Article by: John-Otto Phike, Article contributor: Lindokuhle Mbonani, Photographer: Katlego Mokubyane, Photographer Assist: Sandile Mkhize, Junior Creative Direction: Modise Motaung, Creative Assist : Thembi Zikalala, Production Coordinator: Siyanda Buthelezi, Wardrobe: Kojo Africa, Makeup: Phumzile Mhlongo, Transcibed by Adelaide Tsebe
Kwenzo Ngcobo known for his role at Qhawe on The Wife, Showmax. Ngcobo was born and raised in Port Shepstone, Kwa-Zulu Natal, where he completed his schooling before heading to Durban University of Technology to study a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Drama.
Ngcobo’s passion for storytelling led him to pursue an illustrious theatre career both locally and internationally. In 2020 during the pandemic, due to the theatre industry being shut down, Ngcobo started consciously pursuing tv and film roles that led him to his most recognisable character, Qhawe.
Ngcobo is a listener, he does not speak much but he is present in his silence. At the shoot, he was open sitting alone or sitting with other but not saying much. He was a bit nervous for the interview, as he expressed that he prefers speaking through his characters not himself. Here is what Kwenzo Ngcobo has to say about being part of Actor Spaces The Next!
John-Otto Phike: What does being part of Actor Spaces THE NEXT! mean to you?
Kwenzo Ngcobo: It’s exciting to see. I’ve wanted to work with Actor Spaces. The work that Actor Spaces does, to push actors to stay motivated and to have just fun with the craft, is very inspiring and motivating.
John-Otto: Having studied the Drama as an actor, how important was education in moulding your career?
Kwenzo: It’s important to study. University taught me how to organize and manage my talent, in terms of knowing what to do to remain disciplined as an actor, respect, and understanding the entertainment industry system. People can easily get mixed up with roles that are not meant for them and end up compromising the entire project. A project is about collaborating and working together as a team. There’s no number one, there’s us telling a story. It’s not about you as a person, but about the character that you’re portraying. The other people involved in the project want to push the story forward, respect the project by doing that you’re creating magic.
John-Otto: Since it’s not about that one role, but also about the work you’ve done. What would you say is important about putting in the work through the journey to the big break?
Kwenzo: The most important thing is learning from all the projects that you have worked on, regardless of how small they are. There must always be something you’re learning from previous projects in order to apply them to the next one. Gain more experience and humble yourself, even learn from background actors. You grow by doing that.
John-Otto: How would you describe your journey in understanding Qhawe.
Kwenzo: As an artist it’s important to adapt and have your own style of preparing for the work that you will be doing. Personally, I have done a lot of theater. I have taught myself to have my own way of preparing for projects, I have learned to master my elements of moving from one character to another. It’s all about having your own way of working. Doing that has helped me a lot, I now know how to separate my characters and debriefing from previous characters so I can adapt to new experiences that will help me prepare for the next character.
John-Otto: What would you say is the most challenging part of bringing characters or script to life as an actor?
Kwenzo: To lie to yourself. How I prepare is by reading the whole script, then going back to read it the second time. The second time I read it, I read it as if I am a baby who knows nothing about the world. I create images, play around the script and then go back to read it again to fit it in my world. It’s all about preparing and by doing that you’ll be able to portray any role, just take it seriously and respect the work.
John-Otto: How do you de-role? Especially with your current character Qhawe from The Wife
Kwenzo: I usually put away my script, take a break because I believe it’s good for my health. I then go back and grow that character for the next season.
John-Otto: You’ve done international work, what would you say you’ve learnt in those worlds that you apply today in your career?
Kwenzo: Different styles in theatre, different styles in acting, meeting different people and artists. As a theatre person, I have learn how to transform theatre. Overseas, they often merge theatre and film. I’ve learned a lot from that, it’s about growing and flowing with change.
John-Otto: What is your favourite medium of performance? And why?
Kwenzo: Theatre, It’s truthful and fun. It’s truthful in a way that you can’t make up something, emotions are there, you’re in one space with the audience and telling a story at the same time. On stage there’s no “cut”, you make a mistake, you make up something on the spot. You grow yourself not to become stagnant, you get to think fast and be able to continue with the show even when there’s a f* up. It’s like you’re in the fire and eager to go out. It’s a hot seat.
John-Otto: Your political figure inspiration for this series is Chris Hani. How would you say Chris Hani’s impact mirrors the impact you have in the industry now?
Kwenzo: I’ve been watching Chris Hani’s interviews and he is one of best leaders and an honest man. I’m still learning about other him as a hero. A person that I really looked up to is Steve Biko. They fought for us to be where we are today. I am still in the process of figuring out my own impact for this generation and my career.
John-Otto: What kind of stories do you wanna tell going forward?
Kwenzo: Not necessarily struggle plays, or films but I’ve always wanted to develop a script for June 16, but I did not want it to look like a struggle film. I want it to look into the lives of the student, what was going on at that time. To look at the different dynamics, and tell a story about Steve Biko and what people went through. For example, portraying Marikana, Caster Semenya, those are the stories I wanna tell. To tell stories that people have challenges in.
John-Otto: How has your journey in this industry made you an impactful actor?
Kwenzo: I’m still new. I’ve done theatre for a very long time and people have appreciated it. I think I’m here to find out how I can help people look out for my work, not for my face and to touch someone’s heart.
John-Otto: What does impact mean to you now?
Kwenzo: If someone comes to me and says my story touches them, and that they can relate to it. To know someone out there is not alone, to know and finding solution through telling stories. To know if there’s a kind of a situation, I can solve it this or that way.
John-Otto: Please finish this line for me, Kwenzo is impactful because?
Kwenzo: I’m an honest man.