Former Idols SA Top 12 finalist, Noluthando “Nolly” Nqayi, and seasoned actor Jet Novuka have been making waves on SABC3’s flagship soap, Isidingo, as the Zondile family. Debashine Thangevelo caught up with them to find out why their working class characters resonate with the nation…
NOLUTHANDO “NOLLY” NQAYI: Zukisa Zondile – The Dutiful Wife
South Africa was introduced to Nqayi as a hungry hopeful who cracked the Top 12 on Idols SA in 2003.
Her gung-ho spirit hasn’t diminished and she has every reason to be amped. Nqayi has been making strides in TV as a presenter (Jam Alley Crew vs Crew, Turn It Out) and actress (drama: Shooting Stars, Home Affairs, Interrogation Room); (comedy: Sketch U Later).
On bagging the role of Zukisa on Isidingo, she shares: “This is the first time I’m doing a soapie. I have just finished shooting Swartwater in Cape Town. I got back to Jozi and found that my agent had put me forward for an Isidingo role. Next thing, I was told I have an audition.”
She is loving the journey so far.
“I am having the time of my life. I have always wanted to be part of Isidingo and am fortunate to be part of such a family and iconic soap.”
Expanding on her character, the young actress says: “There is an age gap between Zukisa and Sizwe, her husband. She is very grounded and reserved and has a lot of respect for her husband. She believes in humility and caring for others. She is also sensitive. She enjoys being the woman of the house, but allows her husband to be the patriarch.”
The writers have been trying to win back their working-class audience. Introducing the Zondiles has been their secret weapon.
As for the feedback she has received, Nqayi says: “We are telling a story that is real and inspiring people as a couple who are fighting for a better life and… doing some-thing about it. I went back home a few weeks ago and a lot of people… commented on the story and how they relate to it.”
And she enjoys working with Novuka: “He has been in the industry for some time. We are always laughing on set.”
She hints that the relationship between Katlego and Zukisa changes after the theft accusation.
The actress also admits her character learns, in being privy to the problems of the Sibekos, that money doesn’t buy happiness.
And there’s an album in the pipeline, too: “I can’t say much about it, but it will probably be the next article you will do,” she teases.
JET NOVUKA: Sizwe Zondile – Man of the House
SOMETIMES we don’t appreciate the strides actors make. Jet Novuka is the perfect example.
He honed his craft in myriad theatre and TV productions (Yizo Yizo, Soul City V, Montana, Zone 14) and has a firm foothold in the movie industry, too ( Catch A Fire).
Although he wasn’t the only one to audition for the role of Sizwe Zondile, he felt like the character was written for him.
He admits: “I was called in for an audition like any other actor. When I got there, I felt like they must have thought of me as they were excited to have me there. The audition was challenging. If there is one thing actors hate, it is that (laughs). You don’t know what they are looking for. You can prepare, but when you get there you are asked all these questions. I had to bring in some nuances and they were pretty chuffed with what they saw.”
Of Sizwe’s history, he says: “He came here on the basis that his friend had promised him a job only to discover, much later, that there is no job. You can imagine how he felt. As an actor, I had to find the layers to go with the emotional journey.”
Despite his years of experience, Novuka still gets stage fright.
He continues: “You can’t afford to take things for granted. As much as I have studied, trained and done theatre, TV and film… still, every day is a new experience.”
Having begun shooting his scenes in March, he says: “It’s been a joyride. I love what I do and I’m passionate about it.”
And he is full of praise for his co-star: “She is beautiful. God bless her heart. She will go very far in life. There’s always this respect between us. I respected the fact that she was an artist as well. I knew I could learn from her and vice versa.”
The actor says the parallels between his character’s life and his professional life, which see Sizwe and his wife immersed in the world of the rich, have kept fans glued to the screen.
“But they (the Zondiles) are grounded people. There is a saying: ‘what is inside the lion, makes the lion’. It means that irrespective of the situation, it should not change who you are.”
At some point, the couple’s son will be introduced into the story arc.
He points out: “Knowing our writers and how capable they are, it will add some flavour.”
Meanwhile, viewers are revelling in troubles of the working-class Zondile family. Mission achieved!
• Isidingo airs on SABC3 at 7pm on weekdays.