BAT­TLE OF THE SOAP BEAU­TIES

Drama as ac­tors say looks and so­cial­me­dia pop­u­lar­ity trump tal­ent on the soap opera scene

CityPress - - Front Page - NTOMBIZODWA MAKHOBA ntombizodwa@city­press.co.za

To land a hot role in a soapie these days, your tal­ent is not the most im­por­tant fac­tor, vet­eran ac­tors have charged. In­stead, as the bat­tle for view­ers heats up across chan­nels, cast­ing di­rec­tors ap­pear to be tak­ing as much no­tice of an ac­tor’s looks, their skin tone, and the num­ber of fol­low­ers they have on In­sta­gram and Twitter.

Vet­eran ac­tor Vusi Kunene says that to­day, any­one can be an ac­tor.

“As long as you look good or you know some­one. That is what it takes to be an ac­tor to­day,” he says.

“It is all about pop­u­lar­ity and the num­ber of fol­low­ers one has. It’s be­come like a fac­tory. Qual­ity doesn’t mat­ter. Peo­ple are copy­ing one an­other ac­cord­ing to what works. Sto­ries are be­ing told the same way.

“Now, it’s about fame, so­cial me­dia and who is trend­ing. These are the things that are used to mea­sure whether some­one will be cast.”

Out­spo­ken ac­tress Florence Masebe told City Press this week that looks don’t give you tal­ent and that “not ev­ery pretty girl” who is cast in a soapie role is ta­lented.

“We all know that tal­ent and ded­i­ca­tion is what mat­ters – looks don’t give you tal­ent, but they do help,” she says.

Masebe says it is also un­fair on good-look­ing ac­tresses that they are given weak story lines and their beauty is ex­pected to carry the plot. But there are, she says, beau­ti­ful ac­tresses who have plenty of tal­ent, such as Di­neo Moeketsi, who plays Kea on Mzansi Magic’s The Queen, who has grown as an ac­tor.

“I can­not wait to see her work on her next project,” she says.

Masebe, who used to star on top SABC soapie Mu­vhango, says that there is a ten­dency for pro­duc­ers to cast light-skinned women be­cause of their looks, and not their tal­ent. And vet­eran ac­tors need to speak out about this.

“Drama is about tal­ent. It has noth­ing to do with light-skinned or dark-skinned girls. We have young, ta­lented girls who stud­ied drama and are wait­ing for their break­through in the act­ing in­dus­try,” she says.

“When you are light-skinned and have a huge fol­low­ing, that doesn’t make you a ta­lented ac­tor.”

Masebe says ac­tors such as Leleti Khu­malo, Nthati Moshesh, Masasa Mban­geni, Brenda Ngx­oli, Tsholo Monedi and Nokuthula Led­waba are in­cred­i­bly ta­lented but do not have the so­cial me­dia fol­low­ings of some of the younger star­lets. “These ac­tors are beau­ti­ful, ta­lented and smart, but you won’t find them trend­ing on so­cial me­dia, their work speaks for it­self,” she says.

Kunene, how­ever, says it’s not the cast­ing di­rec­tors’ or pro­duc­ers’ fault, be­cause they are told what to do by the chan­nels that broad­cast the pro­grammes.

“They are told who to pick – given cri­te­ria,” he says.

Mzansi Magic spokesper­son Non­du­miso Mabece says the cast is agreed by the show’s pro­duc­ers and the chan­nel, and ne­go­ti­a­tions be­tween the ac­tors and the pro­duc­tion com­pany fo­cus on fac­tors such as the ac­tors’ ex­pe­ri­ence, char­ac­ter fit, level of de­mand for other roles, viewer and com­mer­cial ap­peal, and the size and du­ra­tion of the role.

Gen­er­a­tions: The Le­gacy cast­ing direc­tor Pumza Ralo ad­mits that looks mat­ter for in­creas­ing TV rat­ings, but their main fo­cus has al­ways been a good story line and the best en­sem­ble cast they can get.

The Queen’s pro­ducer and cast­ing direc­tor, Shona Fer­gu­son, dis­agrees with Ralo, how­ever, saying tal­ent wins hands down.

“Ev­ery­one is good-look­ing but that does not guar­an­tee high rat­ings.

“As much as TV is about fan­tasy and es­capism it’s im­por­tant to be true and au­then­tic to the char­ac­ter,” he says.

“It’s about be­liev­abil­ity and not pop­u­lar­ity. With the grow­ing sen­sa­tion of so­cial me­dia any­one can have a big fol­low­ing or pop­u­lar­ity and it doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily guar­an­tee that the in­di­vid­ual will have the same con­nec­tion with the au­di­ence as a par­tic­u­lar char­ac­ter and/or ac­tor.”

Mu­vhango cre­ative direc­tor Tessa Made ad­mits that when they au­di­tion new ac­tors, they have a clear idea of what he or she should be like in terms of looks, lan­guage and nu­ances. But the first thing they look for, she says, is tal­ent.

“Mu­vhango is well known for break­ing out new ac­tors, be­cause one of the things we have per­fected is see­ing be­yond an ac­tor’s au­di­tion and zon­ing in on po­ten­tial,” she says.

Isi­baya ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer De­siree Mark­graaff says looks, tal­ent and pop­u­lar­ity don’t con­trib­ute to their cast­ing de­ci­sions.

“We cast for tal­ent and the right fit to char­ac­ter. If they are pop­u­lar it could be a bonus or a curse – some­times you don’t want a very pop­u­lar per­son as you don’t want their pre­vi­ous roles to blur the new char­ac­ter they are play­ing. There is no rule,” she says.

“If an ac­tor or ac­tress has screen pres­ence and great per­for­mance skill then they are watch­able. You can’t help want­ing to see more of them. Think of Kevin Spacey or For­est Whi­taker as an ex­am­ple – nei­ther of them are hand­some or hunks, but you can­not take your eyes of them on screen.”

PHOTO: LERATO MADUNA PHOTO: IN­STA­GRAM BLUE SKY BRAND PHOTO: PHOTO: LEON SADIKI PHOTO: TEBOGO LETSIE PHOTO: NOKO MASHILO PHOTO: VELI NHLAPO / SOWETAN PHOTO: TEBOGO LETSIE

AL­LURE Ac­tress Jes­sica Nkosi plays Qondi on Isi­baya EN­GAG­ING Thulisile Phon­golo is in Gen­er­a­tions: The Le­gacy TA­LENTED Sindi Dlathu plays Than­daza on Mu­vhango FLAIR Natasha Tha­hane plays Amo on The Queen RE­GAL Di­neo Moeketsi plays Kea on The Queen STRIK­ING Nomzamo Mbatha plays Than­deka on Isi­baya FIT Thando Tha­bethe acts in Gen­er­a­tions: The Le­gacy SMOUL­DER­ING Linda Mtoba plays Zaba on Isi­baya BRIGHT Thembi Seete plays Bongi on Rhythm City

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