Leroy Gopal is a busy man these days. What with winning awards, signing big film deals, brushing shoulders with industry icons and winning awards. Zimbo Jam managed to pin him down for a few minutes to hear firsthand about the heady heights of his career path.
Gopal first came to our attention in 2000 when he starred in the award winning movie, Yellow Card. Over the past thirteen years he has been working on perfecting his art and has managed to carve a decent space for himself in the cut-throat industry from his base in South Africa.
In March this year, Gopal won a South African Film and Television Award (SAFTA) for Best Actor in a Television Comedy for his role in Ses’Top La where he plays Oleshe.
Shortly afterwards the news came out he is set to feature in the upcoming movie ‘Kite’ alongside veteran US actor Samuel L Jackson.
But what his fans don’t know is that the 33-year old actor has just finished shooting for another upcoming Hollywood movie, Seal Team 8.
We asked him some questions about this and other recent developments in his life:
Zimbo Jam: How does it feel to finally win a SAFTA after having being nominated for the award twice before?
Gopal: It’s an honour to have won the SAFTA. To get recognition for your work and have you peers urge you on is always admirable. Very humbling and yet also what a great adrenaline rush!
Zimbo Jam: Tell us about your experience with Seal 8 and what the movie is about.
Gopal: Shooting Seal Team 8 was an experience and a half. I have never prepared for a role as much as I did for this portrayal of general Tonga. I did army boot camp training, weapons training with guns ranging from M16’s to P1 9MM glogs. I also had to do loads of research on African dictators and try to compress the material to give me background for my character.
Seal Team 8 is a film about an American Naval team that is sent on a mission to extract an African dictator who is responsible for genocide and arms dealing. When the team gets to the general they realise that he is just a pawn in the whole game and their simple extraction turns into a downhill spiral of action and suspense.
Zimbo Jam: Tell us more about the role do you play in the movie and who else features in it?
Gopal: I play the antagonist general Tonga, a cold hearted dictator but so evasive no one seems to be able to get this man. Tom Sizemore from ‘Saving Private’ and Ryan Collin Moss one of South Africa’s respected actors’ are some of the actors in the movie. The Director of the movie is Roel Croel who directed the action move ‘Death Race’.
Zimbo Jam: How did you manage to get a role in Seal Team 8 and when will it be released?
Gopal: I auditioned successfully to get the role. The release is set for March 2014.
Zimbo Jam: What do you think about the current state of the Zimbabwean film industry?
Gopal: The Zimbabwean film industry needs to shoot more short stories and open up more space to make television shows.
Zimbo Jam: How did you manage to establish yourself in South African film circles considering you were a foreigner?
Gopal: When I came here (South Africa) the plan was to study and head to the USA. But, I fell in love with South Africa and it has been a journey. I can say I am well on my way now and this is only the beginning. It was not easy, my first couple of years here, but I have faith and with God nothing is impossible.