7 December 2012

Namibia: Sitting Down With Sello

I am one of the many people that had to be at home and in front of the television every weekday at 17h30 to catch all the drama of the Moroka family in the South African soapie ‘Generations’.

So you can imagine my excitement when I was told that I would be interviewing the man who played businessman and head of the Moroka family, Archie Moroka in the South African soapy ‘Generations’, the talented theatre, television and film actor Sello Maake Ka-Ncube.

Appropriately, the interview would take place in an empty pew at the National Theatre of Namibia (NTN).

Theatre, as he would later admit to me, is one of his greatest passions.

He has graced theatre stages all over the world as he starred in the lead role in ‘The Lion King’ in London’s West End. Sello also played the title role in ‘Othello’ opposite Antony Sher for Britain’s Royal Shakespeare Company and in the West End of London. More recently, Sello directed the controversial theatre production ‘Dream Queen’, a tribute to South African singer Lebo.

After a quick introduction of myself, Sello told me that this is his fourth visit to Namibia on the invitation of the NTN to speak at the Namibia Artist Workshop, but that was not the only reason he was in the country.

He was also here to attend the Namibian version of the Oscars, The Namibian Theatre and Film Awards, which were held at the NTN on Saturday November 24.

Even though most of us know him from his role in ‘Generations’, Sello has been acting long before, and made his debut in theatre more than 30 years ago. Being in the industry for such a long time, he said he has noticed great changes in both television and theatre over the past three decades.

“There is a definite change in TV, when I started there were very few black script writers and even fewer black directors. Today there are a lot of young black people who are directing and so this has changed the content of what is on TV because they are telling their stories, which makes for very different TV than back in the day.”

Even though he claims he could never choose between theatre and television, as we continued talking it seemed his passion for theatre burned brighter.

“I feel there is a regression in South African theatre. It is not at the place where I think it should be. It is not as big as it used to be when we started acting. Back then actors made it first on the theatre stage and then moved to television. Today that step is jumped and young actors are making their acting debut on television.”

Among many achievements including his debut in 1981, and starring in movies such as ‘The Suit’, and appearing in the Hollywood movie ‘Dry White Season’. Sello names his role as Archie Moroka in ‘Generations’ as one of the biggest milestones of his career. He laughed a little when I asked him if he would like to to be remembered as Archie Moroka.

“Well, being remembered as Archie Moroka is completely out of my control, but to be honest and I don’t mean to sound full of myself or anything, but it is not my prerogative how people remember me, mine is just to live my life.” My chat with Sello happened just a few hours before he played the role of workshop facilitator. He let me in on what he was going to share with the Namibian actors and directors who would be attending.

“What I am going to share with them is quite simple, I want to remind them how simple yet complex acting is. Acting is simple in it’s complexity or complex in its simplicity.”

Sello’s tribute production to the late South African singer Lebo Mathosa, ‘Drama Queen’, which was one of the biggest stage productions this year received mixed reviews.

Lebo’s Boomshaka band mates said the show did not properly portray the singer. When I asked Sello about ‘Drama Queen’ he said to him the production was a success. “It is just unfortunate that people concentrated on the negative. Most of the reviews I saw were positive. People got it wrong when they thought the production was the story of Lebo Mathosa, it was not that, it was a tribute to the singer, it was a story of five young singers trying to make it in the industry, who sing and perform the songs of Lebo Mathosa,” he said. “As the director, the production was exactly what I had envisioned so it was a success.”

South Africa has produced a number of blockbusters, but it has been a while since movies like ‘Yesterday’, ‘Tsosti’ and ‘District 9’ have been released, with Leon Schuster’s ‘in your face comedies’ being as popular as ever. I asked Sello where the South African movie industry is headed?

“The movie industry is definitely growing. We had a few other movies such as ‘White Wedding’, which were also very successful. With regards to Leon, I think comedies are easier to access. People definably go out in their numbers

to watch his movies and they are giving the American movies a run for their money.”

So, what makes a good actor I asked the performer with the deep voice? “A good performer is someone who in their performance tells the truth, someone who lets the truth resonate in the person they are portraying,” he said.

Sello currently plays the role of David Nyathi, a manipulative and scheming jailbird and former CEO of NZH in the ETV drama ‘Scandal’.

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