Editor: Felicia Naiwa Sithebe, Writer: Phindile Mngadi, Photographer: Katlego Mokubyane, Creative Direction: Modise Motaung and Lihle Ngubo, Makeup: Phumzile Mhlongo, Hair: TumeloMj’s Afroboutique Production Team: John-Otto Phike, Karabo Mokoena, Rainy Nthangeni and Tshepo Marema
Introduce us to Luyanda Zwane…
I always describe myself as a spirit in a box. I’m a spiritual person in this vessel of umzimba that carries us so that we can live out our purposes and have a human experience. I come from Durban, KwaZulu Natal eMlazi, The West Side. I’m a determined person. Also, I work very hard and believe I operate on purpose as a human being. I don’t just do things willy-nilly or just because I feel like doing them. I do them because I feel like they will have an impact and they will confirm who I am and my purpose and what I want to do in this life. My purpose is to make people believe that in life nothing is impossible. Whether I do it through people looking up to me as a role model. So that’s my purpose in life, to brainwash people into believing that there’s nothing impossible in the world.
Why Acting for you?
I have a twin sister and I’ve always had the question, does she think like me? Does she feel what I’m feeling when I’m sad? Does she feel sad? How is it to live someone else’s life? Not just in my head, in my own space and in my world, and that is what inspired me. Being able to be in a position where you can put yourself in someone else’s shoes and live their life, but without being that person. I used to watch actors on television growing up and wonder how you see things ngenye i-perspective yomunye umuntu. You can act. You can take upon different characters and live different lives at once.
You played the character of Nomonde in BET Africa Redemption, how did you connect with that character to master her portrayal?
I loved playing uNomonde because she’s way different from me. Angideleli kanjeya. I connected with her because I was eighteen before and I know how typical 18-year-olds act when they want something. How I connected with her is not a good story. I didn’t have a good relationship with my dad, and I’ve been trying. So, I found pieces of myself kuNomonde of wanting to be accepted by a parent. Pieces of wanting to be loved and taken care of. So, I was like, this was my trauma. How do I use it positively to blend in with uNomonde? So, that’s how I was able to portray her.
From the characters that you’ve played, which have stood out and what were the lessons?
I played Phumzile on Outlaws for Tshedza Pictures on Showmax. She’s twenty-four years old if not twenty-five. Even though she went through the pain of being abandoned by men. She still finds colour and life in love. She believes in love so much, not that she has a love interest in the story. She doesn’t, but a friend of hers is confused between two love interests in the story. She encourages her friend to stick to the man that caters for her emotional needs, her heart and what she needs in life. Stick to him! The mere fact that she can see the light in love even though she had been hurt. That means she still believes that in life, no matter what you go through, there’s always sunshine in something. So, that’s what I learned from Phumzile’s character. The character of Nomonde on BET Africa Redemption healed me. I released all the anger on set by acting as the character of Nomonde, I then reached out to my dad in trying to fix our relationship. I opened up to him, he apologized and we reconciled. In every character you act, you can find pieces of yourself.
Shaka Ilembe is such a culturally rooted historical piece. As an actor, what does it do for you to play characters of your culture?
It educates us. I grew up in a Christian family and Amadlozi is something that we disregarded. Someone had a spiritual episode where the ancestors spoke through her, we were on set and the ancestors started telling us what was happening back then, things that were not in the story, things that were not in the script, I was fascinated by that. People started educating me about my culture. People started educating me about our ancestors. We are reliving our ancestor’s lives and today we are their wildest dreams because they are the reason why we are here. We are telling their story and educating people who don’t know anything about their culture. I was so educated in the show and I started waking up and believing that I can do anything because my ancestors fought my wars. My ancestors were superheroes. What I love about the Shaka Ilembe story is that, we are showing the black child that you can also be a queen, you can also be a princess and we are showing that through the whole series. People will start believing in themselves. People of colour will know that they matter and they carry power within themselves.
As a teen in an adult world, how do you balance being a working professional and understanding some of these older characters that you need to take on?
I studied the lives of people around me. I questioned how a twenty-four-year-old acts, laughs, speaks or walks. You study someone of that age or people around you. My grandmother uMaZwane told me that, when I walk into a room, I shouldn’t be young because people would walk all over me. I need to carry myself with confidence and know that even if I’m young, I can control the whole room full of people who are older than me. To go back to your question, I study a lot of people who are older than me. It is very intimidating, to be quite honest, to be surrounded by grown-up artists when you are a young artist, especially a teenager because in South Africa we don’t have a platform as teenagers. These young people must be mature for their ages to be able to fit in a room. The industry is now opening up because of streaming platforms like Netflix but we don’t have coming-of-age TV shows. I’m sorry to blow my own horn; but if I wasn’t wise and mature, I wouldn’t be in the rooms that I’m stepping into right now. If I had this nineteen-year-old mentality, I wouldn’t be doing anything productive with my life but I’m realizing that I want to be that blueprint of change that the industry would see at some point. I’ll start creating content for young people, not things that are overly sexualized. I told myself that I will be wise. I’ll be mature. I will read books. I’ll do this so that I can be able to sit in a room of mature people and educate them, and have them educate me as well. I will have them realize that we need young people in spaces because we’re the new innovators.
How does social media feature in your life as an Actor? Do you think internet branding is important for an Actor’s growth?
Social media for an artist is like your CV. Some people find you on social media. How you use your social media is very important as an artist because some people are going to judge you based on your internet brand. So, for the next five years, I’ll be working with Steers and they’ll pay me for posting on social media and acting in their TV commercials. They only saw it as worth allowing me to post their content and tag them because they realized that I use my social media in a way that when someone looks at it, they want to be associated with me as a brand. Internet branding is very important. That’s how you get some of your jobs. I got scouted on Instagram by Mr Price because of the type of pictures I posted when I was in Grade Eleven. People find you there as an artist, people search for you there and see what you are about.
What are your long-term career goals? What do you want to explore in the industry?
I want to do action movies. I want to be in a position where I don’t have to audition. I dread going to the auditions because it makes me nervous, and I always think about the job after auditioning. I want to produce. I can only count a few teenagers in the industry right now who are doing well. I’m often the youngest in the room, so I want to be in a position where I’m not the only youngest in the room, some rooms must be full of young people who are creating.
What impact do you want to create in the industry?
My legacy as The NEXT. I want to imprint tenacity in the arts as a young person. I want to be in a position where they look at me and they say beyond her age, she still broke barriers and made something out of herself. I want to also make films and television for young people because the industry sexualizes almost everything. As The NEXT, I want to make everyone understand that you can be whatever you want to be. You can step into every room and own it. Brainwash yourself into thinking that nothing is impossible whether you are young or old.