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SABC1 struck gold when the channel commissioned the pioneering series Intersexions.
This Safta and Peabody award-winning series adopted a warts-and-all approach when it came to telling stories that centred on HIV/Aids and the taboos associated with the disease. And it certainly had the nation singing its praises on Twitter.
Now the show is back for a second gripping instalment with a fresh lead cast bolstered by the expertise of industry giants (some better known for their social standing) such as Sizwe Msuthu (Interrogation Room), Tina Jaxa (Isidingo), Luthuli Dlamini (Scandal, The Coconuts), Amanda Du Pont (Muvhango) and Bonang Matheba (Top Billing).
Fresh out of college, having studied film and TV production at City Varsity in Newtown, Phila Madlingozi couldn’t believe it when he clinched the lead role as Zolile.
The 23-year-old singer-songwriter laughs: “A lot of my friends from City Varsity who did acting were at the auditions. I was in Newtown and decided to join them. I didn’t think I was going to get past the first round. I have been to so many auditions and it never worked out.”
Funnily enough, he didn’t even know he was auditioning for the lead role: “No one knew what they were auditioning for. It was two weeks later when I got the call. Eish, I couldn’t believe it.”
Shedding light on his role, Mandlingozi elaborates: “Zolile is a marketing student in Joburg. But he was born and raised in the Eastern Cape. His dad owns a transport company. He is sent to school in the city and meets another girl, but he has a girl he has fallen in love with back home. That’s where the story gets interesting.”
On getting to work with Jaxa, who plays his mom, he shares: “I didn’t think the experience was going to be as easygoing as it was. Everyone was willing to go at a pace where I wasn’t going to get frightened and underperform.”
He also looked up to Dlamini, whom he rates as “an excellent actor he looks up to”.
Both nervous and excited to see how viewers will respond to his character, he admits: “No newbie wants to be part of the cast that didn’t grow the brand. We did a good job. However, I am anxious about my grandparents seeing me do things that are against their religious beliefs. I did speak to them and told them that it is provocative TV and they should bear that in mind.”
Either way, he is bound to make an impression as the lead actor.
Meanwhile, Khanya Mkangisa, who has been making waves on the small screen since bagging a presenter spot on YOTV as a teenager, plays Madlingozi’s love interest, Nomzamo.
Viewers will also remember her as the host of the Shield Teen No Sweat Dance Challenge, Asanda in Zone 14 and her smaller roles in The Lab, Mtunzini.com and as a presenter on Hectic Nine-9.
The Peddie (Eastern Cape) actress reveals: “I moved to Joburg with my mom at age 12. I was very shy growing up and then I started being interested in television.”
An Afda graduate, having attained her BA in motion picture and television, she is grateful for the breaks she has had in the industry.
She recalled being in Cape Town shooting for Shakespeare in Mzansi when she learnt of the auditions for the new season of Intersexions and decided to give it a go. And her performance struck a chord with the creatives as they felt she was a perfect fit for the character.
“Nomzamo comes from a rural background. She is very ambitious and dreams of coming to Joburg and making it big. She wants to move to the city and get away from the monotony of village life. But it was while living in the Eastern Cape that she fell for Zolile, but they are told by their parents that they can’t ever look at each other or be together.
“They believe theirs to be a Romeo & Juliet love story, but there is more to it than that,” Mkangisa teases.
While the first season set the benchmark for the series, the actress says fans should expect season two to be exactly the same.
“I mean, the message will still be relayed,” she points out. “I feel viewers should look forward to new characters and some familiar faces. I think the whole storyline and how it comes together is most interesting and something to look forward to.”
With a wonderfully ingenious mix of directors (with S’thandiwe Kgoroge, Rolie Nikiwe, Sisanda Henna, Xolile Tshabalala among them), Intersexions II is bound to spark as much curiosity as its predecessor.
This drama series has plenty of gravitas to penetrate through its toughest critics and leave them besotted with its compelling slice of life – sometimes bordering on hard-hitting – storytelling and arresting performances.
• Intersexions II, SABC1, Tuesday, February 12, 8.30pm.