The life of a movie star may seem glamorous, but you’ll be surprised at how real things gets when you’re pretending to be someone else. South African actress Sarah Kozlowski, who has played everything from a stripper to a murderer, shares the lessons she’s learnt from the characters she’s portrayed.
1 A Venda’s girlfriend in Black Jew
The most culturally educational role I’ve played was an English girl who fell in love with a Venda man. In the story, he takes her home to meet his mother. I had to learn all about the traditional foods and culture. We stayed in Venda for two weeks and were given local food on set – homemade mageau, mopane worms, fresh avos, bananas and mangos.
2 A detective in Jongo
I loved puzzles and problem solving in school, so getting to solve a mystery “in real life” was a treat! I got to learn tactical weapon training as my character was always carrying a gun. In the film world, viewers are unforgiving – research needs to be done so that it resembles real life situations.
3 An abused woman in Thola
Every day I would have to act as if I was being beaten and living in fear. After each day of shooting, I’d go home and all I could think about was the abused women who don’t get to leave set. Their movie is real. My character cared deeply for her abuser, making it hard for her to leave. It made me realise that people’s stories are not always as simple as they appear to be — never think you know what ‘the right thing’ to do is until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes.
4 A post-op transsexual man in Alexia
After playing a post-op transsexual, the term ‘actress’ no longer seemed accurate. An actress plays female roles, but this part gave me the confidence to believe I can play anyone or anything. Doing the research about transsexuals to prepare for the role was an eye opener. The most shocking thing I discovered is that, in some countries, the life expectancy for a transsexual is short due to the high murder rates. I interviewed transgender individuals and watched countless documentaries. By the end of it, my world had been changed.
5 A stripper in Tempy Pushas
Playing a Russian stripper was loads of fun! I got to wear wonderful outfits that I would never have in my own underwear drawer! We shot in a well-known Johannesburg strip club and I had plenty of time to make friends with the real strippers that worked there. They taught me moves for my scenes and I got to hear fascinating stories from them. One lady is a school teacher by day and simply dances for money when she needs it. An older lady has simply had enough of the corporate life and needed a change!
6 A murderer in The Circle
Murdering my co-star in a scene was quite disturbing. My character needed to act completely calm and very relieved when the act was done. It had to seem like she was enjoying it. That’s the thing about acting, your imagination will be tested! I imagined that my co-star was all the evil in the world personified and that by strangling him all the world’s hatred and pain would be gone.
7 A vixen in Isidingo
I was going through airport security to board a flight when I had the most shockingly entertaining experience of my life! The security woman was incredibly rude to me and frisked me like I was the scum of the earth. She was staring straight into my eyes as if she was trying to intimidate me. After she let me pass I overheard her telling her colleague that I was “the evil woman” who tried to seduce and blackmail her favourite character on her daily show! In her mind, even if momentarily, I was not an actor, I was real!
PS: My dream roles that I still need to conquer are a president, a superhero, a mother, a psychopath and a vampire (preferably the cool kind with smoky eyes and lots of leather!).