these characters.
“It was particularly great for me because growing up in the ghetto streets of Bulawayo the story of Kunta Kinte was one we repeatedly watched and talked about as kids,” he said.
Before his appearance on Roots, Nzirawa had made his first small screen appearance on the second season of SABC drama, Candy Pastors followed by another role on another SABC production Mamello.
Nzirawa is also playing Nelson Mandela in a theatre trilogy about the late statesman which recently came to the end of its run in Italy.
Despite admitting that he is still trying to find his footing in the dog eat dog world of South African film, Nzirawa says that his appearance on Roots puts him in good stead.
“I am still establishing myself in South Africa but Roots has opened international doors for me. Besides South Africa is a prime destination for international film because of its vastness of possible location, skilled cast availability and varied ethnicities,” he said.