Mafia tales and sitcoms give SA actor a Hollywood rush

South African actor Stelio Savante (44) has found a place in the Hollywood spotlight, after being featured in notable films and television shows that have earned him widespread recognition in the entertainment industry.

His most recent shining moment was starring as the character Hunter S Kimbrough in the drama Eisenstein in Guanajuato, written and directed by Peter Greenaway. The film was nominated for the Golden Bear award at the 65th Berlin International Film Festival following its premiere there in February.

The 2015 film focuses on the journey and transformation of Soviet-era director Sergei Eisenstein, who travels to Guanajuato to direct his film Que viva México.

Those haven’t watched Eisenstein in Guanajuato might remember Savante from his recurring role as Steve, a private investigator in the United States comedy series Ugly Betty. He was part of the sitcom’s ensemble that was nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award in 2007. His other roles include parts on television shows such as Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Sopranos, Guiding Light and All My Children.

Mafia in the spotlight

His latest appearance is on the eight-part Mafia docudrama series Making of the Mob: New York. According to Variety, (, the series “begins in 1905 and spans more than 50 years, tracing the original five families that led to the modern American Mafia, including the rise of Charles ‘Lucky’ Luciano, Meyer Lansky and Benjamin ‘Bugsy’ Siegel”.

Making of the Mob: New York premieres in mid-2015 in the US and Savante will portray Joe Masseria, the former head of the Genovese crime family who was also known as the Mafia boss in New York during the 1920s and 1930s.

It’s been quite a busy season for Savante, who’ll also star in National Geographic’s docudrama series called American Genius, which sheds light on history’s inventors and creative individuals. He portrays David Sarnoff, a pioneer of American radio and television who led the Radio Corporation of America in the 1920s.

Acting over tennis

Savante’s love for acting dates back to his university days. He left South Africa for the US in the early 1990s after receiving an international tennis scholarship to study at the University of West Alabama. The acting bug bit while he was performing in plays in university, and he decided to pursue it as a career.

Through his roles, Savante has succeeded in telling stories that challenge the audience. His performance in Once We Were Slaves (2014) earned him a merit award for best actor at the Best Shorts Competition.

Once We Were Slaves is known as the “Good Friday story”, and tells of two Jewish prisoners awaiting their fate in a Jerusalem jail cell.

He also starred in the 2014 film Where the Road Runs Out, the first feature film ever to be shot in Equatorial Guinea.

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