Vanessa Ntlapo takes off the gloves and reveals how she got fighting fit to star in boxing drama Jab.
Season 1 SABC1 20:30 Episode 1 Jelly wrestling isn’t what Bee’s expecting when she wants to fight for money.
Jab Season 1 Fridays (from 12 February) SABC1 20:30
When 19-year-old boxer Bee Sondlo’s ( Vanessa Ntlapo) family is about to be evicted from their home in Langa in Cape Town, she enters the world of sports gambling and professional fighting. But like Sylvester Stallone’s hit boxing drama movie Rocky (1976), Jab isn’t “a story about boxing or winning; it’s about the courage to fight – in life and in the ring,” explains Jab writer-producer Lucilla Blankenberg. She drew on her own years of experience training as a kickboxer at the Ottery Youth Centre in Cape Town, where Jab was filmed, to tell Bee’s story. Playing Bee has been 23-year-old Vanessa’s toughest fight to date, but the acting newcomer tackled it like a champ.
JUMP IN THE RING
If you’re watching season 2 of Traffic! (2014- current) on e.tv on Tuesday at 21:05, you might’ve seen Vanessa playing pregnant schoolgirl Zanele. “I had three episodes and then they killed me off,” she says. Jab is her second TV role and she went for it despite having no boxing experience. “I’m an advertising account exec. Between my 9-to-5 and going to castings, I try to balance the two,” the lively and confident Vanessa reveals. “It was daunting to think of the possibility of being a boxer but fun as well. It’s so kick-ass and it would be so cool.” But while we meet Bee when she is already a great boxer, Vanessa was starting from less than scratch.
FIT TO FIGHT
“I wasn’t even at basic fitness level,” she admits. “My fitness level was at minus 10%. I don’t go to gym and I hadn’t done any sports since I left high school. After I got the call, I started getting excited about it… then I went into panic mode.” So until the filming started, Vanessa combined her intense training and diet routine with her day job. And yes, that was tough. “I went from extreme junk eating with lots of fizzy cold- drinks to six meals a day of protein and good carbs. I’d do my 9-to-5 and then they’d pick me and I’d go to gym every day and train for two hours and get home at eight or nine, eat and pass out – all for about two weeks before I came to set.” Good thing her company granted her a two-month sabbatical while she filmed!
PUNCH & JUDY
Vanessa describes her first training bout with Lucilla with great hilarity. “It’s easy punching someone – well, not easy because you feel bad half the time – but taking a punch is difficult. I remember my first time in the ring, after about two weeks of training, was with Lucilla. She just went completely crazy and went into full-on boxing mode. I literally ran out the ring. I was like, ‘I’m under attack!’ So I went from defending myself to just running. I was like, ‘What the heck?’ Everyone laughed. I felt genuinely threatened. The very first punch I took landed on my forehead and I felt like my brain shook. It’s a really weird feeling.”
ROLL WITH THE PUNCHES
But in learning to box for the series, Vanessa picked up the same spirit Bee reveals throughout Jab. “I feel like I’ve really transformed from being a very girly girl who wouldn’t punch people or take punches, to being someone who enjoys being in the ring,” she says. “I’m more confident now. It has made me focus not on the outer parts but on the inner parts of me. It teaches you discipline. It teaches you physical strength, inner strength and confidence. It’s a life lesson: you take the punch and you move on. You’re bruised but you will be fine by next week. It’s life.”
Getting into boxing shape was a blood, sweat and tears workout
for actress Vanessa Ntlapo.
The punches fly in the
new drama series.