Cape Town – South Africans were elated when news broke that Phumzile Sitole will be joining the award-winning show Orange is the New Black.
The 28-year-old will play Antoinetta “Akers” Kerson and will appear in nine episodes of the Netflix original show which is currently in its sixth season.
Phumzile has been working in the industry for two years and has had some ups and downs she tells Channel24.
"I think that’s the reality for actors across the world. Dry seasons and busy seasons. It’s not easy at all but it’s worth it if you’re extremely passionate about what you do."
ON THE UNIQUE AUDITIONING PROCESS
When Phumzile got the audition she wasn’t up to date with the show. She quickly had to work in a binge-watching session and was immediately hooked.
Her favourite character isn’t a very popular one though: "Mr. Caputo is my favourite. I find Nick Sandow fascinating to watch."
Speaking about the audition process Phumzile says it is her favourite to date.
"Usually we go to castings in a ton of make-up and heels - which I’m not very graceful in. But this one specifically asked for us with no make-up and just a plain T-shirt."
She adds: "Stripped down to just yourself. I think that alone made me feel comfortable and present. Jennifer Euston is also an incredibly lovely casting director, so she made it simple and fun".
To prepare for the role she watched a ton of documentaries on women’s prisons, men’s prisons and maximum facilities.
"My dad used to work with ex-prisoners and in prisons. I’ve always been quite passionate about that part of our society that’s been quite blatantly removed from the community for whatever reasons. I’m just interested in the individuals, their stories and their reasons why," says Phumzile.
(Photo: Two for Tea Photography)
ON WORKING WITH THE FAMOUS CAST
On set she instantly got along with all the other newbies.
"I think it’s pretty intimidating walking onto a set with celebrities especially ones whose faces I had just seen every day during my binge-watch. So, we kind of migrated towards each other and are still friends today. The rest of the main cast were very lovely and welcoming too."
Working on the show that has such a strong female cast has been incredible for Phumzile.
"I wish I had more words other than incredible. But women are so powerful! It’s amazing to be around that many of us in a space and dominating the storylines. It’s just incredible."
(Photo: Gugulethu Photography)
ON MISSING SOUTH AFRICA
What she misses most about home is her family, her friends - who are like sisters - and her people.
Phumzile is part of a group of South Africans flying the flag high in the industry in the U.S. and is happy to be representing us.
"I feel like I’m following in the footsteps of a couple of great folks. Atandwa Kani has been working for years in the most spectacular things including Black Panther, he’s now in the city along with his fantastic wife and fellow actress Fikile."
She continued: "Jodi Balfour is a fellow alumnus of mine from UCT who is taking Los Angeles by storm and recently played Jackie Kennedy on The Crown. The list is indeed endless, and it feels a little like I’m an intruder but I’m happy to be here representing amongst really great performers."
Her words of advice for someone wanting to make it in the entertainment industry is to be "sure that this is what you want, because it is not easy".
"Gather the masses around you for support and practice looking outwards - that’s where your work is, in the mannerisms and gazes of those passing by. There are so many stories out there, tons!"
Orange is the New Black will be available on Netflix, Friday 27 July.
WATCH THE TRAILER HERE:
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