MASERU — It is 10 o’clock on Friday in Maseru’s leafy suburb of Lower Thetsane.
The mood is exuberant.
The crew is busy making preparations for the long trip to Semonkong, some 130km south-east of Maseru.
It is in Semonkong that the crew was to begin the filming of The Forgotten Kingdom, a film set to hit the big screen at the end of this year.
But in the backyard are “Tau” and “Atang”, the main characters in the film, who are going through their lines before heading to Morija for their horse-riding lessons.
Tau is played by 12-year-old Lebohang Ntsane while South African popular actor Senzo Ngqobe plays Atang.
It is clear that there is chemistry between the two individuals as they role-play.
When one forgets a line the other is quick to remind him.
The film’s director, Andrew Mudge, and his assistant Papali Monyake, are quick to chip in to ensure the two get it right.
Ntsane, from Khubetsoana, is still reminiscing on what transpired during the morning rehearsals.
When he meets up with the team from the Weekender he humbly greets the team and takes his seat.
He smiles and asks the interview to proceed.
“Sorry for the delay mam,” Ntsane says.
The Standard Seven student from Hoohlo Primary School in Maseru lives with his father, younger sister and grandmother.
“This is so much fun I can’t get over it,” Ntsane says referring to his new role.
“I have never acted in a film or a movie before, it was only dramas at school but at the back of my mind I knew I was good.”
Ntsane explains how he got the role saying he was competing with a friend from Hoohlo Primary School.
“I can not say the competition was tough but there was a lot of excitement when Andrew and the crew came to our school looking for 12-year-old boys for casting.
“Only two of us were selected. We were taken to Mediterranean Guest House where we were given scripts to role play.
“They took our numbers and released us,” he recalls with an innocent smile.
He said he didn’t hear from them until a few days after the auditions.
“A few days later my grandmother received a call telling her I had to return for the auditions as I had landed the role. That was music to our ears,” he says.
From the rehearsals, Ntsane looked very confident and did not require much help with his lines.
“I was then given a script to learn when I got home. I dedicated at least two hours of my time and it took me two weeks to learn my lines,” he says.
Ntsane takes a glance at Ngqobe and smiles.
“I used to watch him on TV and now I am working with him…this is really exciting,” Ntsane says.
“He is a joy to work with. He helps me learn how to be me while I act,” he says.
“Even my uncles and grandmother used to improvise to help me learn my lines and help me understand phrases I didn’t know.”
He last went to school on Monday but “I have ‘me’ Thapelo helping me with my studies while I am away.”
He added: “After this month I am going back to school and focus more on the subjects that I would have missed.”
Ntsane said despite his acting talent, he values education.
“I hope to gain recognition and maybe land another role on a different project. But I will not stop going to school, education is more important. This means I will continue to act while studying.”
He said there is potential to have talented actors being given acting breaks by different film projects.
“I would advise everyone who believes they have talent to keep an eye for auditions and always try their luck.
“Look at me now, I used to love Zenzo on TV and dreamt of having his acting ability now I am working with him. I am very much humbled for this opportunity,” Ntsane says.
Thapelo Sekoati, Ntsane’s tutor, was sitting beside him throughout the interview.
She interrupts: “He is such a smart young boy. He surprises me daily. I don’t know how he manages to grasp his lines and perform outstandingly in his school work.”
She said they have only known each other for a week but Ntsane is a humble and self-disciplined young boy.
“He is a humble child, very appreciative and always willing to learn new things. He is a very talented character by nature.”
Ngqobe — who is a Motswana living in South Africa — says he is enjoying working with Ntsane.
“I have worked with trained young actors back in Joburg but Ntsane has raw talent and learns so fast,” Ngqobe says.
“From the talent that I see in him, I feel it is my responsibility to help push him to reach greater heights.”
He said they have since established a friendship that is deep and they work very well together.
“10 years from now I would like to see him working in another production maybe with me or watch him, brag and say I witnessed that talent blossoming.”