South Africa-based Zimbabwean actor Leroy Gopal attributes his breakthrough in a foreign land to high level of ingenuity and acting skills.
Gopal, who is remembered for his main role in the popular local film Yellow Card which featured Walter Mparutsa, Ratidzo Mambo and Lazarus Boora (Gringo), has been living in South Africa for the past 20 years.
Gopal was in the country recently hosting the just-ended National Arts Merit Award (NAMA) ceremony held in Harare, where he stunned many with his dancing skills on the opening act.
In an interview, Gopal said South Africa was his second home and being skilled and talented made him a star that country.
“I have been living in South Africa for 20 years,” he said.
“Living in the foreign land is never easy, but now after 20 years one now has the skill and know-how on how to navigate.
“I can speak Zulu and Sotho fluently and this is now my home. I am married now. It was not easy penetrating the film market as I faced a lot of stigma. Sometimes I was told that I do not look South African and I do not make the cut.
“What is important is to always better yourself as an entertainer, and put your best talent foot forward so that people are not bothered by how dark skinned you are or what your voice sound like, but rather more on how skilled you are and how greatly talented you are.”
Gopal said was working on more productions, adding that acting was his first call.
“Unfortunately on what I am working on right now, I cannot shed light though because of contract issues, but I can only say that I am working on some television series for SABC and Mnet channels.
“They will be out mid-year. I have a short film called Roadblock which is an online production.”
Gopal said he followed other people who inspire each and everything he does.
“Growing up, my role model was my mother,” he said.
“She meant everything, not that she is no longer the same, she still matters. The way I was raised inspires me to have a desire to have things done well and the ability of how to react on particular subjects.
“Later, I idolised Will Smith, Leonardo Di Caprio and Denzel Washington who I am in the same industry with. Not many people know that I did a film with Samuel L Jackson. There is also one special person in my life, Pedro, who gave me my first job in South Africa.”
Gopal said the local film industry should learn to expand and move with trends.
“Our Zimbabwean film industry should do what the music industry has done, that is realising that they are not limited to only just doing stuff for Zimbabwe, but expand their wings, tell our authentic stories,” he said.
“We need to make more films, short films, collaborate with other countries and make exclusive projects directed, shot and produced by Zimbabwe.”
“I have watched a couple of Melgin Tafirenyika films in Zimbabwe and is one person I can say is doing great. I love his work.”
Gopal said some of the local film makers lacked the skill on how to produce good films.