SA-born, Los Angeles-based actress and producer Roxane Hayward

Roxane Hayward was born in Johannesburg, South Africa. Having finished her final year of school at the age of 16, Roxane was given a head start in life. She studied Drama, Dancing and Musical Theatre for four years through Trinity College London and the Imperial Society of Teachers of Dance London (ISTD).

Roxane started her acting and dancing training at the young age of 6. She featured in ‘Jozi H’ 2006 (CBC) as well as ‘Isidingo’ 2007 (SABC) while still in school. At the age of 16, Roxane moved to Cape Town. It was then that she also started modeling and has since featured as the face of many worldwide advertising campaigns. In the beginning of 2011, Roxane made her first appearance on British television where she played the featured lead, ‘Louisa’, in Episode 3 of the hit BBC comedy, ‘Beaver Falls’. At the end of 2011, Roxane finished working on her first feature film ‘Death Race: Inferno’ – a Universal Pictures production. She played the supporting role, ‘Prudence’, alongside Dougray Scott. When filming commenced, Roxane ventured into the music industry and started recording her debut album. This was interrupted when she was cast as a lead role, ‘Angelica’, in the second season of the BBC series ‘Leonardo’ (CBBC).

In 2015, she was cast as the role of the historical figure, ‘Susanna White’, in the National Geographic two-part movie event titled ‘Saints and Strangers’ (SONY). In the same year, the first international feature film to be filmed in South Africa where all lead roles are played by South African actors, ‘Accident’ started production – Roxane played the lead role, ‘Caroline’.

Roxane has always been a strong advocate for health and fitness. Since starting her Muaythai training in 2016 with two-time world champion Quentin Chong, she also became a spokeswoman for self-defense and continues to host seminars in South Africa that focus on human rights, empowerment, safety and teaching individuals how to defend themselves.

This interest led to her directorial debut for the public service announcement (PSA) titled ‘Open Your Eyes’ for HeardPSA – an international platform hosted by the Global Sustainability Network (GSN), calling on filmmakers from around the world to create awareness on human trafficking and modern day slavery. Roxane wrote, directed and produced the PSA which was voted second worldwide by the international panel of judges who include the legendary Quincy Jones, Wesley Snipes and Joseph Fiennes.

In June 2017, ‘Blood Drive’ (Universal Cable), the grindhouse style television series in which Roxane plays the role of ‘Mimi Kox’, aired on Syfy. Due to her dance background and dedication to the martial art of Muaythai, Roxane performs her own fight sequences and stunts in all of her on-screen appearances to date.

What made you take the leap of faith and move to Los Angeles to pursue your dreams?

That is a good way to put it – ‘a leap of faith’. It definitely was a leap and definitely required faith, trust and confidence that it would all fall into place. 

But, did I just wake up one day, put my gym tights on and say, ‘I’m leaping everybody! Off I go to Hollywood!’? Nope, I did not. The whole process of moving to the US took about… hmmm… 17 years. That’s all! Haha. 

For me, I was never really set on moving the Los Angeles per se. I just wanted to be in a location where I could work, work, work. And like many South African actors know, unless you are a regular on a local soap or sign on for a theatrical touring production; there are quite a few months of the year spent waiting for summer to come around again and filming to get back up and running. 

I started acting at the age of 10 in Johannesburg. After a few years passed and I had the experience of working on British and American international productions shooting in Cape Town, I thought I would go to London for 6 months and see how the industry worked over there. This continued for 5 years – every year visiting for up to 6 months, never quite being able to bite the bullet and make the official ‘move’. Something was off… I just couldn’t see myself calling London ‘home’. 

Then, in 2015 I was invited to Los Angeles to attend the premiere of a SONY production I worked on called ‘Saints and Strangers’. Long story short, I fell in love! The energy of Los Angeles was contagious! I spent a month in the city, signed with an incredible manager, Matthew Lesher, and decided that THIS was where I wanted to be (sorry London, I hope we can still be friends!). The Green Card process took about two long, anxious years but, the excitement of arriving back in LA kept me going!

