Edwin Gagiano is a South African actor, singer/songwriter, director and producer best known for his starring role as Zak Verwey, a troubled skater boy from Johannesburg who later moves to Durban to live with his grandfather, in the SABC2 youth drama series Snake Park.
Gagiano grew up in Kimberley, Northern Cape. He is the son of a maths and science lecturer, Albertus Gagiano and a banker, Maryna Gagiano. He started acting in theatre at the age of 16, where he got rewarded with full academic colours for Drama and Arts Festivals as well as the best actor award for the class of 2007.
He left for the United States where he worked at an entertainment company and used his savings to complete his studies back in South Africa. During his studies he released an EP album as a singer and the front man for "I Did Cinderella" and started working on his singing career.
He worked as a financial planner for a year to support his acting career and moved to Johannesburg after he resigned to pursue an acting career on a full time basis. Since then he's worked on short films, a pilot and several movies, including Neill Blomkamp's sci-fi epic Chappie, Echo Beach and Run Or Die.
Snake Park interview
Tell us about your character
I play Zak Verwey, a 17-year-old, troubled skater boy from Johannesburg, who later moves to Durban to live with his grandfather after his mother walked away with a wealthy man, and his father got arrested.
Zak's story is touching in how he finds the true meaning of life and true family values, through his two black friends Mandla and Blessing, his grandfather and his female friend, Chrissie, who he works for, which develops into, what I believe to be, a secret crush. Wink.
Zak enjoys his time with his friends, at the beach and most of all, on the skate park where he takes out all his frustrations on his board. He has a rebellious side to him, with a very mysterious, yet smart mind, always ready to stand up to the man, for things he believes in.
Zak is quite a guy under the ladies! He later goes on to become a professional skateboarder, with full on, international skateboarding sponsors.
How did you get into acting?
At a very young age, I started to feel the bug biting, after I'd watch a movie or see a music video, and I would go outside and reenact the whole thing in my own way, and kind of prolong it, so that it could last. I use to build myself sets in my backyard and just go into my own world for days on end.
But it was not until I was 14, that I really started understanding this urge I had inside of me to tell stories and entertain. I started doing Drama, and that led me into my first theatre role as Alf Bueller, in Northern Cape Theater's successful musical Back to the 80's. From there on, there was no turning back.
What makes the series interesting from a viewer's perspective?
For me, to the credit of our magnificent director, Darrell Roodt, I would say that Snake Park is very real. The method in which this series was directed is the same method that is used on actors like Leonardo Dicaprio, Robert Redford and Al Pacino.
It feels to me like feature film, in TV form, now it doesn't get better than that. The authenticity is so believable, and while playing the characters, the feelings and the emotions that runs through the character, into you, becomes very real.
From a story point of view, I would certainly say, the diversity of cultures and languages, that all comes together as one, to fight and stand strong against this corporate politics of our capitalistic day and age that we live in, is very appealing to me.
The way these kids collaborate to shape their territory, is amazing and everyone's story leads back to each other. The way this series was shot by William Collinson and Darrell Roodt, is just off the charts and it will swallow you, leaving you needing more!! Do I hear a season 2?!!
What was it like working with Darrell Roodt?
Working with Darrell was one of the highlights of my year. I have never seen someone working so hard, with such energy, and still have a great joke up his sleeve at dinner.
Darrell has supplied me with valuable lessons that I use in my career today, and he has helped me to overcome things that I didn't know how to overcome as an actor. He also showed me what it means to be a professional actor on set. He is certainly a mentor to me. I hope to work with him again soon in the near future.
And the other cast members?
They are family to me. I love those guys and really hope that South Africa can talk loud enough to bring us back together to do a season two of Snake Park, but with SABC on our side, I am sure they will do the right thing. But I truly believe, with my cast member's talent and Darrell Roodt's genius, that Snake Park is going to be a huge success.
Any other comments?
I hope that Snake Park shows and inspires it's viewers to overcome hardship in their lives and show them that, it is often when life gets tough, and you have to step out of your comfort zone, when the real magic happens. I hope that Snake Park unites us from all races, genders, cultures and sexualities.
I also hope Snake Park gets the opportunity to win numerous awards, as there are names amongst us, who I truly feel, deserves it. That is where the South Africa and every viewer comes in.
From me, I say: "As long as you do what you love, you never have to work another day in your life".