Rami women and Con­nie on how women should be por­trayed

De­spite the film and TV in­dus­try’s huge chal­lenges for women, two ac­tresses are mak­ing in­roads

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

It is a rare thing on South African TV: two tal­ented and pow­er­ful fe­male char­ac­ters go­ing head-to-head in one show.

This week, view­ers of Mzansi Magic’s The Queen were thrilled by the ar­rival of Gra­cious Mabuza (played by Rami Chuene) and her bat­tle with Har­riet (played by Con­nie Fer­gu­son). Har­riet and Gra­cious are both di­vas and drug deal­ers.

A re­port com­piled by Sis­ters Work­ing in Film and Tele­vi­sion, which was launched at the Dur­ban International Film Fes­ti­val last month, re­vealed that 78% of women work­ing in the in­dus­try were dis­crim­i­nated against be­cause of their gen­der. The re­port also in­cluded ac­counts of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and even rape on set.

Chuene, for one, agrees with the study’s find­ings. “It is true that women in the TV and film in­dus­try are be­ing dis­crim­i­nated against,” she said, adding that sex­ual ha­rass­ment in the in­dus­try is com­mon­place, with “men find­ing it okay to touch, fon­dle and even force them­selves on women”.

In ad­di­tion, women are of­ten over­worked, bul­lied and un­der­paid.

“It used to be a small is­sue, but now it has be­come a state of emer­gency be­cause our women live in con­stant fear. If we do noth­ing, soon it will be a way of life, an ac­cepted way of liv­ing,” Chuene says.

Fer­gu­son urges women to ex­pose the per­pe­tra­tors, be­cause keep­ing quiet al­lows it to con­tinue.

“As women, we also need to have con­fi­dence in our ta­lent and not de­pend on our looks and sex­u­al­ity for pos­si­ble roles,” she says.

Fer­gu­son said Chuene was per­fect for the role of Gra­cious be­cause she was fear­less, an ex­tro­vert and didn’t take her­self too se­ri­ously.

“Rami has been a ball of en­ergy and is ex­tremely hy­per­ac­tive. If you don’t shut her up, she won’t stop talk­ing. I think she was Bru­tus’ rel­a­tive in a pre­vi­ous life. She’s brought a dif­fer­ent en­ergy to the show and I ab­so­lutely love work­ing with her,” she says.

Chuene is more than thrilled. “It’s al­ways a plea­sure to be given a plat­form to do what you love best.”

The two have worked to­gether be­fore, on Gen­er­a­tions, but Chuene had a cameo role.

How do these two ac­tresses be­lieve women should be por­trayed on TV?

It de­pends, says Fer­gu­son: “So­ci­ety has dif­fer­ent classes of peo­ple and they need to be rep­re­sented in their en­tirety.”

Chuene agrees, say­ing women are so dif­fer­ent from one an­other “that it would be un­fair to have a set text­book as to how women should be por­trayed”.

“We have sto­ries to last a mil­lion life­times. We need to hear and see the story of the house­wife and the cor­po­rate woman, the sto­ries of the abused, the vi­o­lated and the ones who sim­ply gave up,” she says.

Fer­gu­son and Chuene have had their fair share of dra­mas as fe­male ac­tors.

“Film and tele­vi­sion have his­tor­i­cally, in most cases, had men in lead­ing roles – in front of and be­hind the cam­eras. The big­gest chal­lenge has been fight­ing to change the sta­tus quo. We are slowly mov­ing away from fe­male char­ac­ters play­ing sup­port­ing roles to male leads,” Fer­gu­son says.

Now the in­dus­try is re­al­is­ing that fe­male char­ac­ters can drive a story just as well as male char­ac­ters. “The mod­ern woman is as­sertive, knows her worth and is not afraid to show strength and lead­er­ship with­out los­ing her fem­i­nin­ity,” she says.

Chuene, how­ever, says there are higher ex­pec­ta­tions of fe­male ac­tors who not just have to be good at their craft, but look like mod­els as well. Fer­gu­son is one of few black women in South Africa to own a TV pro­duc­tion com­pany, which she co-owns with hus­band Shona.

“I have never tried to lead like a man. My strong­est qual­ity is get­ting things – even close to im­pos­si­ble things – with a smile,” she says.

Adding pro­ducer to her act­ing job has had it’s chal­lenges.

“I was so used to be­ing suc­cess­ful as an ac­tress that the thought of fail­ing as a pro­ducer paral­ysed me. We sat on our ideas for the long­est time un­til we de­cided to take a leap of faith in 2012 and fo­cus on build­ing and grow­ing Fer­gu­son Films,” she says.

. Catch The Queen on Mzansi Magic every week­day at 9pm

PHO­TOS: MZANSI MAGIC

MAK­ING HER MARK Rami Chuene

SELF-MADE Con­nie Fer­gu­son

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