New telenovela Gomora has fans flocking to their TVs – and not just to see how much worse life can get for Thathi (Katlego Danke) and her family, who have been forced to swap millions in the bank and living in mansions for being broke and crashing in granny’s house in Alex township.
Fans have also been tuning in to see how things are going for Teddy. He’s played by Sicelo Buthelezi, and Teddy is the mildest, meekest teen you can imagine.
“He’s a very special kid,” explains Sicelo, whose character is currently being fostered by the school principal Melusi (Zolisa Xaluva). Teddy’s mom, Zodwa, played by Sannah Mchunu, is the resident drunk and the youngster was taken away from her so that he could have a brighter future.
While Zodwa is fighting to get him back and embarrassing him non-stop (like showing up drunk at school shouting out his name), Teddy doesn’t hold her alcohol abuse against her. If anything, he wants her to get help, adds Sicelo: “He sees the best in people, even if they’ve done wrong by him. He doesn’t want to see people get hurt. He’s a good kid.”
Who is Sicelo Buthelezi?
I was born and raised in Tembisa, Johannesburg. And there’s actually nothing interesting about me – I’m just a normal guy, doing normal things. I think that Teddy is very much the same. He flies under the radar and that’s endearing.
Your role has been welcomed with open arms. Did you expect to be a fan favourite so quickly?
I didn’t think that viewers would really understand how Teddy is because he’s a special kid. In most cases, we don’t understand those people [hinting at the fact that Zodwa’s drinking while she was pregnant has affected Teddy, who failed Grade 9 twice].
When the viewer reaction started, it made me realise that maybe I was wrong and people at home really did understand him. I’m very pleased that people are understanding him, the situation he’s in, how he is – not just the funny part of him, but the soft side of him. That was very important [that they see that side of him] and I’ve tried to highlight that aspect of his personality.
What was it about Teddy as a character that made you want to play him?
It wasn’t so much about Teddy the character as much as Sicelo the actor. I don’t want to get to a place where people think that I have a specific character that I want to play. I don’t want to limit myself. What attracted me to the Teddy role was that he’s a special kid from ekasi, his personality is a challenge and he’s not your normal character.
He’s got these intricacies that make him so much fun to play. Did I get scared reading about his situation and his personality? No! I dived right into playing this character.
What life lesson has Teddy taught you already?
You should love and appreciate, I mean really love and really appreciate, the people that love and care for you. That’s one of Teddy’s principles; if you do something for me, I will try by all means to do ten times better for you.
So he takes care of the people who take care of him. He doesn’t look at the bad things you’ve done to him. He only looks at the good things. He doesn’t give up on people even if they give up on him.
Which of your castmates have you learnt the most from so far?
There’s no one specific person – we’re an incredible ensemble that I’m fortunate to be part of. This is my first time having such a brilliant group of artists around me. I’ve always had great teams, but this one is special.
We’ve only been together a couple of months and I never thought I’d learn so much in so little time. Whether it’s from newcomers or veterans to the acting business, we’re learning each day more and more.
And when you’re not on set, how are you improving your skills?
I am a theatre born-and-bred actor. It’s where I learnt my craft and abilities. Because of the Covid-19 lockdown, we’ve all been at home, but before that I would go to the theatre as much as possible. What I have been doing during lockdown is watching theatre shows on YouTube and I read books – as much reading as possible to get new character insight.