Let­ting magic play its course

Di­rec­tor Te­bogo Ma­lope re­veals why he was thrilled to bits to be a part of Queen Sono, Net­flix’s first African orig­i­nal se­ries, which re­leased with much fan­fare last Fri­day, writes Debashine Thangevelo

Pretoria News - - FRONT PAGE -

MONTHS of an­tic­i­pa­tion ended last week when fans and crit­ics got to see Pearl Thusi and the star-stud­ded cast of Queen Sono in ac­tion. And I’m not talk­ing about the red car­pet buzz. I’m talk­ing about show-run­ner Kag­iso Lediga and Tamsin An­der­son bring­ing to life a char­ac­ter that Thusi had been yearn­ing for and dis­cussed with Lediga post Catch­ing Feel­ings.

Hav­ing flown in from Los Angeles on the morn­ing of the press jun­ket, Ma­lope’s pal­pa­ble ex­cite­ment for Queen Sono masked his jet-lagged state.

He said: “Where it all be­gan was get­ting that phone call from Kag­iso and him pitch­ing the idea to me by first say­ing, this is who the lead is, this is what the genre is, and this is what the sto­ries are. And, for me, then go­ing into the writ­ers’ room and see­ing and hear­ing what the over­all vi­sion is, my game-plan was to make it my own.”

And by that, he meant per­son­al­is­ing it so the show be­comes re­lat­able to au­di­ences.

The cast­ing was an­other cru­cial as­pect.

“The cast­ing process is al­ways fun for me be­cause when you are writ­ing and putting char­ac­ters in black and white, you kind of imag­ine who could em­body that. Some­times you don’t have a face. Some­times you do. But more of­ten than not, it is al­most like you play God and you go, ‘Hmm, I want to cre­ate this hu­man that ex­ist. But this hu­man likes these things. This hu­man is moved by these things. This hu­man is pas­sion­ate’.

“This per­son ex­ists some­where in the world. I think most peo­ple view cast­ing as di­rec­tors find­ing the ac­tors. I think of­ten, it is the ac­tors find­ing us. Some­times it could be a fresh face, and some­times it can be some­one who has been in the game a long time. You never know. You let the magic play its course, and you let the magic play out.”

The one role he didn’t have to con­cern cast­ing for was that of Queen Sono, which was writ­ten for Thusi.

He added: “But fill­ing out all those other po­si­tions with the ben­e­fit of hav­ing the num­ber one in place is to go with who com­ple­ments num­ber one re­ally well. The chem­istry was cru­cial.”

Ma­lope di­rected three of the six episodes. The other three were di­rected by Lediga. But the two ap­pear to share the same sen­ti­ments when it comes to their hero­ine.

Ma­lope said: “With Pearl, what’s so amaz­ing is that she is also so open to the process. Once you have some­one who is open to the in­ter­nal stuff and lets them­selves be vul­ner­a­ble on the screen, the phys­i­cal stuff be­comes eas­ier.

“I ab­so­lutely re­spect her after see­ing how many hours she put in on not just the phys­i­cal work but also the in­ter­nal work, just mak­ing sure she is con­nected and plugged into this char­ac­ter. She is an in­cred­i­ble hu­man be­ing and I have mad re­spect for her.”

Ma­lope feels au­di­ences will eas­ily con­nect to many of the char­ac­ters be­cause their jour­ney is so re­lat­able.

“I never view char­ac­ters through the lens of pro­tag­o­nist and an­tag­o­nist. I just do char­ac­ters as hu­mans on their own mis­sion want­ing some­thing. Some­body like Shandu (Vuyo Dab­ula), he is one of the most com­plex char­ac­ters in the show. I think when peo­ple see it, they will re­late.

“He comes from a back­ground sim­i­lar to a lot of us South Africans; a back­ground from a dis­ad­van­taged point of view, deep po­lit­i­cal is­sues but also of deep so­cio-eco­nomic chal­lenges. He man­ages to some­how pull him­self by these boot­straps and starts work­ing, and he gets to a point where he is a suc­cess­ful guy.

“His liv­ing ex­pe­ri­ence of swim­ming against the tide, so­cioe­co­nomic in­jus­tice, it will res­onate with a lot of Africans at large. At some point, things twist. You will have to see the show, to see what I am talk­ing about,” he said.

Queen Sono is avail­able on Net­flix.


LEAD ac­tor Pearl Thusi at the pre­miere of Net­flix’s first African orig­i­nal se­ries, Queen Sono, at the Joburg Theatre in Braam­fontein. |

TE­BOGO Ma­lope di­rected three of the six episodes in Queen Sono.

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