Isithembiso actor Tiisetso Thoka (29) didn’t let his rough start in the industry discourage him from his goal of being on television. He persisted until he made his dream a reality. By Kwanele Mathebula Pictures Peter Whitfield
I started acting at a drama club in Lydenburg, Mpumalanga, while in grade 3. I enjoyed being on stage so much that I wanted to do it professionally. In 2003, I moved back to Ga-Mphahlele, Limpopo, to start high school. But, my school didn’t have drama. So in 2004, I moved to Johannesburg to live with my grandparents to pursue my dream. I continued with high school while looking for an agency. I found one that offered a three-week TV presenting and acting course in town. I told my parents, and they paid for it to support my dream. I completed it, but around graduation time, the school had disappeared from the building it occupied. This angered my parents, who then encouraged me to rather focus on school. With my dream on hold, my friends and I decided to start a drama club. We wrote our own scripts and participated in the intercity competitions. I continued until I matriculated in 2007.
In 2008, I started my first year of B.Com Law at the University of South Africa. I did well, and earned a bursary to complete my degree at Varsity College. I enjoyed school, my desire to be an actor was always present. In 2011, a friend from high school who worked at Urban Brew Studios told me about presenter auditions for SABC 1 interactive show, YoTV. I was in Krugersdorp filming an advertisement, but made my way to Auckland Park for the auditions. I was the last person to audition, and two days later, I received news that I got the job. I spent 18 months presenting shows such as YoTV Live, Did You Know and Supersonic. I eventually completed my degree and quit the show because I wanted to grow my career. I did my articles at a law firm for two years before finally quitting in 2014 to pursue acting.
I landed my first role in 2016. While auditioning, I worked as a porter, salesman and washed dishes to make a living. I had an agent, but also took it upon myself to go to Urban Brew Studios in search of a job. In 2016, I went to audition for e.tv drama series, Gold Diggers. A few months later, Bomb Productions production coordinator, Carmel Nahania, asked me to audition for the role of a boxer on their new drama, Isithembsio. I auditioned in front of co-founder Angus Gibson and executive producer, Kutlwano Ditsele. Because I was familiar with their work and wanted to impress, the audition was nerve-wracking. I then returned for two more callbacks before getting the role. The show began shooting in February 2017. Later that year, Kutlwano offered me a role on new drama series, Inkululeko. The character was gay, which made me anxious at first because I had never played that role before. But, I took up the challenge because I love acting.
My career has grown from strength to strength. I have since landed two new acting jobs as Dingane on The Herd, and Pablo on The Imposter. I took a break from Isithembiso to shoot them. Around this time, Vodacom approached me, looking for an ambassador. I auditioned and became the network’s ambassador in October 2018. In January, I went back to Isithembiso. I also have new productions coming later this year.