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Have you ever watched an international series or movie and seen a familiar face or heard a familiar accent – but you can’t quite place the person?
That will definitely be the case with romantic comedy Love By Chance on Showmax. The plot: two South African actors trying to make a name for themselves in Hollywood keep meeting by chance. They are both focusing on their careers, oblivious to the fact that they’re into each other. In this movie, released in 2017, it’s somewhat a case of art imitating life.
Working that Hollywood scene
Altovisie Lawrence’s character Bailey believes she’ll be a star, but in reality, her A-list career is in a galaxy far, far away – she can’t even book TV commercials, being passed over left, right and centre with a polite “no thanks, maybe next time” from casting directors. South African audiences know her better as Charlie in comedy series Single Galz (2014-current) and its follow-up Single Guyz (2018-current), but Altovisie’s comedy skills take a delightful backseat to her dramatic talents this time.
Opposite her is Atandwa Kani as Bailey’s love interest Chance – not that his chances are looking too good on the professional and personal fronts. Chance is willing to do the most menial of jobs to get by and pay his rent, including being a pizza delivery guy by day while trying to be a performer by night.
Everyone knows the Kani surname in South Africa (Atandwa’s father is legendary local actor Bonisile John Kani – King T’Chaka in Marvel movies Captain America: Civil War and Black Panther).
Atandwa hasn’t traded on his dad’s accolades – the 30-something has toured the world with stage productions like Shakespeare’s Othello, played a young Nelson Mandela in 2013 movie Mandela: Long Walk To Freedom with Idris Elba, as well as evil Dr Mangezi in Venda soapie Muvhango. Plus, Atandwa portrayed a younger version of his dad’s character King T’Chaka in Black Panther – watch out for John and Atandwa on the red carpet at this year’s Academy Awards on 24 Feb.
Living the dream, sort of
Atandwa knows all too well what it’s like being a South African actor trying to make it big in the United States and Hollywood – because he is living that very life. He moved to New York in 2016 with his actress wife Fikile Mthwalo-Kani (aka Hlengiwe in South Africa telenovela Gold Diggers) and the pair has been honing their skills at acting school as well as other stage productions.
And there is another similarity shared by Atandwa and his character Chance – it’s all to do with the way they talk. “If I’m going to forge a life for myself this side [in the United States] and I am insistent on keeping a South African accent, then I am only going to play a refugee, a guy who gets shot in the head in the second scene. I am going to play General Mfumfu. I want more than that,” explains Atandwa.
His Instagram account @atandwakani is littered with video clips of him “speaking American” and with his local accent, you know, to keep his roots grounded in Africa.
Back to the movie – Chance asks his roomie: “When I speak, what do you hear?” (speaking in his normal South African accent, naturally). Is he expecting the “Click click click click” reply? No way, Jose – and that’s almost the last time that Chance communicates with his bestie with non-US pronunciations. The only time that Chance chats in vernacular is when he’s with Bailey and anyone else from South Africa. (Hello Denise Zimba, we see you there taking a break from your role as Mary on Generations and as a judge on the reality show, Wedding Bashers, on DStv Now.)
Filmed on location in South Africa
Love By Chance wasn’t filmed only in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States, part of it was filmed in SA. There are only so many backdrops, scenery and accents that you can fake with CGI and audio manipulation, so it made sense to have a decent Mzansi platform to build on. Also, South African fans would pick up on it straight away.
Make no mistake, Love By Chance is a bit cheesy at times. But it’s fun to watch. Especially for the local talent.