We were first introduced to Tongayi Chirisa as the hunky detective on Studio 263 but before then he was in the movie Tanyaradzwa. He has come a long way since then to feature in hit shows like NCSI:LA, Sleepy Hallow and American Horror Story to name just a few. We had an opportunity to interview him and here is what he had to say about it all.
Q: How is Tongayi doing in 2015?
A: Tongayi is doing exceptionally well in 2015!
Q: When did you realize you wanted to make a career out of acting?
A: I don’t think there was ever a light bulb moment, I have always been intrigued with film ever since I could remember, but the one moment I knew that this was something I really wanted to do; was when I saw YELLOW CARD. Seeing that film and more importantly seeing young people like myself acting, just totally blew my mind. I was hooked and had an insatiable desire to be a part of this unique world of film making.
Q: What would you say was your break out role or career defining role?
A: Every role was a break out role, because it was the first time I was doing it. Collectively all those experiences lead to the next one , and so it continues. So if you want to talk about the first break out role I did, then we will have to go back to grade 4 where I was doing a class drama piece for assembly. That’s was my career defining role!!
Q: How difficult was it breaking into Hollywood?
A: That depends on what you mean by breaking into Hollywood. If you are talking role wise, then I broke into Hollywood before Hollywood knew me with the string of projects I did in South Africa that were to have their debut in America. But if you are talking about having my name synonymous with the industry, then I will say again there is no one moment, but every project you work on, you are building your resume, the more work you do that people see the more “easier” it is to “break” into Hollywood. The correct term should be, “how hard have you been working to make a living as an actor” and I will since I fell in love with the art of performance.
Q: What are the challenges that you face being black, African and Zimbabwean in Hollywood?
A: I don’t conform to the notion that I have challenges I face in Hollywood because I am black or African or Zimbabwean. Its really your perspective of how you decide to see a situation, either the glass is half empty or its half full.
Q: Congrats on your all your new roles, what can we expect from your character on your new show “The Gaffigan Show”?
A: Thank you. You can expect lots of laughter, you can expect to recognize someone you know that may talk or walk or laugh like me on the show. You can expect to relate to the character’s enthusiasm
Q: How did the idea of The Zim movie come about and are you also working on the production?
A: The idea for the short Film The Zim was the director and writers idea, Alex Bedria who saw a story of humanity that he felt compelled to tell. It’s a story of how two friends help each other in the midst of threats and rising tensions in the country during the highly debated land grabs.
Q: How does the Zim film industry compare to the rest of the world, are we getting somewhere?
A: If your question is comparing to the rest of the world, as in the more established countries, well I think the answer to that is obvious . We have a very very long way to go. I will give you an example, Imagine if Zimbabwe had only one bank, and one tertiary facility where one could be taught about finances…would you say that Zimbabwe has a banking /finance sector? The answer is no. So in the same context we need to look at some basics such as tertiary facilities that teach film and then we will need more TV stations to create an industry.. get my drift.
Q: Do you feel responsible to lift or support the Zim film industry from where you are?
A: Everyday, it is my responsibility. When I audition, when I book a job. I am saying to those watching the work I do, that there are more of me where I come from. I support the Zim by continually reaching for the highest level of excellence and success the industry has to offer.
Q: What has been some of your highlights since you arrived in Hollywood?
A: They have been more about life than they have been about acting or being in Hollywood.
Q: What else can we look forward from you in the near future?
A: We will just have to wait and see what the future holds.
Q: Who are your top five all time favorite Zim actors?
A: I will let you know before I die! Some of them may still be in junior school. But those that I have appreciated because they stuck with it when it didn’t pay or when acting wasn’t even considered a profession (and still isn’t in some circles, sadly) are people like The late Walter Muparutsa.
Q: Would you encourage young Zimbabweans who have passion for acting or film making to pursue it in Zimbabwe?
A: Yes, because that’s where I started. Then when you have gleaned all you can spread your wings. If you are fortunate enough to have the resources to go to film school then do it.
Q: What’s your advice to the Zimbabwean youth?
A: Never stop dreaming, never stop believing, because no matter how hard things get. It will always work out. If you have the faith to believe you can achieve you will have the grace and strength to achieve.
Q: What do you miss the most about Zimbabwe?
Q: Can we expect a visit from you anytime soon?
Hopefully sooner than later!
Q: Is Tongayi single?
I am married to my work. lol
Q: What do you look for in a life partner?
A: All the things that I have and more.
Q: What do you do to relax?
A: Watch movies
Q: Where can your fans reach you?
They can get at me on twitter @tongayichirisa and on Instagram @tongayichirisa and on facebook @the real Tongayi Chirisa!.. easy peazy.