Nandi Mbatha on Isithembiso and anxiety
Isithembiso’s Nandi Mbatha tells DRUM about playing Simi, coping with anxiety disorder and how she ended up ‘dating a fan’
BEING an actress in a hit TV show means you’re often recognised wherever you go and even popping out for groceries can mean being stared at and mobbed by fans.
It goes with the territory and Nandi Mbatha knows that – but she battles with it. The fresh-faced 22-year-old beauty, who plays Simi on the Mzansi Magic telenovela Isithembiso, suffers from anxiety and often can’t cope when she’s in crowds.
She was diagnosed with the disorder 10 years ago and for the most part has learnt how to handle it.
Nandi sits down with DRUM – her first magazine interview ever, she tells us – to share how she deals with it and how she’s making a name for herself in the fishbowl world of entertainment.
Her anxiety is often triggered by stress and “being in enclosed spaces, like lifts and on flights”. “If I’m in a stressful situation I take Rescue Remedy pills to calm me down,” she says. “I take them at least three times a week.” But the best medicine is to avoid places where her anxiety could flare up. “I don’t go to the shops without preparing myself mentally. I have to be in a happy mood and then I’ll stock up so I don’t have to go to the shops again for a while.” She once had a panic attack while filming a scene on a rooftop, she admits. “Luckily the crew knew of my situation and gave me Rescue Remedy. But I have my anxiety under control now and I’m livelier than before I started acting. “I used to be very quiet and reserved and people would think I was arrogant, but I was just shy.”
HELLO, ACTING WORLD
Auditioning for the role of Simi was her first foray into entertainment. “I had a few modelling jobs after school and a few adverts, nothing major. When I read about the auditions for Isithembiso on social media, I jumped at it. I arrived wearing black and white shorts and an ugly white blouse and sandals,” she recalls with a laugh. She was the last person to audition and had to kiss Zamani Mbatha, who
plays Zamani on the show.
“The entire thing is a blur to me, but I remember being told to improvise and then kiss Zamani at the end. He’d been kissing girls the whole day at the auditions, so he was fine – I was the one who was nervous.”
NO KISSING COUSINS
It was only after the audition that the two found out they share the same surname and it was quite a shock, Nandi says. “You know how it is in Zulu culture – people who share the same surname are usually from the same clan and they’re related.”
But after getting to know each other and doing a little digging, it turned out their shared surname was pure coincidence and Nandi breathed a sigh of relief.
“My dad is a very traditional Zulu man and he wouldn’t have been happy if we were related.”
Her family has been super supportive of her, she adds. Her teacher mom, Zandile, and dad Mduduzi, a magistrate, are her biggest fans. Her sisters, accountant Pamella (33) and marketing student Azanda (21), are protective of their sis and tell people not to believe the gossip they read about her.
Not long ago Nandi was rumoured to be dating Zamani. “Oh no, never,” she says. “Zamani is my friend. We’re like brother and sister, and he knows almost everything about me. But we’re not dating.”
SHE IS IN LOVE THOUGH
Nandi is smitten with vocalist and producer Tellaman, real name Thelumusa Samuel Owen, who she’s been dating for almost a year.
“The secret is out – I might as well confirm it,” she says shyly.
“It’s weird dating someone in the industry because people are always watching your every move. But he and I are comfortable and we have nothing to hide.”
Tellaman and Nandi met through a mutual friend, Dj KillaMo.
“Apparently he’d been crushing on me for some time but he was waiting for the right time to approach me. So I’m dating a fan,” she jokes.
Nandi says Tellaman’s calm energy also helps her manage her anxiety. But being at home, reading books, listening to music and watching movies is the best way to keep calm, she adds.
Getting into character on the Isithembiso set helps her forget all her problems.
Simi is such a juicy character it’s impossible not to give your all when playing her, Nandi says.
She’s a young rural girl who leaves her home in KwaZulu-Natal to study medicine in the city of gold. Simi is naive so she struggles to see the bad in people and is soon sucked into the dark underbelly of the concrete jungle.
She meets up with a sugar daddy, Banzi (played by Hamilton Dlamini), who promises her the world but betrays her trust. He rapes her, lies about her mother being dead and tries to separate her from her boyfriend, Zamani.
Eventually Simi finds out about Banzi’s wicked ways and tries to kill him by stabbing him one night near the river. But he escapes and returns a few weeks later as a reborn Christian and changed man.
Never a dull moment on this show – and Nandi is lapping it up. “I love Simi’s innocence and her ability to love wholeheartedly. But sometimes she trusts too easily. She does what her heart tells her and sometimes she’s irrational
LAW IN THE FUTURE
Like Simi, Nandi also comes from KZN and left her hometown, Newcastle, to study public management and governance at the University of Johannesburg. “I initially wanted to study law, but there was no space so I took the next best thing.” But she hated it. “I tried to stick it out but I dropped out during second year and enrolled to study law at Unisa instead.” She’s put her law degree on ice for a while as she doesn’t have enough time. For now, Nandi is focusing on her acting but she’s determined to qualify one day. “My dad is a magistrate and he played a big role in me wanting to study law. I have so much respect for the kind of work he does and I want to one day follow in his footsteps.” But luckily for her fans Nandi isn’t going anywhere just yet.
‘My dad is a magistrate and he played a big role in me wanting to study law’
ABOVE: Nandi’s boyfriend – singer and producer Tellaman, real name Thelumusa Samuel Owen. The two have been together for almost a year and are very much in love.
ABOVE: Nandi with her Isithembiso co-star Zamani Mbatha, who plays her boyfriend. RIGHT: In a scene with on-screen sugar daddy Banzi, played by Hamilton Dlamini.