From Botswana to Hollywood with love

Molosi recounts the Blue, Black and White; A United Kingdom

 Donald Molosi needs no introduction to his legion of Broadway followers, creatives and theatre enthusiasts alike. His rise to prominence came as a result of his theatrical lead role in the Sir Seretse Khama play dubbed “Blue, Black and White”; which ultimately earned him a coveted role in the motion picture about Botswana’s first president entitled, A United Kingdom.

Molosi is an award-winning international actor/writer who became the first Motswana on Broadway, almost a decade ago in 2007, to portray Ugandan superstar Philly Lutaaya in a play dubbed “Today It’s Me”.

DONALD MOLOSI 2

The Motswana actor also wrote the same play which scooped several writing awards. He has starred opposite renowned Hollywood stars such as Matt Damon, Donn Swaby, Emmy Rossum, Rosamund Pike to name but a few. In 2011, Molosi won the Best Actor off-Broadway for his role as Sir Seretse Khama in “Blue, Black and White,” a play he also wrote. Added to that, he also won the Dilling Yang Prize for Excellence in Playwriting as well as the Florence H. Chandler fellowship for his work on profiling Sir Seretse Khama’s life.

Molosi’s two most recent projects are a book and a Hollywood film entitled “We Are All Blue” and “A United Kingdom” respectively; both of which seek to popularize the epic love story of Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Ruth Khama. According to Molosi, “We Are All Blue (Botswana)” is a collection of two plays – Motswana: Africa, Dream Again and Blue, Black and White – spearheaded by him which include a foreword by yet another former President of Botswana, Ketumile Quett Masire.

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Blue, Black and White (2011), the longest running one-man show in Botswana’s history, was the first-ever Botswana play staged off-Broadway in New York City, where Molosi won a best actor award. He noted that BBW is about the country’s first democratically-elected president, Sir Seretse Khama; and his interracial, transformative marriage. Winner of several awards, the play has been performed around the world.

Motswana: Africa, Dream Again is the story of Botswana and its people as they transition from a British Protectorate to an independent state. The play premiered off-Broadway in 2012 where it won an award at the United Solo Festival; the world’s largest solo theatre festival. Written, directed, and performed by Molosi, the play has been performed across the U.S. and is currently on tour in Botswana and South Africa. We recently caught up with him…

We understand that you lead the Botswana cast in the multi-racial flick, A United Kingdom; a new Hollywood film based on Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Ruth Khama’s lives. Tell us more…

Yes, I am in the upcoming Hollywood film about Sir Seretse and Lady Ruth Khama. The film is called A United Kingdom and it stars Emmy-nominated actor David Oyelowo as Sir Seretse Khama as well as Academy-Award nominee Rosamund Pike. The film is directed by BAFTA-winning director Amma Asante and I cannot wait for the world to see it, especially in a special year like this when Botswana is marking 50 years of existence as a Republic.

How big is your role in the film?

I have a small supporting role in the film but I cannot say too much about the contents of the film because you never know what makes it past the editing room and what does not. I was just ecstatic to come to Botswana to be part of this film, and to be around colleagues like David and Rosamund who care so deeply about the story of Sir Seretse Khama. I cannot wait for millions of people around the world to see this film. It is a fitting tribute to Botswana.

According to the cast list, your character’s name is Kabelo. Tell us more about him..

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Kabelo is truly a 1947 version of myself. He is a fierce supporter of Ruth and Seretse’s marriage and although he is a small supporting character, he is also memorable. Batswana are demanding to know more about the history right now and I am happy to be at their service with my talents. Batswana will always be able to remember our golden jubilee through this film and I appreciate that with all my heart.

What is the premise of the film?

The film tells of the epic love story of Ruth and Seretse Khama, how they defied all odds to stay together. It is a story of how that love story set the stage for certain values like non-racialism to become prominent in the foundation of our Botswana. I cannot say much than that yet except that it will be one of this year’s best stories told by Hollywood. And what a joy it is for us that the story is Botswana’s own. I am happy to be part of a project this monumental, to honor my lifelong hero Sir Seretse Khama on such a massive far-reaching platform.

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Many Batswana expected you to play the lead role of Sir Seretse Khama in the film. Why was that not the case?

Hollywood is a business at the end of the day. Whoever pays the piper dictates the tune. Perhaps if I was from a country like Kenya or South Africa where governments rightfully invest millions in their biggest acting stars I would be leading a film about us like this one. On the other hand, actors like David Oyelowo have more support and investment from their home countries and so they are able to finance a multi-million dollar project like this and, more visibly, lead it as actors. Of course David has been my idol since I was in Drama School in London and so I am ecstatic about him as the actor to portray our hero, Sir Seretse Khama. David is one of the best actors working in Hollywood right now and I respect his work beyond measure as a friend and fellow actor.

Why is it important for you to tell the story of Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Ruth Khama?

Apart from it being one of the most compelling love stories of the 20th century; the story of Ruth and Seretse is also crucial if anyone is going to try to understand Botswana’s last 50 years. A country should always have a few very celebrated stories that encapsulate the spirit of the nation and this is one of ours. I am, of course, in the film because of my experience and talent and not just because I am from Botswana. I actually filmed my audition when I was on my world performance tour in Belgium last year and I only came to Botswana specifically to film.

How did you get involved?

