The big performance in Invictus is Morgan Freeman‘s Nelson Mandela, as you might expect. And Matt Damon‘s Francois Pienaar is…well, sturdy enough. But the one you remember after these two is South African actor Tony Kgoroge, who plays Mandela’s chief security guy, Jason Tshabalala.

Invictus costar Tony Kgoroge in Manhattan last August

One obvious reason is that Kgoroge is handsome — hunky even — with a current of kindness and compassion about him. And because he’s the most prominent character in the film with an arc, starting with a posture of borderline hostility towards white Afrikaaners to a place of some acceptance and respect at the end. It’s not a great part but a good one. Like I said, memorable. As an assertive guy who’s angry but capable of growth and not too much of a pusher, Kgoroge is a steady personality who does just enough (and is given just enough lines) to keep from fading into the woodwork.

I met Kgoroge at a Manhattan party last summer. We met again a day or two later. He told me about his Invictus role but described it modestly. There was no way to figure how strong his presence would be. Anyway, I’m glad we talked a bit, and I hope he gets a bounce out of Invictus. The only difficulty, of course, is that his last name is a pronunciation problem for Americans. I can’t even imagine how to say it. If I were his agent/manager I’d get him to change it to George.