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PostHeaderIcon Buyi Zama, Who Plays Rafiki in The Lion King – Interview Via BWW

The Lion King is currently playing on tour in Greenville, SC. The Lion King tour is looking forward to bringing the show to Houston, Texas for the third time from July 10 to August 12, 2012.

On the morning of June 14, the charming and personable Buyi Zama, who plays Rafiki, took some time out of her demanding performance schedule to talk to me about playing Rafiki all over the world, the wax figurine of Rafiki at Madam Tussauds Las Vegas and some siggestions for everyone with dreams and aspirations. Here is the glimpse of the Musical review by David Clarke at broadwayworld.com

Buyi Zama as Rafiki in The Lion King

Buyi Zama as Rafiki in The Lion King


As a child, you never saw yourself as a performer. Is there a unique and interesting story behind how you came to be in the beloved and well known and musical, The Lion King?

Is that a question? (Laughs) I never saw myself… (Pauses) I used to sing. I used to sing all the time, but anything other than just singing, I never saw myself as that. And, I thought everyone could sing, so I didn’t think it was anything special. So, yeah! (Pauses) My audition, I was hanging out on with a friend, so I didn’t really plan to audition for Lion King. And, they gave me a job for some reason. I don’t know. I still think they’re going to find out one day that I’m not really trying to do it; I was just at the right place at the right time and they were desperate enough to give me a job.

Rafiki is a fan-favorite character. What has been like playing this role all over the world?

You know, what’s great about Rafiki is that no one understands her, but everyone understands her at the same time. (Pauses) Me included. (Laughs) Because she is a mysterious being, you know. She is half baboon, half woman. She is just wise woman. I mean, I sing in a language that most people don’t understand wherever I’m at, except when I performed in South Africa where they understood each and every word. Everywhere else we don’t understand her, but they just get the character. They get what I’m about. They get what the character is about. And, that’s partly, or mostly, I think, because (Pauses) emotions have no language. People are actually able to let go of trying to analyze everything, and they just feel. So when you get to use that part of you, which is feelings, you enjoy something more. It’s just like when you love someone and you can’t put it in words, only because you feel it and you can’t explain it.

While playing Rafiki in Las Vegas, Madame Tussauds commissioned a wax figurine of you in the Rafiki costume. What was that experience like?

Buyi Zama stands next to the wax figure of the Rafiki character

Buyi Zama stands next to the wax figure of the Rafiki character


Um! (Laughs) Firstly, maybe I’m weird, but whenever things like that happen, I always just think, “Aw, that’s not me. They’re not doing this becuase… It’s just something that they want to do. It’s not… (Pauses) It’s not real.” I never believe those things, even though they are happening for real. (Laughs) I guess that’s the weird part of me. Because… (Pauses) I mean, when I was there to unveil the thing, I was, “Why is everyone taking so many pictures? It’s this wax thing. It’s not me, of course. It’s Rafiki.” And also, I think there is that separation, of course, between me and Rafiki. I always just think that Rafiki upstages me all the time. (Laughs) She’s that strong. (Pauses) It is mostly about Rafiki. It’s never me. I just bring her to life. That’s all.

Rafiki displays incredible strength in the show, always believing in Simba and being a good mentor to Simba. Do you share this personality trait or any other personality trait with the character you portray?

Yes. I basically believe in everyone, in my life. I feel that I always want to see the best out of people, be it my family, my friends. You know, I always look for that good part of them, and I want that to be seen by everyone else. People spend enough time doubting themselves. Yes, for that, and taking care of everyone and having everyone come to me for advice, I guess Rafiki and I share that. We’re there to help.

In your opinion, what is it about The Lion King that makes it appeal to such diverse audiences?

I think because it’s a good versus evil story, and, you know, people always want good, being good, to outshine evil, of course, to win. And everyone can identify with it. It’s a family story. It’s a family show. It’s one of those family shows that you can take the whole family [to]. And everyone, you know, the dad’s will identify with Mufasa, and the mother’s with Sarabi. And, you know, being part of a community is what The Lion King is about. Everyone can identify. I think that’s what it is. (Pauses) And, also, it’s more than just, as much as we would think that it’s just about animals, it’s a human story. (Pauses) You know, it’s very human. It goes to that part of ourselves—it’s that emotional center, again; you get to that part. And, the puppets! (Laughs) They make it amazing. People feel like they’re part of the story because they see how everything works. They feel like they, you know, are backstage. They see the gazelle wheel, and they see that, you know, of course, this thing is attached to these wheels that look like a bicycle, but they’re still able to use their imagination. You know, they’re not just limited just to what we want to show them, they also feel like they see how things work. That’s why.

Now that you have established yourself as a musical theatre actress, is there now a dream role that you’d love to play?

See, this is the thing; I wish I had played another role then I would be dreaming of playing Rafiki. (Laughs) But now, I think I’m playing my dream role. Even though I didn’t plan it. I didn’t ever… it’s just this is where it started for me. It just started big! So, (Pauses) I mean, I was in the ensemble a long time ago, when I started. You know, I was having fun then. But then they gave me Rafiki. They believed in me more than I believed in myself. Which is why I always try to make people believe in them[selves]. People never stop and see their potential, and I think I did not see mine. I didn’t know that I could do what I do, until someone else saw it in me and believed in me. Now, I always try to spark that in people and just encourage them. So, you know, this is my dream role, and, of course, I’m living my dream because I travel. That’s all I can ask for, really. (Pauses) You know. That’s it. I don’t know if I… Let me think. I’ve never actually [thought] about it. Maybe when I see you, after the show, I will know. (Laughs) But, I think I’m playing my dream role. (Pauses) Yeah. People tell me I’m pretty funny (Pauses). Sometimes! (Laughs) People tend to laugh around me, so maybe I should get into some comedy. I don’t know. (Laughs) But, I don’t know. I don’t know if there’s a role that I’d like… I don’t know. It hasn’t been written yet.

Read the complete interview {Via BroadwayWorld.com}

The Lion King roars into Houston on July 10, 2012 and it plays at Sarofim Hall Hobby Center until August 12, 2012. Buy Lion King Houston TX Tickets Online, Use Code SUMMERFUNTN to Save $10 on Orders of $250 or more!

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