BAHLE HADEBE

Images by: Henry Hansen | Creative Director: Thembi Zikalala | Make-up by Sthe Nyanda | Style by Thando Tuku | Wardrobe Love Luse and Thando Tuku | Production by Siyanda Buthelezi | Article and Concept by John-Otto Phike

After weeks of preparation, sourcing furniture, fittings and set dressing, the shoot day had finally arrived. It was a warm Monday morning at the Actor Spaces studios as the team excitedly anticipated Bahle’s arrival. The set, costume, lighting were already set the weekend before, waiting for Bahle to take centre stage. Moments after the crew’s arrival, Bahle and his mother walked in with big smiles and high spirits. Their collaborative spirit made for a successful and energetic shoot.

Bahle is a remarkable actor that has shown that age is nothing but a number when it comes to achieving your dreams. When asked about how he feels about being a the first young feature for Actor Spaces Junior, he said, ”What a time to be alive. I feel incredibly grateful and excited. It’s so overwhelming in a good way because a part of me still does not believe it. I am honoured to be recognized.”

In getting to know Bahle, we wanted to start from the beginning and understand his journey to the 16-year old who graces our screens from SABC to Netflix. “I was born in South Africa, at Baragwanath Hospital. People go crazy when I say that but I came out fine. It was just a hospital. From the beginning of my childhood, I lived in Soweto then Auckland Park. I have basically lived in the South my whole life. I grew up in a huge family but I have only lived with my mom. Luckily I have access to my other family members, so I feel like I was born into a huge family.” He speaks very fondly of his upbringing and family.

His family structure was his initial contact with the arts, “Since I was younger, I have always been obsessed with music. My mother and I were not the type to listen to music a lot but we loved music. We would mostly watch movies and series. That is how I basically built my personality and sense of humour. I watched a lot of comedies, musicals and dramas. I was obsessed with a lot of Disney shows and movies, especially High School Musical. At the time I did not think I could act but I was already starting my journey as an actor. I would rewatch and analyse these shows so that I could reenact them. It was like a culture. My passion for music and the arts got my mom to sign me up for an acting agency.”

Henry Hansen for Actor Spaces

Raised by a single mom, his mom dedicated herself to exposing Bahle to his passions and opened the initial door to his growing career, “At the age of 10 my mom wanted to put me into acting. She kept insisting that I should sign up for an agency. She told me that she knows that I can act because I was very outspoken and involved in debating at school.”

Little did he know that this would be the beginning of an illustrious acting career, “My mom signed me up for an acting agency and a few days later I got 2 auditions. I went for my first audition and it was a mess. The audition was for an international movie. I was so nervous because it was my very first audition and I had 2 auditions that day. I was stuttering through my lines. I was so mad that I actually cried after that audition. My second audition was for an advert, so it went well. I left it feeling confident in my acting again. Then a week later, I found out that I booked my first audition!”

In pursuing his dreams, Bahle also understood that gaining education in the craft would be beneficial. “I applied to the National School of Arts (NSA) at the peak of my passion. When I was in grade 5, I already knew that I wanted to attend NSA to study Drama. My primary school had Drama but it was an extra mural activity. One day my mom decided to ask me about my choice of university and I said, Julliard, because I wanted to go where I could learn more about Drama. We began searching deeper into schools that offer Drama training in South Africa and came across NSA. The more we found out about NSA, the more interested I became. I would fantasize about attending the school to the point where it was the only school I applied to for high school. It was a scary and risky decision but my mom believed in me. She knew I was going to get in.”

Getting into NSA was a big moment for Bahle and his family members. “Around July of my 7th grade, I applied to NSA. I was invited for an audition and we had to prepare a monologue. We got the monologues 3 weeks before the audition. I would read over it and practice it on a daily basis. My mom was a huge help because she kept asking about rehearsing and helped me rehearse. On the day of the audition, I was extremely excited and I felt as if I delivered a good audition. It was probably one of the most exciting days of my life. The auditions happened at the beginning of August and the results were being announced on the 30th of August. From the moment I left the audition, I started my countdown. I remember sitting there and marking off the calendar from 2 weeks, to 5 days, to 3 days, to 1 day left, then Midnight! Midnight came and my results were not announced. I told myself to wait a little longer, considering that the day had not started. I checked again later on in the day and still no response. This was a devastating moment for me because I had not applied to any other high school. My mom saw how devastated I was and she kept reassuring me that I got into the school. The same day, I checked everywhere about the Grade 8 acceptance letters, I checked the Department of Education’s website and I even watched the news. As I checked further, I found out that the Grade 8 results were postponed to September. I vowed to myself that I will not be doing a countdown anymore and I would just let it go and wait for my results. Two weeks later I went to a restaurant at Monte Casino with my mom, aunt and cousins. The restaurant was fairly empty and all of a sudden, the waiters started singing, then brought out a cake and balloons. I literally thought it was someone’s birthday but the waiters just kept passing everyone’s table until they got to us. I was very confused but my cousin loved the idea of free cake. They started clapping around me and all I could think about was the fact that it was not my birthday. My aunt took out her phone and my mom started shouting, look, look, look. As I turn around, I see 3 letters N.S.A on the balloons but they were mixed up. My mom kept reshuffling them until it spelt NSA and I just screamed. She kept saying, you do not know how long I have been trying to hide this from you. She knew the whole time, she just kept it away from me to surprise me. Now 2 years later, I won best actor at my school.”

