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Actor of the Month

Tongayi Chirisa

Interviewed by:  Russell Boast, CSA

1)   Has there been a Casting Director that has encouraged and/or supported you in your career?

There have been a few that have really spoken life into me earlier on in my career when I first moved to America.  In moments when I was clearly uncertain if my work was of any good, they offered me guidance, allowed me to mess up and start afresh, because they saw something in me that was the character and instead of shutting me down, they would gently nudge to say, “it’s alright, you’re doing really well!” certainly calmed my nerves and allowed me to get out of my head and just give a real performance.

That boost of confidence from these casting directors really helped me overcome a mental block in my headspace and made the room safe enough to showcase what I am capable of! Thinking about it more now, I realize that some of the casting Directors who have truly been a bedrock for my career, are the rooms I’ve ended up booking in!

In no particular order, Mara Casey, Eric Dawson, Liz Dean, Carol Kritzer, Garrett McGuire, April Webster, Sara Isaacson, Jessica Sherman and of course you, Russell Boast! I could go on, but these names awakened something in me -self belief. They wanted it for me, they wanted me to succeed, they believed in me, and I felt that. They have left an indelible mark on me professionally as well as personally.

2) What work are you most proud of?

Every project is unique in and of itself. I am equally proud of each of them for the variety and range they allow me to showcase in my artistry. But there will always be projects that stand out for significant reasons. One such is the film, Antebellum. This was my first studio film, so that will always have a special place in my heart. but also the narrative that the film told, IT felt like divine intervention as it highlighted the plight in America’s systemic treatment of African -Americans right on the heels of BLM protests.

3) What or who inspired you to pursue acting as a career?

I have had the fortune of having people in my life that saw the potential before I could see it for myself. From my teachers in 5th grade, all the way to my senior year. (this is when it finally clicked that I may actually have something going for me here!)

But it wasn’t until I saw Djimon Hounsou in Amistad, that the strings of my heart were truly plucked and I knew that this was what I truly wanted to do for the rest of my life.

4) What was your first IMDbPro credit and how did you feel when you saw it?

My first IMDbPro credit was for a Zimbabwean film called TANYARADZWA, which means ‘we have been silenced ‘in my native tongue Shona. To be honest, it did not resonate with me too much when I first saw it, because I really didn’t know what IMDb was at the time!!

Now, I truly have a profound sense of pride that I am counted among the few/ or many, depending on how you look at it, who have a page dedicated to their work.

5) How has IMDbPro helped you market yourself to filmmakers?

It is such a wonderful tool to have in your pocket. To know that there is a platform that is considered the go-to for all things related to film makes it that much easier to know that the talent you are looking for is verified and will undoubtedly give you a high level of professionalism.

It has made searching for the right talent easy at the click of a button, and because of IMDbPro, I have had the opportunity to collaborate with filmmakers from across the globe. It is the Amazon Prime of Filmmaking!


6) Any funny casting room stories?

Too many to count..and all of them are horror stories of auditions gone bad! I remember getting a callback for a tv series, back in 2010, now remember, I’m still a newbie in the business here in America. So i guess my team forgot to inform me how callbacks usually go down, or i was too excited at the prospect of getting a job that i didn’t read the breakdown properly! Anyway, I walk into the room thinking that it is just going to be me and the casting director, and when I open the door and all I see are faces. I literally felt my soul leave my body!

I wasn’t prepared or ready to read in front of so many people. I even wondered why they had come! Needless to say, the nerves took me out that day. I fumbled my lines, my accent was all over the place. People started to fidget in their chairs!!lol! It got so bad that the main producer just casually said to me, “just read the sides.’  I did, and I still fumbled my lines!

Worst day ever!!!

7) Tell us a fun fact about you outside of acting.

Apart from acting, I have another form of creative expression. I sing, as a way to just be free. I sing about things that Influence me as a person and how I see the world, and to be totally honest it is therapy to my soul.

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