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 im August 2018 - Beitrag vom 04.05.2006

Presley Chweneyagae in interview
Tatjana Zilg

This young actor from South Africa has received acclaim in the main role in the Oscar-winning movie "Tsotsi". He talks about the challenge of the role, and his township background

AVIVA-Berlin: When you first read the screenplay, did you want to do that role immediately or did you have any doubts?
Presley Chweneyagae: Well, when I got the screenplay I had a meeting with Gavin and we talked about it. I went to an audition for a lesser part, the role of Butcher, one of Tsotsi’s fellows. I asked him if I could do an audition for "Tsotsi" and he said, yes. That’s how I got the part. I think if I hadn’t got it I would have been very depressed.

AVIVA-Berlin: Did you read the original novel by Athol Fugard?
Presley Chweneyagae: I have always been a big fan of his. I like especially his plays "The Blood Knot" and "People Are Living There". I read "Tsotsi" after I got the role as part of my research.

AVIVA-Berlin: The character of Tsotsi has a very violent side. How did you find a way to relate to that?
Presley Chweneyagae: I grow up in a township and I can relate to the character because I know guys like Tsotsi. I think he is one of those guys - when you’re at your home you are just looking at them throughout the window. They think they’re cool but you think they are wacky.
I think what really people pushes to be violent, most of the time, it is when you keep a whole lot of emotional baggage, when you don’t talk about things and when you don’t communicate Then you just burst into things and you don’t realise that you have done something wrong.

AVIVA-Berlin: Tsotsi not only has a violent side. He also has a very tender side, doesn’t he?
Presley Chweneyagae: Well, that interests me on the work with characters mostly: When the character changes from point A to point Z. That is really important for the whole play too. As an actor you can’t just play flat. For me, family is very important. I guess that helped me with the scenes where Tsotsi took care of the baby.

AVIVA-Berlin: You said you grow up in a township yourself. Was it difficult for you to keep enough distance from the role during film-making?
Presley Chweneyagae: During the shooting I was really touched by the character. It was deep emotional work. After finishing the whole production it was hard to detach myself from the character. It takes some time - but I guess it’s part of the package.

AVIVA-Berlin: It was your first big movie role. What were the differences from the theatre work you have done before? What was the most difficult for you during the making of the film?
Presley Chweneyagae: Yes, it was a bit different. In a theatre you have to perform big-sized, it is kind of another level.
In film-making you really have to believe in what you are doing to be able to portray the character. So it was a bit challenging. And the role in that movie was emotionally very demanding. During the shooting, sometimes you’re exhausted and tired but you still have to get up and keep your tension. Half of the movie was shot at night, so I couldn’t sleep during the night - that was very edgy too.

AVIVA-Berlin: In your personal opinion, what should be done to reduce poverty in Johannesburg?
Presley Chweneyagae: I don’t really think of Johannesburg as a place which is striven with poverty. "Tsotsi" is a very universal story which could have taken place anywhere in the world. I think people should not blame poverty for the things they do. One can be able to take that poverty as a drive for creating something better with live and that’s what is really important.

AVIVA-Berlin: Thank you very much for the interview.

Kultur Beitrag vom 04.05.2006 AVIVA-Redaktion 

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