Style that still lets the bride shine...
While it is the era of the Dlomos and Nomvetes in SABC1’s long-running Generations, the Moroka name will never be erased as long as Queen is around. With the soap celebrating its 20th milestone, Debashine Thangevelo caught up with Sophie Ndaba – who is like the delightfully posh and comical woman she portrays – to chat about her nosey-parker character’s journey
It was a busy day for Sophie Ndaba. Aside from being a guest on Noeleen Maholwana Sangqu’s 3 Talk on Thursday morning, she was running a few errands.
Amid her eventful day, she squeezed in a tête-à-tête with me.
As a longstanding character on Generations, it was, of course, logical to get the only surviving Moroka’s take on the soap, which celebrated its 20th anniversary on February 4 but is having a month-long commemorative special on the channel to coincide with Heritage Month.
Besides old episodes being screened, 20 of the previous favourite characters will be popping up on screen, too.
“I’m the last (wo)man standing, baby – I have outlived them all,” the actress jokes.
Ndaba, funnily enough, was 20 years old and a model when she bagged the role of Queen Moroka and became a household name, but at the time she had her eye on Connie Ferguson’s role as Karabo Moroka.
She shares: “I wasn’t one of those tall models, so I didn’t do ramp. I was used more as a photographic model for advertisements and clothing shoots. In between that I was working for a casting agency as a consultant. Even then, I did the odd acting role.
“I auditioned for the part of Karabo. But I couldn’t speak Tswana and I wasn’t tall like Connie. Queen was brought in by Priscilla Mthembu (played by Tina Jaxa) as a receptionist at the then- New Horizons. That is how she got into the Moroka household.”
Ndaba made her TV debut in the Class of ’92 and appeared in Leon Schuster’s movie There’s a Zulu on My Stoep, M-Net’s Egoli and SABC1’s Yizo Yizo.
Back to Generations. Queen fast gained a reputation for meddling in everyone’s lives – always done with the best of intentions, of course – but one can’t say the same for the results. And when it came to relationships, they often ended in a calamitous Bridget Jones-esque type of scenario.
Expanding on Queen’s strengths and weaknesses, Ndaba laughs: “She is too nice – that’s frustrating. She is never sad. It is almost too good to be true. But as women, we tend to strive for that kind of happiness every day, whether it is in friendships, relationships, at work or with our children. She is in everybody’s business, but it is always to help and make some- body smile. Having that kind of personality is amazing.
”The actress points out that one of the reasons her character hasn’t yet expired is that she is always a part of other people’s storylines.
“That keeps her fresh,” she notes. “That is also why Queen has that much staying power. Every once in a while, she gets her own storyline.
“Like with her relationships – when it ends, she deals with it and doesn’t allow it to get the better of her. She is a true example that you can overcome.”
As for what she makes of the writers’ understanding of the character and their development of Queen, Ndaba offers: “Bongi Ndaba (our head writer) is amazing. She is black and understands our culture.
“What I like is that they (the writing team) add reality to the storylines where drug abuse, HIV/Aids and bigamy were addressed. I commend the team. They have taken a brave walk in educating people. Every story reflects something real and present in society.”
Of her humorous and unforgettable story arcs, she recalls: “The Pep storyline was great. After being sentenced by the court to community service viewers got to see her looking very simple. For me as an actress, I wanted to experiment with something different. It showed that Queen can be fabulous even if she downgrades.”
Her defiant spirit also surfaced when Queen proved a point by dressing up as a guy to visit a men-only club.
Another rib-tickling moment was captured at Dineo’s wedding, where Queen ended up hitting on a driver while his wealthy boss was trying to hit on her and she kept giving him the cold shoulder.
“That was one of the most fun scenes I did,” laughs Ndaba. “Here I was thinking the driver was the one with the money, meanwhile it was the white dude trying to chat me up. Watching her switch tack when she found out – that was funny.”
On Generations being a tour de force for two decades, she says: “Looking back at where it started, and the ratings and power that comes with it… I mean, being in the ambience where you rule the soapie space; being watched all over Africa. I’m in awe watching Mfundi’s (Vundla) dream come to life. SABC, we (as the actors, writers and production team as a whole) and South Africans have believed in it – it is a team effort.”
As for being the sole Moroka, she teases: “If you believe in yourself, you remain in power. Queen is a Moroka, she’ll never go back to her maiden name. And she still carries weight and is not about to give that away.”
Generations airs on SABC1, weekdays at 8pm.