Mbewu’s lead­ing ladies pack a punch

Trio sparkle as show con­tin­ues its dra­matic rise

Sowetan - - Time Out - By Em­manuel Tjiya

Sara­fina! favourite Leleti Khu­malo, come­back kid Fundiswa Zwane and vet­eran ac­tress Thembi Mt­shali-Jones this week ce­mented their sta­tus as lo­cal TV’s new­est high-pow­ered lead­ing ladies.

It is all thanks to their nu­anced per­for­mances in the riv­et­ing drama on e.tv te­len­ov­ela Im­bewu: The Seed af­ter the show’s big se­cret un­folded.

The show, which pre­miered in April, has kept view­ers on the edge of their seats over an an­cient Zulu tra­di­tional prac­tice. In case you are in the dark, like Tony Kgoroge’s char­ac­ter Ng­colosi, let me bring you up to speed.

Af­ter Ng­colosi proved to be in­fer­tile, his con­niv­ing mother MaNdlovu (Mt­shali-Jones) and wife MaZulu (Khu­malo) con­spired to make sure that his pas­tor brother Phakade (Sandile Dlamini) fa­thered their three chil­dren.

On Wed­nes­day, Phakade’s wife KaMadon­sela (Zwane) fi­nally dis­cov­ered the truth and ex­posed it, to dev­as­tat­ing ef­fect. Tonight, brace your­self for an epic cat fight be­tween MaZulu and KaMadon­sela.

“I’m a big critic of my­self and I al­ways have lit­tle things that I see all the time, even if peo­ple don’t see it. That’s why I don’t watch my­self,” Khu­malo says af­ter we fin­ish watch­ing three episodes of the show.

“It wasn’t easy, be­cause I’ve thought about it a lot, that when the se­cret comes out, how am I go­ing to re­act?

“I came out with dif­fer­ent an­gles on how I should han­dle it and at the end I de­cided to in­ter­nalise

MaZulu’s re­ac­tion,” she said.

The trio sink their teeth into the sto­ry­line, de­liv­er­ing vul­ner­a­ble yet pow­er­ful per­for­mances.

“I think this role has ex­panded me as a per­former. Play­ing a woman that is mar­ried and a pas­tor’s wife with two kids is not who I am,” Zwane shares.

Be­fore Im­bewu, she had not seen much screen time since her break-out role on Gen­er­a­tions from 2009 to 2012. She is noth­ing like her mid­dle-aged, ma­tronly screen per­sona. In fact, the 33-year-old rocks an edgy half-shaved head when we meet.

“I chan­nel my aunts and the ex­pe­ri­ences of be­ing in sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tions that mar­ried women go through,” Zwane says.

“In or­der to be a per­former you must have rich in­ter­ac­tions with peo­ple. One thing I did was visit a ru­ral church and just ob­served.”

The show has been a rat­ings hit and its unstoppable tra­jec­tory has been a mys­tery, es­pe­cially since it airs at

9.30pm – con­sid­ered the death slot in tele­vi­sion.

“I didn’t think it would be this big, es­pe­cially be­cause I have just come out of a show that failed [Bro­ken Vows], so my con­fi­dence was weak,” Mt­shal­iJones con­fesses.

Im­bewu had a steady start in its first three months on air, se­cur­ing a mil­lion view­ers. In Au­gust the view­er­ship had climbed to two mil­lion and it crossed the three mil­lion mark last month to be­come etv’s third most watched show. With this ex­plo­sive week, the show is bank­ing on four mil­lion view­ers.

“At first it was like the time slot is all wrong, it’s too late. Now we are get­ting ‘this is the per­fect slot and we can’t sleep be­fore watch­ing Im­bewu,’” Khu­malo ob­serves. “I think what we do best is tell sto­ries that are re­lat­able to peo­ple – they can see them­selves in those sto­ries.”

The drama does not end in front of the cam­era; there have been plenty be­hind-the-scenes scan­dals.

Con­tro­ver­sial ac­tor Mpumelelo Bhu­lose was fired from the show and re­placed by Kgoroge. Xolani Mfeka was also axed, while star­let Enhle Gam­bushe was killed in a car ac­ci­dent.

“We knew from the begin­ning we have a good story, so we can­not go wrong... That gave us strength. Ev­ery pro­duc­tion in their first sea­son they have their ups and downs, then they get through it,” Khu­malo replies when I ask her about the show’s count­less scan­dals.

Khu­malo is also ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of the show. She left the most watched show in the coun­try, Uzalo (10 mil­lion view­ers), for the ven­ture at the begin­ning of the year.

This is the first role in her il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer where Mt­shali-Jones has played a bad­die.

The show is filmed in KwaZulu-Natal and has given her a chance to re­turn to her home town.

“I spent many years work­ing in

Joburg and peo­ple as­sume I’m from there. My chil­dren are in Cape Town.

“It’s been such a bless­ing for me be­cause I still have both par­ents. To be work­ing in Dur­ban I see them all the time.”

/MDUDUZI NDZINGI

Thembi Mt­shali, Leleti Khu­malo and Fundiswa Zwane from ‘Im­bewu: The Seed’.

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