Abdul, 11, lands acting role in local series, The Riviera

Abdul Jawwaad Salie escorted his niece on Saturday July 25, at her Frozen-themed birthday party.

After several auditions, an 11-year-old Rondevlei boy landed the part of Reza on SABC 2’s The Riviera.

Abdul Jawwaad Salie says he was thrilled when he got the part.

The show, which aired in April, is about the experiences of a 12-year-old Muslim girl, Riana Isaacs, growing up on the Cape Flats during 1989. Abdul plays Reza, Riana’s little brother. The series ended in July but may be renewed for a new season.

Abdul went for the audition last year, with his agency, Kool Kids. Abdul says the show is his first major acting experience on TV.

Created and narrated by the actress, Quanita Adams, whose own life inspired this story, The Riviera introduces Kelly Damon as Riana and stars Keenan Arrison as the father Naz and Chantal Herman as the mother Liz, the parents of the culturally blended and hilarious Isaacs family.

Abdul’s mother, Ateeqah Salie, says the family were thrilled when Abdul landed the part.

“We were so proud of Abdul; it was so overwhelming. It wasn’t easy but he made it.”

Abdul says it was one big adventure for him.

“It was exciting acting with the cast members. I would play with the walkie talkie on set, it’s always fun on set.”

Spider-Man actor Tom Holland is Abdul’s inspiration for acting.

“The role he plays is very good; he is natural and the stunts he does are something I wish to do in the future.”

During lockdown, Abdul spends his time doing school work, rehearsing his lines and playing video games. He has a younger brother, Ajwad Salie,1, and he escorted his niece, Ammarah Andrews to her Frozen-themed birthday party on Saturday July 25.

Abdul’s father, Fuad Salie, says he is very proud of his son’s achievement.

“To all the children in this community, don’t be afraid to spread your wings and fly, aim high and reach your goals.”

The director and producer of the show, Lucilla Blankenberg, says working with children comes easy to her.

“Abdul was great because he understood that he was part of a team and worked as professionally as he could for his age,” she says.

Sometimes Abdul would get tired. Set days are long and for children it’s even more tiring, she said.

“I had a game with him where I’d ask, ‘Are your eyes still green?’. He’d have to open them up and say yes. And then we’d go create a scene.”

She says a person’s background can be a real asset in a creative industry.

“We can all draw on our history and our experience and use it to inform our creative space. Abdul is lucky because he has had the opportunity to do this at a young age. He will grow and use his talents in future.”

Abdul’s Grade 5 teacher at Westville Primary School, Sharief Pandey, says he is a normal 11-year-old boy at school. He is humble, quiet, respectful and reserved, he says.

“Abdul doesn’t really speak about the show in class, he is quiet about it.

“There are some scenes I watched that I could relate to the character Reza, who Abdul played.

“Sometimes his character would come to life. He would play pranks on people in the series, sometimes I see him do this on his friends in class.”