November 2018, I finished working on Shakespeare in Love at The Fugard Theatre, got on the plane and landed in The City of Angeles. All the hard work, dedication (and fun) from age 10 led to this new chapter in the US. 

What are some of your current projects you are working on in the USA?

The last year saw many projects unfortunately cancelled. However, with a cleared schedule I was able give some energy to other areas of my life, and I have never been busier! Seriously though… I need break. How much longer until Easter? Haha. 

One project I am particularly proud of is The YOU Effect podcast. It has been a wonderful creative outlet for me where I have been able to have some simple, but important, conversations, co-hosting alongside Californian local, Nick Cokas. We have welcomed some very noteworthy guests who all share encouraging stories – something we all need to hear more of in these times.

Another area that has been a focus of mine over the last year is getting actively involved (more so than ever) in my community, network and circles. Simply put – serving others. I have always been an advocate for health, wellness and fitness (with a published recipe column, self-defense seminars and more) but this pandemic and time in which we are living has really highlighted that real wellness has to do with more than just the food on our plate, but also a strong emphasis on how we nourish our bodies away from the kitchen – our emotional, mental, physical and spiritual wellbeing. And our connection with others. Those, along with food, are life’s nutrients. So with a new qualification under my belt out of the Institute of Integrative Nutrition, New York, I have launched a brand called The GetGiver – virtually working with individuals and groups on regaining power over their overall health. It has been extremely rewarding.

Performance wise, I have been working on numerous commercials, campaigns, hosting and spokeswomen roles for major US brands such for Kate Hudson’s InBloom, Honey, Johnny Was and Kron4. Being in front of the camera is always a treat, so the few shoots that have been allowed to commence during this time have felt like playdates for me! 

With the world constantly changing and battling the fight against COVID-19, how did you survive depression as well as COVID-19 and become introspective and to focus on your acting as well as your projects?

Gosh, there are so many layers to that question and I wish we could spend an hour discussing how I managed to find a silver lining to the darkness that this pandemic has thrown at us. But, to keep it short, I’ll point out a few ‘anchor points’ that helped me find some steadiness during the storm.  

  • I decided to look at Covid-19 (and everything that came with it) as just another circumstance – not something that would take control of my life and who I am. How I decided to react to that circumstance was in my control and, ultimately, would be the thing that moulded me. 
  • Rather than too much introspection, I actually placed my focus outward. Self-care, self-motivation, self-focus are all important and necessary to keep those batteries charged. But placing my focus on others is the thing that really fuelled me, and continues to do so, throughout this pandemic. It’s like ‘curing’ two birds with one stone – there’s almost no way you’ll come out of helping others not feeling better personally. 
  • I jumped on board to work on the communications of an app called 2gTHr – it has been a wonderful tool in helping me slow down and truly connect with others. Unlike other social platforms, which I have purposefully been slightly detoxing from, 2gTHr rewires us back to how we used to interact before social media – remember those days? No ‘quick scrolling’ and ‘split-second likes’, no ‘only sharing our accolades in return for validations’, no judgement and no comparisons. It has turned into a vital tool that has seen me through some cloudy days. If anyone would like to connect with me there, they can go to

Tell me more about your passion for self-defence and how you have used this to empower others in Los Angeles?

Yes!I love it, I love it, I love it! Stop whatever you’re doing right now and sign up to start some form of martial arts training! Seriously. I cannot express enough what an incredible addition it has been to my life.

Since starting my Muaythai training in 2016 with two-time world champion Quentin Chong (after a near kidnapping experience – yip… that was my motivation for staring martial arts), I became a spokeswoman for self-defense and continue to host seminars in South Africa, Los Angeles and San Francisco. These seminars focus on human rights, empowerment, safety and teaching individuals how to defend themselves.

The seminars have been hosted alongside the ‘Protect Your Body Project’ foundation, ‘The Social Makeover’ (South Africa), Renzo Gracie South Africa and Panther Martial Arts, Hollywood as well as working with schools in Los Angeles, developing children’s environmental awareness as well as their physical and mental empowerment.

