- Born and bred in Pietermaritzburg, Zenzelisiphesihle ‘Sparky’ Xulu says he discovered his passion for acting early.
- As a result, he runs an NPO that seeks to elevate aspirant artists from his hometown.
- Known for his role as Muzi on The Herd, Sparky is currently starring on S3's soapie, The Estate.
Zenzelisiphesihle ‘Sparky’ Xulu, describes himself as a passionate thespian, do-gooder and a simple dude at heart. He chats to us about his love for the arts and more.
Sparky is a nickname I got in high school, and, for some reason, it stuck. I don’t remember how I got it, but I think it had to do with rugby. Also, when you go to an all-boys school — as I did — a nickname sticks with you for life [chuckles].
Pietermaritzburg Kollective, aka PAK, is a non-profit arts organisation I started for aspiring artists in my hometown. We, as members, had always been frustrated about the lack of platforms, and we came up with an organisation for ourselves and others. It’s a hub that ensures artists don’t end up leaving or turning to other careers.
I’m passionate about moulding young talent and creating platforms to encourage everyone to pay it forward. I learnt early on that people take the arts for granted and view what we do as fun and games. But there are different elements within the industry that one can grow into. There’s more to it than just acting. I want the youngsters in my neighbourhood to look up to me for guidance because, growing up, I didn’t have that person.
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Theatre will always be home. It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I started acting in productions from Grade 8 — I wasn’t an academic and I couldn’t get away from sports either. I’m fascinated by the different building blocks that come into play on a TV set — all the parts complements each other. However, theatre is where I learnt my technique and discipline.
I don’t think theatre is dying. But as practitioners, we need to find different ways of bringing productions to the people. Theatre doesn’t have to be formal, plays can be staged anywhere. We must go out and repackage it to entice people and attract new audiences.
I love children’s theatre. Once you capture the young ones, it’s easy for parents and grandparents to follow suit. I will always take up working with youngsters. Regardless of how busy I am, I always make time for them. For instance, I do a school’s programme called Vula Mehlo, where we conduct theatre and dance workshops at various schools. There’s a huge showcase at the end of the year at the Market Theatre, which I’m very excited about.
‘Always figure out why’, is the advice I give to youngsters looking to go into entertainment. There needs to be way more reasons than just the fame. You have to want to tell and create stories, because it gets tough. So, you need the passion to drive you.
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As an artist, you have to immerse yourself in this life — read and watch shows. Your skill is your muscle, and you can’t ever feel like you know it all, because you’ll be letting yourself down, as well as any other production team you work with.
The best advice I ever got is, ‘Hold on’. While shooting Mfolozi Street with Hlubi Mboya, she urged me to keep at it despite the hardships. That was my first gig and she saw my passion – and my nerves as well. I’ve now adopted it as my personal motto because I know success doesn’t happen overnight.
My parents were right about not rushing to be an adult. If only I could turn back the hands of time and go back to being a kid again [chuckles]!
My ultimate fear is losing the desire to do what I love, and the drive to be an artist. I have to work all the time to make money, but my biggest fear is waking up to find my drive gone.
My biggest achievement, so far, has been surviving the entertainment industry longer than I’d anticipated. Being on screen is an achievement. I look back at some of the people I’ve worked with — including Atandwa Kani and Motlatsi Mafatshe on It’s Complicated — and I’m immediately filled with pride.
After a long day, I love listening to music in the company of my favourite people. I’m just a simple dude who enjoys the outdoors with loved ones.
I’d love to, someday, star alongside Thuso Mbedu. She’s brilliant! There are others whom I’d love to work with, who bring different skills to the table, but I’d relish an opportunity to share a screen with her.
My long-time celebrity crush has to be Basetsana Kumalo. I’ve had this crush since her pageant days. I love her poise, and how she always holds her own. I met her once and I didn’t know what to do with myself [chuckles].
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