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Robert Mpisi speaks six lan­guages – his mother-tongue Xhosa, as well as Afrikaans, English, Sotho, Tswana and Zulu. That skill is com­ing in handy on Isidingo (1998-cur­rent), where the Eastern Cape ac­tor is play­ing the multi-lin­gual role of Sibeko Gold’s se­nior shift boss Matlala.

This is your first soap role, right? Yes, I’d al­ways wanted to be on a soapie and had worked on dra­mas like Mamello (2015-2016, as dodgy Fer­rari). I needed to break out of the drama genre and went for a more laid-back op­tion [Laughs]. I au­di­tioned here and Matlala was only sup­posed to be around for a month but my stay has been ex­tended.

So is Matlala a good guy or a bad­die? He’s com­pli­cated [Laughs]. He can be seen in two ways: he’s a bit of a rebel, al­ways in trou­ble, and as a Robin Hood fig­ure who is in favour of help­ing the poor. He doesn’t seem to be get­ting on too well with Hen­drik, an­other new­comer (see p19).

There’s a big sto­ry­line com­ing up right now about land com­pen­sa­tion. Matlala is in the mid­dle of it… and there’s his feud with new hos­tel man­ager Hen­drik (Gérard Ru­dolf) and it cre­ates ten­sion. Was be­ing flu­ent in so many lan­guages a re­quire­ment for your role? Not that it mat­tered, but no – it is an as­set in any in­dus­try though. Matlala speaks Zulu and switches be­tween Afrikaans and Tswana so that he comes across as en­gag­ing with the min­ers. And was it daunt­ing join­ing a show with es­tab­lished ac­tors and char­ac­ters? It’s a job and that’s al­ways “in­ter­est­ing”, join­ing a new team. They wel­comed me, the cast and crew, and it felt like a home­com­ing, so I’m happy to stay as long as Matlala is needed on the Hori­zon Deep mines.

NB! See more on p19.

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