FILM star Tongayi Chirisa has described his role in the new horror film “Antebellum” as “a little bit more than just acting”.
The Zimbabwean actor plays Eli, a slave in the American South who plans to escape the plantation where he has been enslaved and brutalised.
And the star said that the choice of filming location – the plantation scenes were shot at The Evergreen Plantation in Louisiana – made playing the role an altogether different experience.
Speaking to RadioTimes.com, Chirisa said, “We shot on a real plantation that actually had slaves on it.
“And there’s something really rich and spiritual about it, being in the fields that our forefathers worked on and seeing the cabins that they lived in… it was harrowing and at the same time I was in awe of it.
“I was living in a piece in real time but playing a period piece in a real world in a real situation so just trying to mesh those two became a little bit more than just acting for me.
“Me being from Africa – Zimbabwe – and then coming to America and portraying this character that works on a plantation was a little trippy, so it became larger than life in so many aspects for me.”
The film, which stars Janelle Monáe in the lead role, explores issues that have very much been in the public eye in recent months – and Chirisa said he was first attracted to the script because he considered it “a now film.”
“It’s a film that is speaking directly to the pulse of this nation, it’s a narrative and a film that continually highlights the plight of the African American people and because certain things have not been addressed it will always be a story that is relevant,” he said.
“400 years later we’re still talking about the same thing. How then are we progressing if one section of the population or the nation is still suffering from old ideals of survival?
“It doesn’t make sense to me because if nothing is done now with this Black Lives Matter movement that we are currently experiencing, ten years down the line somebody else is going to make a movie about the Black plight and we’re all going to applaud again, and someone is going to win the Oscar, but it’s like… is this what we want? Is this how we want this nation to be remembered? The same thing over and over again.
“It’s almost like it’s become this recurring theme and something’s got to give.”
Chirisa rose to fame in the early 2000s when he featured in then popular Zimbabwean TV drama Studio 263. He later featured in Mr. Bones 2, a South African comedy also starring the film veteran Leon Schuster.
Antebellum was released in April 2021. ~ Agencies ■