The news that Scandal! cast its first deaf actor was shared on its Twitter on March 10, saying, “Did you know that Mxolisi Nodom is the first Deaf actor on Scandal!? And, Thando is his first acting role. #etvScandal.”
According to Sowetan Live, Nodom plays Thando, brother of the character Violetta. Nodom says acting has always been his desire.
“It’s been my longest dream. It’s something that I still want to do in future as well,” Nodom told Sowetan Live via email. “[My first day on set] I couldn’t believe it. My dream came true. I was just so happy.”
Grace Mahlaba, Scandal!’s creative director, tells Sowetan Live that early in the casting process, the team contacted interpreter Andiswa Gabashe, which is how they connected with Nodom. At the time, Nodom was involved with Zwakala, an arts competition for the deaf.
“Then we realized we don’t have a character on Scandal! that can sign which would be a challenge. So, we decided to include that the character Aya took sign language as a subject at her private school,” Mahlaba told Sowetan Live. “Ayanda Nzimande, who plays Aya, had to start taking sign language classes with Andiswa before we started shooting and will continue taking these lessons for the duration of the storyline. We worked with Andiswa Gabashe throughout the process, on set, when shooting up until the editing of our episodes.”
In mid-March, after Scandal! announced his casting, Nodom posted on Instagram and expressed thanks to all involved in his success:
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When talking with Sowetan Live, Nodom reiterated his thanks for Gebashe helping him land the role.
“She’s the one who fought for deaf people… she chose me and that’s how I joined Scandal!”
While Nodom was not born deaf, he lost his hearing early in life. According to Sowetan Live, he fell down the steps when he was four years old. The impact of the fall left him deaf. He was raised in the Northern Cape and currently resides in Johannesburg.
“I can read lips and slowly communicate with hearing people,” Nodom told Sowetan Live.
For Nodom, landing the role has less to do with himself and more to do with representing the deaf community in the world of entertainment.
“People need to know there’s nothing wrong with being deaf,” he told Elegance7. “Instead, they should be encouraged to learn South African sign language…I hope my role will open more doors for actors who’re sign language users so they can pursue their dreams. I’m living proof that it’s achievable.”
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“I’m an individual who’s talented but happens to be deaf,’’ he continued. “There’s no difference between me and other actors, apart from the fact that we speak different languages.”
“I’m an individual who’s talented but happens to be deaf.”
Nodom touched on the same topic when speaking to Sowetan Live, noting that he wants deaf individuals to pursue their dreams.
“We’ve never had deaf actors cast before. I think I’m the first person,” Nodom told Sowetan Live. “Many deaf people give up on their dreams such as being doctors, police officers, lawyers, etc. So, that’s why I feel I’m sort of a role model for deaf actors because I chased my dreams…No matter how hard it may seem, one day a miracle will happen and your dreams will come true. I used to be overlooked.”
Nodom told Sowetan Live that in addition to drama, he hopes to study psychology and engineering graphics and design.