They say when one door closes another one opens. And in the case of veteran actress Connie Chiume a bigger door has been flung wide open by none other than Hollywood itself.
This follows her unexpected departure from Rhythm City two years ago when her much loved and central character of Mamokete Khuse was inexplicably discontinued from the popular soapie.
She was one of the original cast members since the e.tv show launched in 2007. Popular lead roles such as hers are seldom sacrificed unless the actor volunteers to leave or is unable to continue for reasons beyond one’s control.
So it was sad for her many fans to see a character around which the soapie’s storyline revolved leave without at least a proper explanation from the producers.
But the American film industry has thrown her a lifeline that by her own admission she couldn’t have expected. She stars along some of the recognisable faces of Hollywood in Black Panther, a superhero action film based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name.
The 65-year-old Chiume plays the role of a tribal elder in the African mining country of Wakanda.
The movie has been punted as the most anticipated Hollywood production and it has already broken records as the fastest selling Marvel film ever – a record previously held by Captain America: Civil War (2016).
The Ryan Coogler-directed film also stars fellow South African actors, John Kani and his son Atandwa Kani. Chiume’s involvement in American or international movies is not new. She has starred in I Dreamt of Africa (2000) and In My Country (2004) alongside Kim Basinger and Samuel L Jackson respectively.
However, Black Panther is her biggest role to date and had happened in the year when she was celebrating her fortieth year in the industry as a stage and screen actress.
It is also for the first time in her career that she has shot scenes abroad – Atlanta, Georgia. She shares all her scenes with the movie’s biggest stars – Angela Bassett, Forest Whitaker, Lupita Nyong’o and Michael B Jordan.
Chiume’s latest role is undoubtedly the pinnacle of her long and chequered career in an industry that is notorious for not appreciating seasoned talent.
Born in Welkom, Free State, her acting career goes back to the 1970s when she toured the world with Ipi Tombi, the stage production that launched careers of other actors such as the late Sandy Mokoena (Bra Eddie in etv’s Scandal!).
A string of strong television roles followed in the eighties and into the new millennium in dramas such as Yizo Yizo, Zone 14 and 90 Plein Street and Zone 14 – which earned her a Golden Horn Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama.
She was also memorable in Chikin Biznis (1998), a local movie in which she played a lead role alongside the late Fats Bookholane.
* Black Panther premiered on Monday, 29 January in Los Angeles, California. The film is scheduled to hit local cinemas on Friday, 16 February 2018.