Article by John-Otto Phike and Nadine Ndlovu
Noxolo Dlamini is a South African actor from Chiawelo, Soweto, best known for her role as Ntombi on Netflix Original Series, Jiva! In her late high school years, Dlamini attended the National School of Arts and went on to study Drama at the University of Pretoria. Post her academics Dlamini starred in stage productions such as Sarafina, The Lion King and Nina Simone: Four Women and on screen in popular daily drama, Isibaya. Currently, Dlamini is starring in the highly anticipated Netflix Original, Silverton Siege and the second season of The Republic.
Noxolo Dlamini is Actor Spaces’ Young, Gifted and Black for this week and this is what she had to say…
When and how were you first introduced to acting as an industry?
I got introduced to the acting industry around the time I had to start looking for a job, just before I was finishing university. I realised that I needed to go for auditions. I thought that my journey would be easy, that at my showcase, an agent would approach me. There was one agent that approached me but because I did not know much about them at a time, I did not want to jump into that relationship just yet. I probably did not even understand how an agency works at that time as well. Then I realised that I need to start going out and start auditioning for stuff and luckily, at the time, Lion King was holding auditions. I was intrigued and I was really interested. I don’t know why because I had not seen the show. So I decided that I was gonna go to the audition. It was an open call, which looked like a So You Think You Can Dance audition. In my head it looked like any other audition I had seen on tv and I told myself, “ok lets do it.” That is how I was introduced to the industry.
In what ways does your support system keep you motivated throughout your artistic journey?
My family has seen me kind of grow in my craft from a very young age, in school and eventually making a career out of it. Their support and them rooting for me makes me want to do better and do more because everytime I reach another milestone, they are proud and they celebrate with me, also because I have nieces and younger cousins. I always strive to be at least someone that they can look up to considering how close we are in age, and it’s always lovely to have someone that they know and are close with, that they can look up to and say it’s possible because this is someone that we see every second weekend or at every family gathering. That is how my family makes me want to do better and motivates me.
How would you say your training at the University of Pretoria contributed to your understanding of the industry and the craft of acting throughout your career?
My training really helped me understand the hard work that goes into this industry, in my work and the craft that we do, because we obviously needed to juggle studies, practicals and other productions that are not for marks and because of my love for it, I wanted to participate in everything. It taught me to always be proactive and be able to focus and try not to be distracted too much. As a varsity student, it’s not really easy to not be distracted, but that is one thing that it really taught me and the fact that I will not always get the gig that I am auditioning for, no matter how much you love it. I had to experience some of that but I am very lucky to be able to do most of the shows that I wanted to do, if not all. I was very lucky in that way because I was very strong in my acting and also very strong in my physical theatre, so a lot of productions appreciated that and required that.
As a musical theatre artist, what were your biggest learning curves in performance?
My biggest learning curves were working hard to master all three skills, and trying to be equally strong at all three, which was not easy. It requires a lot of time and a lot of funds because of singing lessons, dance classes and acting classes. As a performer, you are always stronger at one or two of them but it’s about taking the responsibility to make time and make an effort to better the second or third skill. That was what it was, it was really putting a lot of work in the talents I wasn’t as strong with.
You’ve performed on global stages and gotten an opportunity to travel, why should every Actor aspire to travel?
Every artist should aspire to travel. That is how we get worldly knowledge. It’s also about being able to work with artists from different countries. If you’re lucky, learn how they do things because it could be things that help you get better at what you do. I know one thing that I have carried with me since 2015, was always working on my craft, no matter how far I have gotten in my career. I am always taking the time and making the effort to get better at what I do. The musical theatre industry in London is massive and you see how those artists are continuously working on themselves and working on their craft. It makes you realise why they are so great and why their industry is big and strong. I am big on working with artists from different countries, I believe you can always learn from different individuals and different people. If you can travel with your work, that is even more amazing, but if you are lucky enough to be able to travel at your own leisure and afford it, then I always think that you can go for it. If you can find yourself in spaces with other artists in different countries. I always think that it’s amazing because you never know the kinds of opportunities you can get, the connections you can make and what the future holds. For all you know you could be creating work with them. I am always open minded and hearted to things like that.
You mentioned that Sarafina required a lot of stamina, what training regimes did you engage in to remain fit and ready?
Sarafina was probably the most physically demanding production I have ever done in my life thus far. For the fact that I had to perform from the very beginning to the end, carry that entire show and do more than one show a week was pretty hectic but I have always been a very physical person and I love to keep fit. It’s part of my life and it’s what I like to do on a daily basis. It helps with my mental and physical health. It’s made Sarafina easier for me and all the other physically demanding shows I have ever had to do. I train about 5 times a week, with shooting, sometimes it gets a bit tricky but it’s what I try to do. If not 5 times a week, I try 6 times a week and have a rest day and I have found that it helps with my mood.
What is the importance of having a routine as an actor?
I don’t have a routine but when my days are set up a certain way, I am able to get into a routine, which helps me centre myself for the day and get ready for the day. When I get picked up, I have started the day so that my day is not starting in the car or not starting the moment I get on set. It helps to kind of centre yourself and get yourself ready for what the day brings.
Your character (Thina) on The Republic undergoes a lot of intensity, how did you prepare for this role?
Playing Thina was calming, it was calming because of her nature and her demeanour. She is a thinker, she’s the peacemaker and she’s a problem solver. Playing her calmed me because I am very energetic and very loud but playing Thina allowed me to tap into my more reserved side, which I appreciated a lot. It did not require a lot of energy from me because I am used to high energy and high paced performances and characters. How I prepared for her was, I created a very solid and grounded background that really informed most of her decisions. We obviously found her in a routine already, she has a family that she is taking care of and everything that happens and unfolds in this series disturbs everything that she has been. It’s those events that kind of pull out more from Thina. How I prepared was taking from who Noxolo is and building Thina from there, and also making that Thina’s base. Making Thina’s base more reserved and calm and just figuring things out.
The Acting industry is often high paced and can be stressful, how do you handle the pressure?
I am very grateful for my support system, which is my family. I am grateful that I get to go home after work. Home is where I can calm down, and the pressures of the industry really do not penetrate the walls of my home. I do not feel pressure as much because I do not allow myself to be pressured by them, I kinda go in, do what I have to do and come out. I don’t hang around and allow the industry to change me or make me feel a certain way, feel less than or give me a big head. My family is where I come back to Noxolo. Also I work really hard to stay in my lane and to try and not compare myself to anyone else and to do the best that I can. When I do not get a role, I know it’s not because of me and my talent but it’s more that it just wasn’t mine and that happens and it’s ok.
What is your dream role?
I can’t say that I have one dream role, there are a couple that I would definitely like to do. I really enjoy period dramas and I would love to see myself in a period drama.
What stories would you like to tell going forward?
I would like to tell human stories, things that humans go through in different types of settings. It could be Sci-Fi but we’re telling a human story with human emotions. For instance The Lion King, it’s all animals and it’s set in the animal kingdom but the story is very human. The story of loss, which is something we have all experienced and continue to experience, but growing from there on. That is what I want to do, I want to be able to tell different stories about different people and different lands and tell them as truthfully as I could possibly tell them.
Three cheers to Noxolo and wishing her the best in her career.