Nthati Moshesh on be­ing broke and find­ing her­self again

Nthati Moshesh tells DRUM about her controvers­ial Lock­down role, be­ing broke and feel­ing fab on the brink of turn­ing 50


THE women un­der her spell wor­ship the ground she walks on – yet lit­tle do they know what kind of evil lurks be­hind the serene smile. Masabatha, the new kid on the block in pop­u­lar TV show Lock­down, has en­tered the fic­tional prison as a mass mur­derer and is al­ready a hit with devo­tees of the Mzansi Magic pro­duc­tion. And the ac­tress who plays her has built a firm new fan base since mak­ing her grand en­trance in sea­son 4 as the blind charis­matic cult leader who ends up be­hind bars af­ter poi­son­ing her con­gre­ga­tion. It’s one of her most chal­leng­ing roles to date, Nthati Moshesh (49) says. The award-win­ning ac­tress has been in show­biz for 29 years, hav­ing made a name for her­self as Ler­ato in Egoli, the coun­try’s first ma­jor soapie, back in the early 1990s. She’s played ev­ery­thing from a busi­ness­woman in Home Affairs to a doc­tor in 7de Laan, yet noth­ing could pre­pare her for play­ing the mas­ter ma­nip­u­la­tor in the pop­u­lar prison se­ries. The sto­ry­line, she says, is pretty timely. She’s re­fer­ring to the re­cent rise of false prophets. “Masabatha will make peo­ple ques­tion their be­liefs and learn more about in­doc­tri­na­tion and the de­struc­tion of souls,” Nthati tells DRUM. “This role even made me ex­am­ine

and ques­tion my re­li­gious be­liefs.”

The ac­tress, who de­scribes her­self as spir­i­tual, was of­fered the plum part by the show’s ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer, Mandla Ng­con­g­wane.

“Mandla threw in the blind el­e­ment at the last minute,” she says. “It caught me off-guard, but I loved it.”

She winged her au­di­tion but, as fate would have it, she de­vel­oped an eye in­fec­tion a few days into shoot­ing her first scenes.

“Act­ing is such a spir­i­tual job and the uni­verse al­ways works in mys­te­ri­ous ways. My eye in­fec­tion was so bad I was booked off, but I con­tin­ued to shoot some scenes. It helped me un­der­stand the feel­ing of be­ing blind in a way.”

The killer role couldn’t have come at a bet­ter time. Nthati had hit a slump last year when her stint on Mzansi Magic’s Saints and Sin­ners came to an end. Af­ter be­ing un­em­ployed for close to a year, she wanted to quit show­biz.

“I hon­estly wanted to give up act­ing. I felt there was some­thing else out there that could bring me more money,” she says.

“But act­ing is all I know and love.”

SHE has a list of act­ing cred­its as long her arm and de­spite re­ceiv­ing a life­time achievemen­t award at the Saftas last year, Nthati tells us she’s been bat­tling to get by. She’s late for her in­ter­view at DRUM’s Jo­han­nes­burg of­fices and blames it on her bat­tered old car.

“I can’t af­ford a new car be­cause I hav

en’t been work­ing for too long,” she says.

Nthati is can­did about the pit­falls of fame. “Some­times be­ing too ex­pe­ri­enced in­tim­i­dates peo­ple and they don’t phone you for roles.

“When I was younger, I never thought I’d be broke or that I’d go close to a year with­out an act­ing job. I al­ways had work. I trav­elled and I thought I’d be walk­ing red car­pets for­ever. “But that’s not the case.” Af­ter Saints and Sin­ners, she landed a the­atre role in Zakes Mda’s You Fool, How Can the Sky Fall but when the play came to an end af­ter four months, she was back to be­ing pen­ni­less.

“I went through an eight-month dry spell where I had ab­so­lutely no work,” Nthati says.

“You know how our in­dus­try works – if you don’t work, you don’t eat. My fi­nances were shock­ing. I had maxed out my credit card and I was re­ly­ing on my fam­ily for hand­outs. Man, you have no idea.

“I started becoming de­spon­dent and con­sid­ered throw­ing in the towel.”

It’s a good thing she stuck it out. Her riveting per­for­mance as Masabatha has won her rave re­views – and a new gen­er­a­tion of fans.

“I’ve played al­most ev­ery type of role on the planet,” she says.

“But act­ing on Lock­down chal­lenged me at a time when I was ready to give up. It reaf­firmed to me this is where I’m meant to be.

“It’s given me en­ergy to get up again.”

SHE’S star­ing 50 in the face with a new lease on life. Nthati, who doesn’t look a day over 30, keeps in shape by swim­ming.

She also feels bet­ter than ever now that she’s shed the bag­gage she car­ried in her 30s and 40s.

“I was al­ways the good girl, a hu­man-pleaser who wor­ried about what peo­ple would say if I did any­thing out­ra­geous,” she says.

“I was Miss Goody Two-Shoes – that’s my big­gest re­gret.

“At 50 I’ve learnt to be freer, to dance when­ever I feel like it and be as crazy as I want to be.”

She’s scraped to­gether some sav­ings to travel across Africa with son Sa­belo (17) for her birth­day in Au­gust.

“My son loves photograph­y. I want to take him on a trip where he can take beau­ti­ful pic­tures,” she says.

Her only child is her pride and joy, and be­ing a mother is Nthati’s most re­ward­ing role.

“Moth­er­hood is my big­gest achievemen­t and no awards can match the feel­ing. Some­times I stare at my son un­til he

begs me to stop. I can’t be­lieve I cre­ated such a beau­ti­ful, smart and kind hu­man be­ing.” The sin­gle mom is in no rush to find love. “If I do, I do and if I don’t, then I don’t.” But for now she’s en­joy­ing ev­ery mo­ment of watch­ing her son turn into a re­spect­ful man. “I’m teach­ing him how to treat women – ba­sic man­ners and com­pli­ment­ing a lady be­cause I’m rais­ing a fu­ture dad and some­one’s fu­ture husband,” she says. “I want him to treat women the way I’ve al­ways wanted it to be treated.” The proud mom cred­its her moth­er­ing skills to her own par­ents, Ade­laide Moshesh and John Let­lam­oreng. “I am my mother’s child. Ev­ery­thing about me is like her,” Nthati says of her mom, who died of an aneurysm in 2009 on Nthati’s 40th birth­day. “My mom was my rock. She loved ed­u­ca­tion. She was 60 when she got her de­gree in hu­man re­sources,” she says proudly. Dot­ing dad John, who died of or­gan fail­ure in 2013, was her big­gest fan. “If I was on a mag­a­zine cover, he’d buy 10 copies and bring them home so ev­ery­one had their own copy.” Even on her dark­est days Nthati senses her par­ents are proud. “I know they’re to­gether in a happy place,” she says. “They’re my an­gels now.”

‘At 50 I’ve learnt to be freer, to dance when­ever I feel like it and be as crazy as I want to be’

At the end of ev­ery work day Nthati looks for­ward to spend­ing time with her son, Sablo. He is her only child and her big­gest achievemen­t, she says.

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