Former West Alabama athlete shares journey to entertainment business

Published 2:55 pm Thursday, April 29, 2021

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Stelio Savante was born in Cape Town, South Africa and came to the U.S. on a tennis scholarship from UWA, then Livingston University.

Stelio Savante is a producer of the upcoming football film Under the Stadium Lights starring Laurence Fishburne and Milo Gibson (Mel Gibson’s son) and distributed by Saban Films and Paramount Pictures.

Savante was born and raised in South Africa and came to the U.S. in 1990 on an international tennis scholarship by The University Of West Alabama, known then as Livingston University. He also played as a kicker for the Tigers football team, then coached by Pat McCorkle. After participating in a long list of university plays directed by former director James McGahey, and in plays throughout Alabama, including the Canebrake Players in Demopolis, where he performed in The Odd Couple.

In 1991, Savante decided that he wanted to pursue a career in the arts and left Alabama for New York. One person that encouraged him to pursue his passion was James McGahey at UWA.

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“He was very encouraging, and he had contacts in New York that he passed along to me,” said Savante. “He told me that the theater had never really had someone with my combination of passion, dedication, and talent.”

Savante has over 125 films, television, and video game credits to his name. He has worked in all genres as an actor and has also been producing in the sci-fi, faith-based, and sports genres as well in the theater. His most recent film and television credits include starring roles in the action thriller Infidel opposite Jim Caviezel, the family drama Running for Grace opposite Matt Dillon and Jim Caviezel, the role of Moses on the hit biblical series The Chosen, the voice of Ajax in the Call of Duty Black Ops video game.

In 2007, he became South Africa’s first SAG Award Nominee as a member of Ugly Betty’s lead cast. He broke through with significant roles in studio films like My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Starship Troopers 3: Marauder, and a guest lead role in Law & Order SVU, starring opposite Bradley Cooper, Angela Lansbury, and Alfred Molina.

His current project is a film titled Under the Stadium Lights and is based on the true story of the 2009 Abilene High School State winning championship football team and is described as the ultimate underdog story.

“It’s a story of faith and a community that rallies around several specific incidences that happened in the area,” said Savante. “One of the producers reached out to me because he knew I had certain skills that could help with the film. I describe it as a very uplifting story that is highly entertaining.”

The film will be available nationwide on June 4th.

Savante will next be seen in the sci-fi film Destination Marfa, leading the cast opposite Tony Todd and also having produced the film.

 Savante said that he has worked on many high-end shows and movies over the years and that several good things come out of such a lifestyle. One of those things is the relationships he’s built with well-known actors.

“You work together in very tight-knit quarters, and they basically become your family from anywhere between a few weeks to a few months,” said Savante. “And over time, you stay in touch, your kids play together, and you realize life is short. You realize who you need to keep close to you.”

When asked what kind of advice he would give to aspiring actors and actresses, Savante said that anyone trying to enter the field must understand that acting is a business and is highly competitive.

“Be prepared to understand that it is a business. That means there are no guarantees; you’re not going to make a lot of money, especially in the beginning,” said Savante. “It’s extremely competitive because there will be 5 to 10 thousand people going after a role, and only one person will get the job.”

He also said that a person has to have a tremendous amount of good fortune come their way to where the role lands in their lap.

“It’s amazing to get to that place, and my advice is to be yourself. Live your life, bring your conflicts, struggles, relationships, and hardships into your work because that’s what makes it interesting and real. That’s what will separate you from everyone else.”