TV‘s bad boy is a fam­ily man

SKEEM SAAM: SOAPIE’S BAD MAN PLAYS AN AL­CO­HOLIC, BUT HAS NEVER TASTED BEER

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - FRONT PAGE -

Charles Maja is a ru­ral fam­ily man who wor­ships at the Zion Church in his home­town of Ga-Maja. Tshep­iso Makhele

We can only blame good act­ing skills when the pub­lic con­fuses a per­son with the char­ac­ter they play on tele­vi­sion. Be­ing the man that most love to hate, and some­how a char­ac­ter that view­ers tune in to Skeem Saam to watch, Charles Maja – who plays the role of an al­co­holic father and a town­ship me­chanic – says while some fans love taking self­ies with him in pub­lic, oth­ers strug­gle to dif­fer­en­ti­ate him from his char­ac­ter “Big Boy”, re­sult­ing in vul­gar and vi­o­lent at­tacks.

Ra­dio days While he is pre­dom­i­nantly known for his Skeem Saam char­ac­ter, Maja has had ex­ten­sive roles in ra­dio dra­mas at Tho­bela FM, a plat­form he says in­tro­duced him to the art of act­ing and por­tray­ing di­verse char­ac­ters. He started with ra­dio dra­mas in 1984, but was forced to stop af­ter his life was threat­ened. “This was dur­ing the apartheid days. We use to record these ra­dio dra­mas at Tho­bela FM at night, and hike home in the vil­lage, how­ever there was this one par­tic­u­lar night where young white guys at­tacked us, beat us up and told us never to be in town late at night, forc­ing me to pause a bit with do­ing ra­dio,” he said. Maja ex­plains that it was in 1997, af­ter democ­racy, when he re­turned to ra­dio and landed a job on a tele­vi­sion se­ries called Ke Bona Boloi, (See Magic), and later on an SABC sit­com en­ti­tled Home Sweet Home.

His first love The ac­tor also re­vealed that he de­signs his own clothes and that sewing is ac­tu­ally his first love. “I love it so much, and was in­tro­duced to it by my mother while I was still in school,” he said, adding that be­ing raised by a woman who was pas­sion­ate about mak­ing clothes, pushed him to take sewing classes at a nearby col­lege in Lim­popo and en­hanced his al­ready bril­liant needle­work skills.

“I make my own clothes and peo­ple also put in or­ders, and I make clothes for them ac­cord­ing my act­ing sched­ule, as TV is now keep­ing me ex­tremely busy.”

Grow­ing up he wanted to be in the en­ter­tain­ment in­dus­try, how­ever, be­hind the scenes as a pro­ducer or di­rec­tor.

Fans some­times strug­gle to sep­a­rate him from his Skeem Saam char­ac­ter, which re­sults in vul­gar and vi­o­lent at­tacks.

Charles Maja Skeem Saam’s Big Boy

Be­ing ‘Big Boy’ He says though he did not strug­gle to tran­si­tion from ra­dio to tele­vi­sion, the role he plays on Skeem Saam is very dif­fer­ent from the man he is, point­ing out that for a man who plays an al­co­holic so well, he ac­tu­ally doesn’t drink.

“I have never tasted beer. I be­lieve that this is the rea­son why I’m so able to care­fully ob­serve peo­ple who drink and por­tray their be­hav­iour so well.”

Maja says he is a God-fear­ing Zion Church-go­ing man who hates con­fronta­tion, vi­o­lence and is of­ten very calm.

“‘Big Boy’, on the other hand, is an ir­re­spon­si­ble and stub­born man, who thinks he knows ev­ery­thing and re­fuses to take ad­vice from any­one,” he said.

The ac­tor says he and the char­ac­ter do have a few things in com­mon, point­ing to a fear of fly­ing as one sim­i­lar­ity.

“I get anx­ious just think­ing about fly­ing or be­ing in an air­plane. What echoes in my head is a voice that says, ‘Please call your fam­ily right now as we are about to crash; tell them you are about to die and you love them’,” he said, as I strug­gle to hold my laugh­ter.

The ac­tor says his fear of fly­ing brings him the same anx­i­ety as swim­ming, adding he is also not the only one afraid of heights.

Thabo Mkha­bela (the ac­tor who plays the role of his son, Les­hole, on Skeem Saam) and I were faced with a big prob­lem when we re­cently had to shoot a scene fly­ing to Dur­ban and Thabo took an hour just to stand on a bal­cony on the 10th floor dur­ing one of the scenes; he strug­gled to ride on the ca­ble car, re­sort­ing to climb­ing it only un­til it was a few me­tres high,” he said.

Af­ter that scene they were both ex­hausted from fear, and he con­fessed he felt a bit dizzy, as well. “I had to let go and wave at peo­ple in the scene; that on its own made me light-headed.”

Fond of the char­ac­ter The Lim­popo-born ac­tor says he loves the fact that his char­ac­ter is very dif­fer­ent from who he is, and the fact it paints a clear pic­ture about what some peo­ple go through daily.

“I have never seen such a char­ac­ter in any of the soapies, un­less if it’s be­cause I haven’t watched enough of them, but ‘Big Boy’ res­onates with a lot of view­ers.”

He ex­plains a lot of the soapies show peo­ple liv­ing so­phis­ti­cated lives and hardly draw from re­al­ity, ap­plaud­ing Skeem Saam for be­ing in touch with is­sues. Vil­lage man De­spite his suc­cess, Maja re­mains a hum­ble ru­ral man who has no de­sire to move to Jo­han­nes­burg, in spite of hav­ing to travel weekly.

“I want to in­spire my kids to stay in the vil­lage, know and love their cul­ture and their lan­guage,” he said, adding that Jo­han­nes­burg has a way of mak­ing peo­ple for­get who they truly are.

“Though the big city is where jobs are, Joburg is too fast, and kids do as they please. Here, kids can still be dis­ci­plined.”

The 52-year-old says back home in Ga-Maja vil­lage he has chick­ens he loves taking care of, ex­plain­ing he would only leave the vil­lage if he was told stay­ing there would kill him.

“We have wa­ter, elec­tric­ity, even Wi-Fi here, just like any­where, and we can in­stall our own san­i­ta­tion sys­tems,” he said.

Fam­ily man The father of three (one son and two daugh­ters) says he got mar­ried to the woman of his dreams back in 1992, ex­plain­ing how much he loves her, their chil­dren and their two grand­kids.

“I’m close with my fam­ily to such an ex­tent that I worry about them when I’m in Joburg, es­pe­cially if one is sick or strug­gling with some­thing.

“I some­times feel that it might dis­tract me from my act­ing if I can’t switch off from worry.”

Maja says though he plays an abu­sive father on Skeem Saam, he has never laid a hand on a woman or been tempted to, ex­plain­ing abuse as an ill­ness that should be ur­gently at­tended to by pro­fes­sion­als.

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