Bahle’s thoughts on attending NSA, “There is so much more understanding of my craft. In my high school, there are kids doing what I am doing, so I am not alone. I do drama at school. Learning about it on a daily basis and getting the opportunity to actually learn about your craft is a privilege. I recommend it to every kid. You do not have to go to a private school to actually do this. You can go for acting classes or something. Drama is one of my favourite subjects. I get disappointed if I do not do well at it. Performance arts, acting and drama is not about being on tv. It’s about telling a story, learning about life and how to be a human being. You can literally be anything you want to be.”

Henry Henson for Actor Spaces

Having a deeper understanding of acting and learning from each experience is important to Bahle. I only understand some things now. A director I worked with made us hold a rock and she told us to picture the rock as our character and that we are taking in all the energy. Then we left the rock there. I had no idea what she was talking about. I honestly had no idea. I just saw it as a rock. So I did the whole film. I was just excited to be there.. She told us to use the same rock and throw it, letting the character free. I am only understanding this now, realizing that this is how deep it can get. Literally from crew to co-stars. It literally showed me the art of performance and that it is actually a very serious thing because growing up it was taken lightly, as if it’s just an extra mural. It’s something that you do for fun but then seeing older people in the industry embodying their characters was crazy, especially for a young kid like me. Seeing it first hand was unbelievable because you are speaking to these people as their own person and then the camera turns on and they become someone very different. It encourages you to dig deep and actually find what they are talking about. You learn through everybody.”

Bahle takes inspiration from many actors, especially those that he works with, “JoAnne Reyneke is very hardworking. She is into her characters. I love actors that can show you range in their characters. You can see that she actually puts a lot of thoughts in what she says and what she does. Also Clementine Mosimane, I am not being biased but I am speaking from things that I have observed, those are the people I look at and think, this is how it’s done in the entertainment industry. Those are the top 2 hardworking people that I know.”

We asked him about how he juggles between school, work and private life. “My typical day, if it’s a very busy day. I have had a few busy days this year. I go to school, then go on set, then go to an interview, then go home and do my homework and then do it all over again the next day. It’s very fun and it gets very hectic. There are many fun moments I share with my friends but I know that if I have to go to work, it’s time to work. Every time I am not on set for more than a month, I miss it. I don’t know, it’s part of my DNA now. I will not wake up at 5 for school, but I will wake up for set. I have always made it work. I genuinely thought it was going to be worse by now but I like the way it is. There was a time when my mom advised me to take a break and I told her that I cannot take a break because if I take a break, I will be taken 5 steps back than I am now.”

“One lesson I have learnt from being a child actor is that I have chosen a path at a certain age that is mainly approached by adults. The consequences are not going to be belittled because you are a kid, they are going to be the same consequences as adults. The choices that you make have consequences. They are going to be thrown at you and you have to deal with it. In primary school, I had to make so many sacrifices with friends. There were times when I had to go on set but there were events happening at school, heritage day practices, fun days and I had to miss them because I had to work. Whereas if I was an adult, it wouldn’t matter to me as much because if I had to miss a party, there’s a next one. It would be easier for me to understand that as an adult than as a kid. Even now, I couldn’t go to the Royalty Soapie Awards because I had to be on set. It hurt because it was my first award ceremony but if I was an adult, it wouldn’t matter. It’s just the sacrifices that have to be made. It’s not always gonna be easy, I had to make so many sacrifices because of my career. I had to sacrifice close family member’s birthdays, I could not be there, family gatherings, so many things. But at the end of the day I know that it’s for a bigger cause and my family and friends understand. At the same time, it does sting for a moment, but then I just have to constantly remind myself that it’s just for that time. I learnt that you just take it as it comes and I am not mad about it because I learn a lot from it. Sometimes things are not gonna be in your control. I am so grateful because I am learning this now as a 16 year old, it’s impacted me a lot. Now I am able to even turn down roles because I do not feel like I have time because it’s too much for me, whereas before I would take anything. Now I am able to say, this is not important, that is important. It taught me a lot.”

