TV‘s bad boy is a family man
SKEEM SAAM: SOAPIE’S BAD MAN PLAYS AN ALCOHOLIC, BUT HAS NEVER TASTED BEER
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.