More recently, I hosted a seminar at Renzo Gracie, Los Angeles, for a group of phenomenal, powerful women from ‘Two Wings Foundation’ who are actual survivors of sex trafficking. The strength, motivation and determination that they showed during the two day seminar was one of the most inspiring moments I have witnessed – in the true sense of the word.

What is the life and hustle of working and living in LA like?

To be honest, life and hustle in LA doesn’t differ too much to South Africa. There are still 24 hours in the day, and I have always tried to fill as many of them as I can being as productive as possible. The main differences would be, there is more time-wasting traffic between meetings, auditions and events; there are many moments where you have to repeat yourself with an American accent so that people can understand you; and, there is no such thing as a grey area when it comes to rules (this includes parking tickets… eish! Not a fun way to spend your hard earned dollars. As you can tell, I speak from experience).

Are there some lessons you have learnt along the way?

Don’t forget to feed the parking meter! Haha. 

Where do I even begin. About 3 months into my first year in LA, I stopped one day and literally started laughing out loud. I thought to myself, ‘You know, since I’ve arrived here, I must have said ‘You Live and You Learn!’ at least three times a day!’

There are so many twists and turns to life in the US. But, the more I learn (no matter how frustrating it may be at times) the more my horizons expand and my perspectives grow. I think I’m starting to get the hang of it (shhh… don’t say that too loudly incase I jinx it!). 

Could you share with us jour journey on focusing on nutrition and how important it has been for you?

Nutrition has always been an interest of mine. My grandmother instilled some incredible foundations in our family – quality over quantity, moderation, unprocessed, unrefined foods and most definitely, ‘Never eat cereal – there is more nutrition in the box!’ Haha. 

Being in a physically demanding industry where your energy and stamina levels need to be at a constant high; your skin, hair and nails need to look healthy, and the silly statement ‘the camera adds 10 pounds’ is locked into your memory files, I have always been motivated to eat healthy. But have ensured that I have always done so with full understanding of my decisions – never blindly following trends and fads. 

The Banting diet was brought to my attention in 2014 and, after seeing incredible results in my physicality and energy; a fun, informative blog was born out of this new found interest alongside my good friend Julia Pietersma – welcoming… ‘The Banting Blondes’. The blog saw many successes, we gained sponsorship from leading brands, released a recipe eBook and wrote recipe column for magazines and radio programs. 

But, that all came to a pause when I stopped eating meat in 2016. Banting was all about low carb, high fat. So how do you do that when you don’t eat meat? That didn’t leave me with very much from which to choose. So I started eating carbs again (eeeek, don’t tell anyone!) – lentils, chickpeas, sweet potatoes, brown rice all saw their way back onto my plate (bad Banting Blonde!). It was around the same time I started Muaythai. And guess what? My waist line became even smaller! My energy levels increased even more. I could train harder than before and I felt better than ever. 

The bottom line is, there is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to diet and nutrition. And (more importantly) there is so much more to nutrition than just the food we eat. This realisation motivated me to start studying nutrition – I wanted to know all the answers! Although I don’t think anyone will ever know how every individual body reacts to every known food item, it has been a wonderful addition to my interest in the field of wellness and I have enjoyed being able to confidently help guide and support clients to realise their health goals.

Do you have any words of wisdom or motivation for the youth of South Africa who would dream of following in your own footsteps?

There is no silver bullet. Life will have it own, unique, individually-crafted set of gifts waiting for you. It is great to have a goal, but the most rewarding thing, I’ve found, is overcoming the obstacles on the way to achieving those goals. 

You’ll need to feel that fire burning underneath you in order to keep you going if you decide to pursue your passion as your career, and that fire is great! But don’t forgot to go with the flow… Sure there might be a few blows here and there, but it shouldn’t feel like a constant fight. Keep having fun! Stay professional, but don’t take yourself too seriously. 

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