South Africa based award winning actor, stuntman and film director, Thokazani Lungu , is making waves in the film industry.
The passionate actor who is flying the Zim flag high has rubbed shoulders with some of the world top actors like Idris Alba, Omari Hardwick and Pearl Thusi among others in some film productions.
H Metro’s NYASHA KADA (NK) caught up with THOKAZANI LUNGU (TL) for more details. Read more…
NK: Briefly tell us about yourself?
TL: Tuks TAD Lungu, born Thokozani Lungu, is a Zimbabwean based in South Africa.
I am an award winning actor, stuntman and director based in South Africa.
I grew up in Chitungwiza where my passion for the arts was ignited at a very young age.
Growing up I did gymnastics with other children from my area. I was in Grade One or Two around that time.
I also performed in plays at church.
I remember playing Barnabas this one Easter holiday in a Jesus crucifixion drama and people really enjoyed my performance and gave us a standing ovation.
This passion led me to discover and participate in various art forms growing up, like dance and martial arts which later paved way in realising my niche as a performer many years later.
NK: Are academic qualifications really necessary in film and how have they helped you?
TL: Before making the move to Cape Town South Africa in 2011, I studied Professional Acting for Camera at LAMDA (London Academy Of Music And Dramatic Arts) where I graduated with Honours in Professional Acting For Camera before pursuing directing at The London Film Academy where I earned a Diploma in Documentary Filmmaking.
It’s great being able to say I studied for these different creative arts but soon after school, I personally wouldn’t compare to someone who learnt filmmaking on a practical level where they harnessed skills and understanding through a hands on experience on an actual set and master the gears that drives the making of a film including the pros and cons of the industry.
Film school doesn’t give you all that knowledge.
People say it’s hard starting out but I think it all comes down to how passionate and dedicated are you to your craft to want to go far and just find your balance in the mix.
NK: How has been the journey?
TL: It hasn’t been an easy journey at all and it isn’t easy being a Zimbabwean in South Africa.
Trying to get hired by well-established film producers, directors and stuntmen here no matter how good you are.
It’s full of talented people that have the same dreams as you from all over the world that you constantly compete with for a role, and sometimes it’s depressing and it’s definitely not for the weak.
Imagine going to two or three auditions a week where they have 100 or at times even more people that fit the character description competing for the same role.
It’s ridiculous but that’s just the process, but as you know it is written that “Many were called but a few were chosen…” and by His grace, I am happy to say that God has been good to me and it’s been such a great experience and I have done a lot of big movies and have worked with some of the most renowned directors, actors and stunt-coordinators in the world like Chris Evans (Captain America), Faizon Love (Bulletproof 2), Kate Beckinsale (The Widow) Omari Hardwick (Power) and Charles Dance (Game Of Thrones) to name a few.
Now and then I even get to work side by side with some of my favorite actors that I grew up watching on TV like Hakeem Kae Kazim from the series 24 that plays Colonel Dubaku.
I have done about four movies with him now including Black Sails, Bypass and 24 Hours To Live.
If that’s not a dream, I don’t know what is. Working with these greats really made me shift my way of thinking and how the world around me was and motivated me to work and pray harder for the best and to up my game every day because working with big names means your need to bring your A game every day.
There’s no room for error and that’s a lot of pressure for a stunt performer because one mistake onset can injure you or another performer so bad it could end their career.
It’s not easy out here but we soldier on.
- What were some of the highlights in your career?
TL: 2020 was a big year for me, I was part of the cast of Queen Sono, the First African Spy Series on Netflix playing alongside our very own Chi Mhende (Generations) and Pearl Thusi (Quantico) which first aired in June 2020 all over the world. I had six international movies released in 2020 and another six released in 2019 including an action Bollywood blockbuster called SAAHO that topped the charts all over the world.
One of my short films, The Fighter, also won The Best Audience Award at the 48 Hour Film Project and that feat was one for the books.
It’s currently in the film festival circles around the world.
Last year I was also nominated for a Zim Achievers Award in the Outstanding Achievement In Entertainment.
Even though I didn’t win, it was a big highlight in my career because I knew then that my people back home are watching me and they’re rooting for me.
NK: Apart from films what else have you done?
TL: I have directed the award winning music video for Zim dancehall extraordinaire King Labash in 2015 titled “Zvakumberi” that won him and the artist the Best Zimdancehall Music video award 2016.
The whole idea behind the music video and it’s big budget, was to set the bar and change the game since most artists in Zimbabwe were not taking their music videos seriously and even putting enough time to prepare and try have a proper music video done with props, crew and the like.
Since the release of Zvakumberi, we have been seeing better and nicer videos coming out of Zimbabwe.
I understand that sometimes artistes and videographers do not have enough gear, but the creative process we all go through is the same.
One thing to note is, PREPARATION IS KEY. What you put in during the prep is what you get. Heart and soul being the requisite.
NK: How do you balance your career and private life?
TL: Even though I take pride in my work and my accomplishments, I always try to keep the noise away from my private life because I don’t do what I do for the fame or for some biased perception that a lot of people may have looking in from the outside, but simply doing what i love and what I’m passionate about since i was kid.
I feel blessed to have gotten this far in an industry so difficult to navigate and came out on top.
I always have this in the back of my head and I strongly believe that I am amongst the chosen ones to represent my country and my people on a global scale which inspires me to keep pushing myself every day.
But most of all, with each and every job, there’s a person or team members that always add to my growth, experience and playing a part in the man that I’ve became.
If you ask people that know me well, they’ll tell you that I am rarely angry, ever-smiling and that I’m all about positive energy and positive vibes.
NK: What keeps you motivated?
TL: Through all the blood, sweat and tears, support from my family, friends and fellow co-workers, I am now in a place where I can focus on building my brand and elevate my production company to a level where I too can open doors for other people and guide them on their first steps into this rollercoaster of an industry.
My production company Ask Yo Mama Productions, is a brand where we focus on being the voice to the untold story and we strive to work alongside some of the best Africa has to offer and build bridges to assist and uplift all of us offering opportunities through collaboration, be it in film, through music, TV or writing.
NK: Your take on Zim Film Industry?
TL: In my recent interview with Plot Mhako on EarGround, I strained the point of how Zimbabwe’s film industry is struggling because it lacks collaboration and a sense of togetherness.
I am always looking to collaborate with my fellow Zimbabweans and I build daily, brick by brick and it has gotten me to my happy place, en-route home to start yet another chapter with an open window that leads to another new unlocked door.
NK: What projects are you current working on?
TL: I’m currently working on a project that will up the game and definitely set a bar in our country’s film community and hopefully the world.
It’s a mega collaboration between some of Zim’s film and television production giants like Joe Njagu (Cook Off), Rufaro Kaseke (Lobola) and Cont Mhlanga (Khiyona TV) and my x much on, but it will definitely be a box office hit.
I am also working on an upcoming 2022 Idris Elba movie that I can’t disclose much on, but it will definitely be a box office hit.
NK: Thank you for your time and all the best in your career.
TL: You are welcome.