It's been two years since Altovise Lawrence won the first season of Top Actor on BET
and she's on the move.
She's starring opposite Atandwa Kani in a new Top Actor branded movie Love by Chance which opens in South Africa on Friday, 5 May.
The flik is a co-production between South African filmmakers Dumi Gumbi (Mrs Right Guy, Dora's Peace) and Cati Weinek (Mrs Right Guy, Soul City), and US based director and producer Samad Davis, creator of Top Actor.
Samad directed the movie and co-wrote it with US writer Dani Renee.
It tells the story of two aspiring South African actors (played by Atandwa and Altovise) who meet by chance in Atlanta while pursuing their careers internationally.
This is the scenario:
The actors meet by chance in Atlanta, experiencing the everyday struggle of auditioning, dealing with daily rejection, self-doubt, financial hardship, crazy friends and a mad dating scene, putting their chance at love on the rocks.
When I heard the news I thought it would the purrrfect time for us to catch up with Altovise...
The impact of Top Actor
Tashi: Was this part of your prize for winning the show?
No, not at all. I think I won the show two years ago - such a long time ago. I auditioned for this one. Samad said he has a story in mind and I was just like, "Okay, what do you have in mind?"
I went for the reading and Love by Chance was born.
Tashi: What does it mean that Love by Chance is Top Actor branded? If you hadn't gotten the role, it couldn't have been Top Actor branded could it?
Ja, to an extent because of it being Samad's project. It's his baby and he used the Top Actor brand to spearhead this film and it's just a bonus that the Top Actor winner is also the lead.
Tashi: Ja... because to me the branding only works like that with you in it to be honest. Where is the movie going to air?
Here, in America, in Canada, in the UK - so those four places.
Other South African cast includes Top Actor finalist Nicholas Nkuna and Denise Zimba (Generations, V-Entertainment, Fly Chix).
International cast includes Terri J. Vaughn (Soul Food, The Steve Harvey Show, Girlfriends), actor and comedian Desi Banks and Clifton Powell (Ray, Rush Hour, Grand Theft Auto).
Altovise at the movie's premiere on Thursday night (27 April).
Did her relationship last??
Tashi: How similar are the characters and their story to yours?
Altovise: I feel like all actors say, "Oh, it's so close to me," or "Oh, it's so personal," but it feels like a reality show of our lives as actors.
The daily struggle of auditioning and what people require of you when you do audition and how you might have a partner that you're with who is also an actor that gets more jobs than you. How do you feel about that? How does it affect the relationship?
And being away from home. How it affects family life. It really hit home for me because the first time I went abroad, that's what I struggled with. I was in a relationship - thank goodness with someone who's not in the industry. I think it made it easier but now I'm dealing with a long distance relationship and my family is not here and there's nothing around you that is familiar.
This was after I won Top Actor when I went to shoot The Other Side - that was the first international film that I did. It's still going to come out - they still need to fix sound if I'm not mistaken - but the film is done and that was in 2015 I think.
Altovise told me that her relationship didn't last - but not
because it was long distance. Her bae was very supportive while she was away and they only broke up after she returned to South Africa - when she landed her role as Chantal on Scandal!
Turns out he wasn't comfy with the fact that she has to smooch actors. They're still friends but that's it.
Altovise and Atandwa.
The chance of love Now
Of I course I asked if she's dating anyone else now and the answer is: nope. She's tried BUT she never knows if people want to date her for her or because they want an opportunity to network - and be snapped in pics with her on instagram.
Tashi: Wow hey, you can never know why somebody actually likes you.
And it's such a frustrating place to be in.
Tashi: I was gonna say that the solution is to date an actor.
Never. Oh gosh no, I'd get a migraine, I'd get sick.
Tashi: Ha! Why?
We work ridiculous hours and I'm trying to understand my ex boyrfriend's insecurities and I think, "If I dated an actor would I feel the same about sex scenes and all of that?"
I don't think I'd be bothered because eventually I'll be doing it too but right now actors are very stressful, highly emotional creatures and I think there should be a balance.
Oh yes, I know why, ego - if their ego doesn't come before you then maybe.
Tashi: What's happening with your role on Scandal!
I haven't shot Scandal! in a while - where we left off is me and Vernon being in a very complicated relationship with my son included too but there is a new storyline coming up that might affect my relationship.
Altovise has been booked for another stint on the soapie.
Tashi: What else are you involved in at the moment?
Altovise: I've been auditioning my face off for a lot of things and it feels good but you know you don't wanna really say anything until you've signed a contract.
What I can confirm though is that I'm in a film called The Red Room with the lead being Khanyi Mbau and Pakamisa Zwedala and they're not strangers to the screen. I'm playing a supporting lead.
It's a psychological thriller so the storyline really, really piqued and sparked my interest and I'm like, "Okay, yes, I have to be on the film". It'll probably come out at the end of the year, if not the top of next year.
But I don't wanna tweet all the time!
Tashi: What's the most difficult thing about being an actor?
Altovise: For me it's being in a market saturated with people who didn't study the craft. I think that's the most difficult thing, having to deal with the artists' personalities where popularity might get you booked and not necessarily talent.
For me it's a real struggle because now you're getting told: "Tweet this, tweet more, instagram this," you know, when I'm not really about that social media life. I find myself torn between being popular and being popular will probably get me the job but if it's not honest and true to me I can't really do it - I feel like I'm selling out.
Many of my friends who are qualified are sitting at home who then eventually go into corporate but we've got celebrities doing our jobs. You don't watch Suits and then tomorrow walk into a law firm thinking you're qualified - it doesn't happen that way. I think there isn't really a great level of respect surrounding what we do and it's upsetting.
Altovise started studying engineering and then swapped to study performance, film and TV at Wits
I want to act
Tashi: What's the best thing about being an actor?
Altovise: I think the payoff for me... it's different when you meet someone who goes to art school. I feel like it's easier to work with them to a certain extent. I think the fun part about being in the industry is really growing as an artist and I say so because I know what I'm in this for.
Know what you're in this for and everything else will become easier. If you want the fame, be serious about the fame and don't mess with the people who are trying to be the artists and who are about the craft.
I know I want to be an artist, I know I want to go do theatre in India and do Broadway and go to the UK and experiment with filmmaking in China - that's what I'm about, stretching myself as an artist.
The most exciting part for me is getting roles where I'm not necessarily stereotyped - I don't think I'm a stereotyped actor in South Africa yet but just getting these crazy roles of playing a mother with a disabled child when I'm only 26 and I shot an American series where I played a 40-year-old sergeant.
Just these things where it's so far out of my comfort zone and actually you know, breaking apart - having to fall apart, fall together to create this new character is the most exciting thing for me.