Tim Nhlazane works as an Educational Assistant during the day, but on the silver screen his students might spot him exchanging lines with stars like Christopher Walken or leading ladies like Amanda Schull.
He started his career in film as a background performer, but today Tim plays several valuable roles in Manitoba’s film industry. He books gigs as a principal actor in major productions and takes on the role of union councillor at ACTRA Manitoba.
There, he is also co-chair of the Diversity and Inclusivity Committee that’s spearheading the BIPOC Performers Training Initiative in partnership with FTM.
As an actor, his latest success was in the Hallmark movie Project Christmas Wish. He played Cullen, an awkward Christmas tree salesman desperately seeking advice from the protagonist, Lucy (Amanda Schull), on how to make a wedding proposal to his girlfriend more romantic.
Tim’s other principal roles include an African Delegate in Percy, starring Christopher Walken, plus you can spot him in the cult hit series Todd and the Book of Evil that aired on the Space Network from 2010-2012.
How and when did you start out in the media production industry?
I started as a background performer in a movie shot here in Winnipeg called Category 7: The End of the World in 2005. I was earning my degree in Theatre and Film from the University of Winnipeg at the time so that instruction gave me the tools to pursue acting for film and television properly. I forget which background casting agency I booked that role with, but I had submitted my headshot and resume to Kari Casting, Next Casting, and the only acting casting director at the time, Jim Heber, earlier that year.
Which area of the film industry do you work in now and why?
I work as an actor. I really enjoy the process of crawling into the skin of another human being. I love getting to the point in my preparation for a role where the character plays me instead of me playing the character.
What has been a substantial change in the industry since you started?
The amount of projects that are in production on a yearly basis in the province. When I started doing background work there was only maybe three productions shooting in Manitoba every year. In the past few years I’ve seen three productions shooting at the same time while others are prepping to go to camera in the next month or so. The provincial tax credit has been such a massive benefit for everyone involved in the Manitoba film industry.
If you could give your past self advice, what would it be?
I would tell myself to have better preparation when it comes to auditioning. When I started reading sides back in the day I just didn’t give myself enough time to prepare the material so that I would be fluid in the room. As a young actor, sometimes you think you have it down but once you get in the room with the casting director, director, producer, the reader, and camera operator that plan can go out the window very quickly due to nerves. Over preparation is always the best defense against those nerves.
What advice would you give to someone starting off in the film production industry?
Take as many workshops as you can from industry professionals who have been in the game for quite some time. As a new actor, if you’re getting into this business because you think that you’re going to be the next Dwayne Johnson or Marvel Universe super hero you are doing it for all the wrong reasons. It’s about the journey and not the destination. If you truly love performing, it’ll be a trip with many different pit stops and so much fun along the way.
Why is learning and training important?
It is so important because it prepares you for the actual on-set experience. One of my acting teachers said that if you can train in a way to master that audition room, translating that same performance to set is very easy. Audition training teaches you to have the inner emotional life of the character that you are portraying without the props or other actors you would have on set to feed your performance. For example, in your sides you could be having a conversation with two people according to the script, but in an audition you’re only having that conversation with a reader who is reading both parts. That means you have to use your imagination and place that other character beside the reader to make that connection real.
What are some of the films, TV series or even books that have inspired you? How about anything new you’ve been into?
Nothing new as of yet but the most inspiring show that was a favorite of mine, and a lot of people’s favorite, was Breaking Bad. The storytelling, the character development, the writing, and the acting were all amazing. From an acting perspective, Bryan Cranston’s transformation from a high school chemistry teacher making $43,000 a year to the best meth dealer ever as the Heisenberg character really made me fall in love with the craft.
Is there someone within the film industry you would like to work with and why?
Exchanging lines with star power actor like Christopher Walken was a treat, so I will never forget that. If there is anyone, it would be Jordan Peele because he checks all the boxes as an artist. From writing and acting in sketch comedy when he did Key & Peele, to writing and directing the horror movies Get Out and Us, he showcases incredible range. At the end of the day, anyone who enjoys and has a passion for the art of storytelling —whether it’s in film, television, or theatre — is a person I will always enjoy working with.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now?
I would love to work as an actor on a regular basis. The dream is to be a role-booking machine, and share my insights about the industry with people eager to learn about the craft of acting free of charge because, as we all know, show business is a funny business that has no guarantees. For my day job, I’m an Educational Assistant at an inner-city school and I love the kids and staff that I work with. I’m working on getting my degree in education so further employment there as a classroom teacher would be phenomenal as well.