Article by John-Otto Phike
How do you apply the lessons you learnt from home in your career today?
“I’m not even a fan of sit downs interviews, but my beautiful wife and manager pushes me. My placidity (calmness) keeps me out of tabloids or bad situations. I curbed that lifestyle, especially because when you’re in a space with people that support you, you end up adopting good characteristics and good traits. You learn to communicate more with people and you become aware of the power that you possess. Sometimes it’s even hard to read me. You’ll wonder eintlik eintlik who are you? Are you a Bujwa or a Pantsula, because if I put effort into something, I’ll fight to fit anywhere. For instance if my character is someone from the suburbs, from Sandton and is a snob, there’s no other option but to get into it, and when you meet new people they’ll get confused because you wouldn’t say that I’m from the kasi.”
Where does your admiration for theater come from?
Mduduzi: “Theatre is a holy place that revives you. It brings you back to yourself. You understand yourself after you’ve done a show. When doing uShaka, my manager did not like the idea of it that much, she kept saying that we don’t know what that character is going to do to me. After 2 days she eventually understood.”
Fatima: “Logistically it didn’t make sense, and we had to understand why we’re doing it and what it does for him as a person. I also had to understand what this would do for the soul, and I had to make sense of the logistics in order for it to make sense and align for everyone.”
You’ve featured in soapies such as Yizo Yizo, Zone 14, Rhythm City, and Soul City to name a few, and as such you’ve played an array of characters. Which character was your most enjoyable to become and why?
“I don’t have a character I’ve enjoyed playing. I’ve had moments and scenes that I’ve enjoyed playing, but I’m still looking for that scene. the drug scene in Zone14, where Papi is a drug mule and would eat the drugs in means to transport them, and the only way to get them out was to either cut them out or release them via secreting them. That was a scene that I still don’t know how I pulled off, and it was beautiful. I’ve had moments within the character that I’ve enjoyed. I’m quite critical of my work and I’m someone who constantly wants to grow, to a point where I don’t even fear criticism when it comes my way, I take it and analyze it- whether constructive or not.”
Having been one of the few actors on Rhythm City from beginning to end, what lessons did you learn from being a character for so long?
“It’s not healthy, because you become one dimensional, you become rusty in terms of your craft, and sometimes you have no choice because you want your children to eat. You can’t easily escape that character because it’s still going to air for another 4-6 months and other shows become hesitant to book you because your character is still on air on another show and will conflict and clash. Due to all of that you’ll end up becoming comfortable in that space and in that character. At this stage the directors now end up doing what you want because you know more about the character since their first appearance. In a way you end up becoming and feeling like office furniture, expensive furniture and that’s not good because that’s what I personally don’t want. There was a point where I would get on set without having even read my script. I would steal a glance at it whenever there was some stage blocking, and that’s not good at all especially for me because I want to grow and be creative with my lines.”
How do the different mediums of production (theater film, television) influence your acting approach?
I don’t think there’s a medium that affects or influences my acting approach, as long as I find that sweet spot where I place the character and make what the director wants. Directors differ, there are technical directors who look at the bigger picture and that leads to forgetting about the actor, and that can frustrate you as a person. Sometimes I even ask myself if they know what we have to go through in order to bring these things to life. When you get the script, you get the skeleton, and you need to add action, flesh and soul. Even considering the type of music this person listened to when they were younger up until the age they are at. Then after that process the director only looks at the technicals. I believe so much in a director who deals with an actor’s mind and forgets about the technical side because there are people for that. I like a director that challenges me and makes me sick and frustrated. I don’t see anything affecting or influencing me in terms of mediums.
What do you enjoy about acting for film?
“Film is nice because it’s almost like theater. You want someone to believe that you’re wearing blue clothes, when in fact you’re wearing a lighter shade of blue. You do that without even talking, and that’s how nearly similar the two are. With TV you’re looking at time, light production is losing money. Films also look at such aspects but with that you know that you’re only shooting about 4 scenes a day. If ever a scene ends one way, the next day you’ll walk in and find a dummy in place. In the theater we write down where and how the scene ends when we leave. Film is nice because you can express yourself, you’re able to debate a scene with the director on the way to approach a scene as an actor. Sometimes there are some directors who are very selfish, they don’t want to accept when something isn’t working.”
Would you say that you’re still finding yourself as a person?
You must always find yourself, don’t be comfortable in your space. So if you’re going to stay comfortable with where you are, then you’ve got a problem . You need to be constantly growing. Which is why I believe, especially as an actor, I haven’t done anything. I would rate my efforts 2.5/10. I say so because I want to grow. I want to go forward. There are actors out there but they haven’t been blessed with the opportunities that we have. So you need to be honest with yourself. There are a lot of things that I haven’t done yet that I need to do. That’s what I mean by saying I believe I have only done 2.5% of work in the industry.
We know of your dreams of running a production house, what is the progress on that?
“It’s there! Everything works with time and money. We work ngesikhathi, when it’s our time, it’s our time. The company name is called MetsandMabs, it’s from the first 4 letters of our surnames. It’s Metsileng and I’m Mabso, so MetsandMabs.