Speaking back to his career, “In the beginning, I struggled a lot with being belittled because of my age. I was often advised that certain roles are only for when I have reached a certain age, which sucks because I am trying to break barriers. I felt as though kids were given the same characters. I was 11, I was a pretty short kid, I looked like a baby. I was playing 7 year olds, 8 year olds and I felt like they were just giving the kids the same roles. The kid smiles, laughs but they do not really show expression. I won’t lie, I keep improving as the years go by. I improve in the jobs I get and the characters I play. This year I saw the most improvement in myself. I have achieved so much in the space of a year, than I have achieved in the previous years. I can see that I am actually growing and I am loving the pace I am going at. I know that it’s God’s pace and I know that it’s the pace I am intended to go in. I am happy and excited about it. Three things that I am grateful for though are my mentors, my growth and the directors I have worked with.”

“It’s all about not taking anything for granted. Last year was a pure definition of that. As an adult actor it seemed easier because shows were coming out and they were casting more adults than kids. So I was scared. I did get casted but it was for very small roles, not big opportunities. I was just grateful for the good things and the opportunities that I was getting. Once that all stops, you tend to realize that you cannot take that for granted because there are many people that feel what I felt last year, all the time. I cannot take it for granted and if I want to do it, I have to do it now.”

Bahle’s experience has given insight on what he would like to see change in the entertainment industry, “One thing I want to change is discrimination against young actors, or maybe the way young actors are approached in this industry. I do not know if there are other people like me but then as a kid you like to be treated as a fellow colleague. You want to be treated like a human being. To be given the same opportunities. When they look at you, they think that you are just a kid and you do not need to work, but they forget that it’s your dream too. I want the entertainment industry to take us kids seriously, as they would kids who are part of a science internship. In other countries, the younger, the better. I don’t want to hear the same story over and over again, about breaking barriers, when I am older. That would be so disappointing. That is what I want to change, I just want to change. Yes we are kids and yes we need to be taught, but at the same time, allow us into the space, we are very interested and we want to learn from the older guys. They just need to allow us into space. We want to experience it. Give us a seat at the table.”

His intentions are clear for a better future for young actors in the entertainment industry. “My hope is that young actors do not compare themselves to anyone. I hope they stay in their lane and make their lane. We should create not mimic. We should create more lanes, build bigger industries, that’s how we are going to grow. Bigger shows, bigger productions, we create more ideas than what is already out there. We do not stick to the same script that has been around for 20 years. We can grow and broaden our minds because one thing we are lucky about is that we have so much access to the world, so all these ideas we get is because we see so much, so if we can obtain everything that we see and then we literally put it down, embrace it and explore it.”

“My goals are to enjoy everything that I know, to never stop learning, to have a better understanding of my craft and what I do. To inspire other young actors, not just in my country but other places around the world. To always be grateful for everything that I obtain and to be hard working, to work smart, to not give up. Find a stable state of motivation and trust myself. To trust that I can do something and to trust that I can finish this job because it does get tough. I see people like JoAnne play the lead and it’s exhausting. It’s draining but she trusts in herself to finish the job. I also want that sense of trust and motivation.”

Henry Henson for Actor Spaces

As Bahle wants to inspire the current and future generations of young actors, these are his last words. “First advice, trust in yourself and trust in your art. If you know that you can do this and you have been assured that you can do this, then I do not see a reason why you should not do it. There are a lot of people that come up to me and say eish but I am waiting for this and that. You’re young and your youth is going. Start it now. Do not be afraid of no’s, no’s make you want the yes. People always mention that it’s easy for me to say because I have gotten so many roles and I tell them that I have probably only gotten 20 roles in my life and I have been to 73 auditions. There have been so many times that I have not gotten those auditions but I am still motivated to move forward because of the nos, do not take the nos to heart. Most of the time these days, if you know that you are talented, then you know it’s not about you, they know what they are looking for. If they are not looking for you at the time, move on, it’s not your fault. As an artist, you adapt to certain situations, so if that is the situation you are given, adapt and move. Be patient. You want it now but you have to wait. Literally where I am now, I wanted it the next day when I started. Patience is key because timing is important. Be patient, trust in yourself and believe in yourself and just find someone that actually believes in you. Like a parent or sister or brother, so that they could be the reassurance that you need to move forward because I believe that we all need a second hand person to actually drive us.”

Bahle’s passion for acting stems from his love for storytelling. It is an honour to have Bahle as our first Feature for Actor Spaces Junior. We hope his career will continue to challenge the status quo and bring freshness to the South African entertainment industry.

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