From Harare to Hollywood: Actor Tongayi Chirisa's transition and roles in Netflix projects

Tongayi Chirisa grew up in Zimbabwe, and it wasn’t until he saw the film “Yellow Card,” that acting and performing sunk in. “The film was a huge continental success. The stars were high schoolers like me, and they became the Rob Pattinson of the time,” said Chirisa. “I remember the girls were swooning for him and I thought, ‘He’s not that special, I can do this!’ For me, just to see people my age in a well-made production kicked something in me.”

Chirisa went on to attend Lomagundi College and later earned his Bachelor of Arts in Live Performance at AFDA, The School for the Creative Economy. While still in Zimbabwe, Chirisa landed his first major role in the radio series “Mopani Junction,” which was taken off the air at the height of political turmoil in Zimbabwe, and also played Detective Trevor Davies in the popular Zimbabwean soapie “Studio 263.” He also won ‘Best Film Actor’ for the Zimbabwean feature “Tanyaradzwa,” at the Zimbabwean National Merit Awards.

“As a kid growing up, teachers will often see things in you that you don’t see yourself,” said Chirisa. “When I was between 8 and 10 years old, my teachers said that I would be good at drama, and it followed me through high school.”

Tongayi Chirisa played the part of “Detective Trevor Davies” in the popular Zimbabwean soapie Studio 263. He also appeared in numerous feature films, the most well known being Tanyaradzwa in 2004, for which he won the Best Actor for Film and Television Award. Tongayi studied for a bachelor’s degree in Live Performance at AFDA He has also featured in music videos and is a singer. He also starred in a serial radio drama Mopani Junction that was taken off air at the height of political turmoil in Zimbabwe. He has been nominated and won many NAMA Awards over the last five years.

Chirisa ultimately broke into the South Africa market, starting at first with a KFC commercial and ultimately working up to more commercials and television work. Chirisa moved on to the American market after landing a role on “Crusoe,” which is based on the classic story “Robinson Crusoe.”

“America is the Mecca of entertainment. I think that one of the major things that anyone who aspires to be a global actor is that you have to come to Hollywood,” said Chirisa. “From a professional point, in South Africa, it’s a great industry that booming but there are things they need to overcome on the business side of things. For example, in America you get residuals — even if you are not working, they keep you afloat. In South Africa, whatever is in the contract is what you are paid. You never get a cent of what’s earned later. That’s something that needs to be rectified for the actors.”

Chirisa later landed a series regular role in the critically acclaimed “The Jim Gaffigan Show” for TV Land, and landed few starring roles in “American Horror Story,” “N.C.I.S.,” “Hawaii 5-0,” “The Guest List,” and a recurring role on the CW’s “iZombie.” Chirisa recently appeared on screens across America in the new Netflix comedy film “Palm Springs,” starring Andy Sandberg.

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Mungwadzi Godwin

twitterinstagramI like sharing positive stories about Zimbabweans at home and abroad. I also write articles on Personal Finance, Fashion, Music, and Tech. Let's connect!

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