From SA to LA: South African celebrities making it big in Hollywood


John Kani


1. John Kani

John Kani is an internationally renowned South African actor known for roles both on screen and stage. In his youth, he worked alongside theatre heavyweights Athol Fugard and Winston Nstohona. In 1975 both Kani and Nstohona received a joint award, a Tony award for best actor for the play The Island.

In terms of film resume, Kani has appeared in notable South African films such as Sarafina and The Ghost of the Darkness. In recent years Kani has represented South Africa in Hollywood Blockbusters such as Disney’s live-action Lion King and Marvel’s Black Panther.


Sasha Pieterse

2. Sasha Pieterse 

Sasha Pieterse is a South African born actress and daughter to acrobat duo parents. Pieterse parents relocated with Sasha to the US at a young age to perform in Las Vegas. She started her film and TV career from the age 6, appearing in shows such as Heroes and House and films such as The Adventures of Shark Boy and Lava Girl and Good Luck Chuck.

Pieterse is best known for her role as Alison in the long-running hit ABC show Pretty Little Liars.


Lesley Ann Brandt

3. Lesley Ann Brandt

Lesley–Ann is another South African export celebrity born in Cape Town. Together with her parents and her younger brother, the family immigrated to Auckland, New Zealand, where she began her career in acting. Among the roles that catapulted her to fame include Naevia in the hit series Spartacus, Lucifer, Single Ladies, Killer Woman, Legend of the Seeker, Zombie Apocalypse, and Diplomatic Immunity among others.

Lesley recently made headline in her native SA when she spoke Afrikaans as her characters “demon language” in Lucifer. Brandt stated that ‘I knew the script involved me speaking demon and the writer of that episode was like ‘make up some sounds’ and I thought it wouldn’t feel authentic. So I was like let me alter my voice a little bit and I think this will be a cool little surprise for the South African fans and hopefully, they will be able to hear it and figure it out. It’s the only other language I know how to speak so I just thought it would be cool to bring in my culture and a bit of home in it.’

Sharlto Copely

4. Sharlto Copley

Sharlto Copley is a South African actor. He captured international audiences as the character Wikus van der Merwe in the Oscar-nominated science fiction film District 9 directed by fellow South African Niell Blomkamp.

Other acting credits include Howling Mad Murdock in the 2010 adaptation of The A-Team, Agent C.M. Kruger in the science fiction film Elysium, James Corrigan in the science fiction horror film Europa Report and King Stefan in the dark fantasy adventure film Maleficent.

He also played the title character in the science fiction film Chappie, Jimmy in Hardcore Henry, and starred in two seasons as Christian Walker of the TV series Powers. When Sharlto is not taking Hollywood by storm he spends time in South Africa, residing in Cape Town.