Gen­er­a­tions: The Legacy’s Luyanda Mzazi on how she got into char­ac­ter for tough scenes

Gen­er­a­tions: The Legacy ac­tress Luyanda Mzazi talks about get­ting to grips with play­ing a teen who’s sex­u­ally as­saulted

DRUM - - Contents - BY NKOSAZANA NG­WADLA PIC­TURES: ONKGOPOTSE KOLOTI

IT WASN’T an easy part to play but she knew it was an im­por­tant one. Mil­lions of peo­ple tune in to watch the show ev­ery day and tack­ling is­sues that af­fect the coun­try is a pow­er­ful way to raise aware­ness. Sex­ual abuse is a ma­jor is­sue in South Africa. More than 40% of rapes in the coun­try are car­ried out on chil­dren, po­lice min­is­ter Bheki Cele an­nounced in May, and at least 46 kids are raped in South Africa ev­ery day.

So when Luyanda Mzazi found out her char­ac­ter, Lesedi, was to be as­saulted sex­u­ally in Gen­er­a­tions: The Legacy, she armed her­self with as much knowl­edge as pos­si­ble so she could do jus­tice to the scene.

The 22-year-old ac­tress watched YouTube videos of rape sur­vivors talk­ing about their ex­pe­ri­ences and read as much as she could about the scourge.

“It wasn’t easy,” she ad­mits, “but I was glad to be part of a sto­ry­line that shows what rape sur­vivors en­dure be­fore, dur­ing and after the as­sault.

“What the show has done with Lesedi’s role is put her smack in the mid­dle of the real-life is­sues that girls and women face in South Africa,” she says.

In the show, Lesedi wakes up one morn­ing on a school trip with her shirt un­but­toned and pants unzipped.

The only per­son who could have done this to her was her teacher, Mr Carl­son (played by Clay­ton Boyd), who walked her to her dorm room after she felt ill dur­ing out­door ac­tiv­i­ties. He gave her some pills he claimed would make her feel bet­ter but she passed out mo­ments

later. Mr Carl­son didn’t re­turn to the group while Lesedi was out cold.

Lesedi be­lieves the teacher drugged her in or­der to take ad­van­tage of her and she wants to stop him from do­ing some­thing sim­i­lar to her school­mates.

Luyanda hasn’t been as­saulted her­self but knows some­one who has been. “A girl in my cir­cle of friends was sex­u­ally as­saulted and I re­mem­ber the change in her be­hav­iour af­ter­wards and the trauma she went through, try­ing to deal with the after-ef­fects.”

Ed­u­cat­ing peo­ple about what rape sur­vivors go through is im­por­tant, the show’s pro­ducer, Mfundi Vundla, says. “Women and girls are tar­gets of sex­ual ha­rass­ment and sex­ual vi­o­lence in pri­vate and pub­lic spa­ces. As a plat­form that has great reach in South Africa, Gen­er­a­tions: The Legacy has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to add its voice against the scourge of rape and sex­ual vi­o­lence.”

LUYANDA hopes it will make a dif­fer­ence too, though it was hard to act in that scene. She had to im­merse her­self com­pletely in the char­ac­ter as soon as the cam­eras started to roll. “I strip my­self of me and be­come the char­ac­ter. So when you see tears and all those in­tense emo­tions, it’s be­cause that’s Lesedi. I feel what she feels and go through what she goes through and it’s in­cred­i­bly hard and heavy, but I don’t over­think it be­cause I don’t want to get de­pressed. But it’s still painful.”

Play­ing Lesedi has opened Luyanda’s eyes, she says. “Re­cently at work, this man hugged me and that was odd be­cause we don’t have that kind of re­la­tion­ship. What I found strange is that when he was let­ting go of me his hands landed on my boobs. At first I brushed it off and thought maybe it was ac­ci­den­tal – but now that I think of it, he did that on pur­pose and it’s sex­ual ha­rass­ment, ac­tu­ally.”

Apart from rais­ing aware­ness through her role, Luyanda is also pas­sion­ate about young peo­ple and their stud­ies. She is a JAMbas­sador for hu­man­i­tar­ian or­gan- isa­tion Joint Aid Man­age­ment SA ( JAM). To­gether with JAM and KFC, Luyanda helped pack food parcels for needy chil­dren for Man­dela Day.

“I part­ner with schools and find out what their stu­dents need and get spon­sor­ship for them. If the stu­dents at a school are not do­ing well aca­dem­i­cally I talk to them and try to find out why – if the teach­ers are the prob­lem, then I speak to them as well,” Luyanda says.

VIS­IT­ING schools is fun for the ac­tress, who says it’s “weird” see­ing kids be­ing star-struck at the sight of her. “Once they get that out of the way we can dis­cuss im­por­tant things con­cern­ing their fu­ture – they hear me and they aren’t shy to speak up too.” Luyanda her­self still gets star struck on the Gen­er­a­tions: The Legacy set. “Yoh, I re­mem­ber when I first had to shoot a scene with Getty ( played by An­disiwe Dweba) – I couldn’t be­lieve I was there. Even now when a guest ac­tor comes on set, I want to take self­ies with them.” As for the fu­ture, Luyanda is look­ing for­ward to other roles on other shows too some­day. “I’ve watched Lesedi grow and go through a lot. I keep tick­ing off ex­pe­ri­ences I want her to go through. So, after her, I want to play a dif­fer­ent role on a dif­fer­ent show but I don’t want to play a school­girl be­cause if I have to wear an­other school uni­form I’ll lose it!”

Ac­tress Luyanda Mzazi is pas­sion­ate about young peo­ple and ed­u­ca­tion.

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