It’s orange overalls for the girl from Jozi

2018-07-15 08:30
South African-born actress, Phumzile Sitole

Johannesburg - If you don’t believe that dreams do come true, look to South African-born actress Phumzile Sitole, who has lived in New York City for the past five years. Not only has she done that, she has also made inroads in the film industry there.

“I definitely believe in dreams,” she said, speaking to City Press from New York this week.

“I had a vision board growing up. And I would stick up pictures and words from magazines. New York was stuck there in big print.”

Sitole is overjoyed that she was added to the cast of the Netflix series Orange Is The New Black, because “it means that I get to step into another person’s shoes”.

“As with all roles, the experience of taking in a reality very different from your own is a very important thing to me. This is to educate myself on what different prison systems look like for people, particularly women,” Sitole said.

The Netflix series, set in a women’s jail, is coming back for the sixth season.

The 28-year-old Johannesburg-born actress will play the role of Antoinette “Akers” Kerson and will appear in nine episodes premiering on 27 July.

Sitole went to the U.S. after obtaining her BA in Theatre and Performance at the University of Cape Town.

She attended Columbia University in New York, where she got her Masters of Fine Arts in theatre.

She had faith in the South African film industry because, she said, it was growing quite rapidly and had secured immense respect internationally.

“I look up to the actors and actresses who have put our stories on the global map – those stories are unlike any other.

“Directors like Thabang Moleya and Akin Omotoso keep me challenged and excited about our industry.”

She said she would gladly return to the film scene at home one day.

“I would love to work in the film industry in South Africa. I’ve struggled to find the best way to be bi-continental as I would still like to be primarily based in New York for now, but I’m very open to work at home.”

She missed home and said there was no place like it. “I have a huge family – my dad was one of 10 and my mom was one of four. So, my cousins are like my brothers and sisters. I’m a proud Sitole, Ma’Jobe,” she said.

She said she had never received so much love coming from home as she had done after landing her role.

“‘Thank you’ is an understatement. I didn’t expect so much love, and it means a lot to me. It really does. Being away from home isn’t easy and to know home is supporting me is really amazing.”

Sitole wants to continue to learn and to be able to tell the stories of black women globally.

She has had bright moments in her acting career overseas. Working with British actor and theatre director Delroy Lindo on the Good Fight has been one of her career highlights.

She also said being a young black woman in the U.S. film industry had been interesting because of its current evolution.

“I think there is an effort to really diversify the writer’s room in order to produce stories with more nuanced characters for women of colour.

“There’s still a lot of work to be done, especially for all minorities, including Asian and Indian artists,” said Sitole.

Sitole encourages every young black girl with a dream to be brave, diligent and have a thick skin.

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