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Zimbabwean actor gains Hollywood fame

By: Nicola Quinn

SCREEN AFRICA EXCLUSIVE: After six years of living in Los Angeles, California, Tongayi Chirisa has already worked with most of the major networks in Hollywood such as Warner Brothers, FOX, FX, CBS, NBC and ABC. This month he adds TV Land to his impressive resume where he will be starring in The Jim Gaffigan Show as Father Nicholas Ngugumbane. The show premiers on 15 July 2015 on TV Land.

Chirisa plays a comedic charismatic Zimbabwean priest in the The Jim Gaffigan Show, which follows the life of Jim Gaffigan, a successful comedian trying to survive while obsessing about food and living with his wife and five children in their two-bedroom apartment in New York City. Chirisa speaks fondly of his time filming in New York City recalling a lot of laughter with cast members; Jim Gaffigan, Ashley Williams, Adam Goldberg and Michael Ian Black as well as Boardwalk Empire star Steve Buscemi and child actor Macaulay Culkin.

Chirisa was born in Harare, Zimbabwe, where his acting career began in 2002 with a role in the country’s first soap opera, Studio 263. Two years later he starred in the local feature film, Tanyaradzwa, which solidified his desire to study acting. In 2006 he relocated to Johannesburg, South Africa, where he enrolled at The South African School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance (AFDA). In 2008 Chirisa featured in several South African commercials; a feature film about his homeland titled Zimbabwe; Skin directed by Anthony Fabian; as well as Leon Schuster’s Mr Bones 2: Back from the Past. That same year he was cast in the role of Friday in NBC’s action drama series Crusoe, which launched his career in America and encouraged him to move to Hollywood.

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To date Chirisa has featured in various films and television series such as: Crusoe, Sleepy Hollow, American Horror Story and NCIS: LA to name a few. He most recently played the role of Gary Houston in Whitney, a biographical film for TV which is based on the late Whitney Houston’s life. The film was directed by Angela Bassett and released in the US on 17 January 2015.


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