Leroy Gopal cant wait to show off his work.

Cape Town - He shares a name with his icon, and now South African actor Leroy Gopal is living his dream. Gopal, 34, will be starring alongside Hollywood actor Samuel Leroy Jackson in the upcoming international feature film Kite.

Kite is a live-action adaptation of Yasuomi Umetsu’s hit Japanese anime movie, and is expected to hit the big screen soon. Some scenes of the high-action film were shot in Joburg earlier this year.

“When I was young, I remember how excited I was that his (Jackson’s) middle name is Leroy. I knew there and then that I was destined for great things,” he said.

Gopal, who plays a doctor in the film, said he couldn’t wait to show off his work, adding it was an honour to work with a man who had become “a force to be reckoned with”.

“For nearly a decade he (Jackson) struggled to become a leading man, but he never gave up. He kept pushing and at the same time fought his drug addiction, and rose above all odds. For me that is inspiring.”

In two years Gopal had 400 auditions, but won only two roles, a period he said could have broken any actor. It made him understand how rough the industry is. “I told myself that if I wanted to go to Hollywood I’d have to toughen up because, the truth is, Hollywood is twice as difficult to crack than South Africa,” he said.

The actor, best known for his roles in local TV dramas such as Home Affairs, Jacob’s Cross and soapie Generations, has had roles in films such as The Wall, Hush and Night Drive.

He said he was still humbled by the award he received at the SA Film and Television Awards last week. Gopal was awarded best actor for his role as Nigerian businessman Oleshe in the comedy series Ses’Top La.

This was in addition to some of the awards he has scooped previously.

Gopal’s lead role in Yellow Card won awards at the Cannes and Dhow film festivals in 2000, when he was awarded best actor. The film was also nominated at the Toronto Film Festival and Zimbabwe Film Festival, where he clinched best actor yet again.

Speaking of the experience on the Ses’Top La set, Gopal said: “My character had a Nigerian accent. From the time I was in college, we had a student called Azuk. He had a unique Nigerian accent. My friends and I imitated him all the time. When Oleshe came through I thought: ‘Wow, I could do this’.”

Gopal, who is also a radio DJ and a voice-over artist, and has his own production company, said it was important for any actor to venture into other things. “Unless you have a really great endorsement, acting won’t sustain you on its own.”

Gopal is also working on a talk show which will be aired soon on our TV screens.

Weekend Argus