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South African actress Florence Masebe has gone through most of her career typecast as either a crazy-funny, syrupy or sneaky person. And now she gets to break the mould by playing a slutty character – albeit a sophisticated one, she tells Debashine Thangevelo during a one-on-one. And that isn’t the only big news…
ACTRESS, singer, voice-over artist, talk show and TV presenter – Florence Masebe has explored the gamut of skills in the entertainment industry.
But her household celebrity was attained by appearing on shows like Egoli, Suburban Bliss, Soul City, Generations, Justice for All 3, Morwalala, Inkaba and now e.tv’s flagship soap, Scandal.
And she has her fair share of big-screen exploits too: Born Free 2, Chikin Biz Niz, Land of a Thousand Hills, Black Butterfly and Elelwani.
The last movie, interestingly, saw her bag the Best Actress in a Lead Role honours at the Africa Movie Academy Awards this year.
Masebe says: “I have never won anything in South Africa before. It was really beautiful to know that I could get one on a continental stage. I went to Nigeria thinking the movie would get an award or two out of the 11 nominations it received. I never imagined I would be bringing back the biggest one.”
In the movie, she plays the eponymous lead.
Funnily enough, she was offered the role years before the movie went into production.
The actress recalls: “I’m playing a university graduate; a very young girl, which was a challenge and a half. When I agreed to do the part, it was years ago. I was 29. It took that long to make. And at 37, the director asked: ‘Do you think you can play pulling off a 24-year-old?’ I said: ‘Of course not!’ We must have done something right because I got the best actress award.”
Back to her return to soaps, where she is cast as Precious, married to tycoon Ronald, who recently died under suspicious circumstances.
Masebe says her agent received the call for the character from Scandal producers last year.
“I don’t know if they had me in mind, though,” she points out. “But I auditioned for the role.”
The veteran actress says it is most interesting how the writers have developed the character.
Masebe explains: “When she arrived, she seemed like a no-nonsense businesswoman. She was all about that and nothing more. She started showing signs that she could bend the rules after meeting Daniel Nyathi (Sello Maake Ka Ncube ).”
Meanwhile, Precious is kept in the dark about Daniel and Shakira’s ploy to lay their hands on her new-found wealth for a new company they want to get off the ground.
On Daniel literally charming the pants off Precious, she laughs: “I don’t know if she completely trusts him. But she is most helplessly and stupidly in love with him. She loses all sense of rationale where Daniel is concerned.”
Although she has her misgivings, she gives in when Daniel makes the ultimate gesture of his “love” – he moves out.
“When he declares his love, she immediately helps,” Masebe reveals.
With her chatting so animatedly about this role, I asked her about it being so different from anything she has done before.
She nods: “I was saying to the producers the other day, it is quite funny how, when I was a younger actress, I hardly ever got to play anybody sexy. I have never had bedroom scenes. Now, here I am at 40, and I have all this sexy lingerie. I have always played crazy-funny, sweet or very sneaky. This time I’m playing a slut. A sophisticated slut; but a slut nevertheless.
“I love it. It has been challenging – there are so many layers to Precious. And I consider myself fortunate, as you don’t often get such beautiful writing on a soap.”
As for working with Maake Ka Ncube again, she shares: “I was laughing yesterday when I was watching the retro Generations episodes. We worked together during our Generations days. When I was in Muvhango, he was on a break from The Lion King in England and, during that time, came back and played my boyfriend.
“We are really close friends. He is a professional and is so much fun to work with. The energy between me, Dawn (Matthews, who plays Shakira) and Sello is amazing. In fact, Dawn and I are going to get shirts, hers reading: ‘Team Precious’ and mine being: ‘Team Shakira’. That’s how in awe we are of each other’s performances.”
As for what viewers can look forward to, she hints: “She goes crazy at some point. Then there is the animosity between her and her step-daughter, who believes she killed her father.”
Masebe says: “I wake up, judge Precious for a little bit and then become her.”
Although the actress isn’t at a juncture in her career where she can fully commit to a soapie, she confessed she would be keen to “be the visitor who comes and stirs for a bit”.
In the meantime, aside from trying to set up an art centre in the village back home in Venda, she is preparing for the promotion around her movie, Elelwani, releasing on our big screens on October 4.
Scandal airs week-days on e.tv at 7.30pm.