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I was actually performing my play, “Blue, Black and White” (about Sir Seretse Khama) off-Broadway when I was told about the possibility of the film. After that I got into talks with the producers for about two years before the film came to shoot in Botswana. At some point I recorded an audition for Amma Asante and the rest, as they say is history. It is another wonderful opportunity for me to further advocate that the story of Seretse Khama be taken out of international obscurity and put into our children’s curriculum in Botswana.

What memories do you have of being on the set of A United Kingdom?

I have many fond memories of being on set for this film. Amma Asante is one of the best directors working in Hollywood right now and I have very rich and wonderful memories of seeing her genius at work. I had wonderful conversations with David Oyelowo. Being that he and I both trained as actors at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA) in the UK, we both work in Hollywood and on Broadway in the USA, and we are both of African descent which gives us a similar and very unique perspective on the art-form in a uniquely inter-continental sort of way. I have done several Hollywood films before and this is by far the warmest, kindest Hollywood set I have been on.

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Where was the film shot?

I shot my parts in Serowe and in Moralani. I was especially happy about filming in the same house where Seretse and Ruth once lived. Being a deeply spiritually awake person, I could not help but feel the aura of the place when we shot. We were all there for each other as cast members and I think that ensemble element will strongly come through in the final product.

You were the first actor to portray SSK in a professional production. How did you feel when you heard that David is going to play SSK and not you?

I was the first person to portray Sir Seretse Khama in a professional production almost a decade ago when I premiered my play “Blue, Black and White” off-Broadway. That led to many international awards and honors in my name over the past decade, and in midst of award shows a couple years ago I remember thinking that, in my opinion, if I never get to play Sir Seretse Khama on film there are only three other actors whom I would be comfortable with them being cast as Sir Seretse because they would do an exceptional job.

broadway actor, Donald Molosi
broadway actor, Donald Molosi
broadway actor, Donald Molosi
broadway actor, Donald Molosi

David Oyelowo was one of them! So when I found out a few years ago that he would be portraying Sir Seretse Khama I was elated! He is a genuinely beautiful and generous spirit and his humanism grounds the excellence of his acting work. Besides, I have always respected his work way back from the days that I was in drama school in London as mentioned before. My reaction was one of unbridled joy!

You have also just released your book “We Are All Blue”. Tell us more about this project…

This year I released “We Are All Blue.” It is a book, a collection of my off-Broadway plays including the one about Sir Seretse Khama and Lady Ruth Khama. It is a book that I am extremely proud of and it is a culmination of sorts of my performance of Botswana’s epic stories. “We Are All Blue” started being available in Botswana on Sir Seretse Khama Day (July 1st). The book has been called one of Africa’s most anticipated books of 2016 by bookaddict.com and brittlepaper.com has also written that the book should be compulsory reading for anyone anticipating the Hollywood film about Ruth and Seretse Khama. I agree!

 

Where and when are you launching the book?

So far I can confirm that I will, in the coming months, launch the book at Cambridge University; Kenya, Uganda and in Somaliland. Those nations have embraced my work on stage before and this time with the book is no different. Some countries are intending to buy it for their diplomats for them to learn about the wonderful story of Seretse and Ruth Khama. I am happy about any way of making sure that the story of Sir Seretse Khama ceases to be relegated to the peripheries.

Was it your plan to release the book and the movie in the same year?

Yes, because that is what Batswana are demanding in a year like this and I have to cater for that as an artist. I have to listen to the people otherwise I should leave the industry! Listen, Batswana are rightfully demanding tangible souvenirs from this momentous occasion and I am offering the book, “We Are All Blue,” as that perfect souvenir. Batswana are also rightfully demanding a quality commemoration that make us look our best to the world and that is what I am giving my presence in this Hollywood film as a way to reward followers of my work for their faith in me and my work about Sir Seretse Khama. I am doing this because I really believe that Sir Seretse’s story should not be for foreigners alone.

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Are you working on this with Bot50?

No.

What else are you working on currently?

I am working on a few other things that I will announce at the right time. For now I am promoting my book, “We Are All Blue.” I think it is wonderful that both the film and the book already hold such a special place in the hearts of Batswana. Part of why Batswana support my projects so much is that I am genuine about my passion for what I use my talents for. Batswana can tell that I am consistent and genuine about making Seretse Khama better and profoundly known.

 

Do you have any advice for writers and actors?

I advise them to be truthful. When you are genuine, your audience can sense it and they will only reward you for it in love and business. Also, they should not be discouraged when their work is not immediately appreciated. All my performances as Sir Seretse Khama are bigger productions with more actors and so on, when I perform around the world but they are smaller when I do them in Botswana because Botswana is where I get the least amount of support for telling the Seretse Khama story, but I will not be discouraged by that.

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Do you have any last words?

I hope that people are inspired to find out more about the foundation of Botswana through the work that I am putting out this year. Between scheduled releases of my performance in the Hollywood film, my theatre performances about Sir Seretse Khama such as at the upcoming GIMC and also my book; I hope that Batswana are inspired to play their part in commemorating our golden jubilee as a nation. Go out and get the book so that when the film comes out you already have a full understanding of the story of Seretse and Ruth Khama. Although the film is not based on my book, they are very similar. But I focus more on the Botswana side of things than the UK side of it. Both offerings are excellent markers of our nation at 50.

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How do we follow your work?

I am on Facebook as Donald Molosi. It is a fan page. I am also on Instagram and Twitter. My handle for all of them is @ActorDonald

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Moagi Madisa

"Although journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information and also the product of these activities; for me its science - our sorroundings"

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