For years she had viewers of Generations: The Legacy fooled by believing she was a boy playing the character of Wandile Radebe.
Just as her fans were getting comfortable with her playing the role of a man, Chiedza Mhende’s character has been morphing into that of a woman called Wandi.
The transition from Wandile to Wandi opened a window into issues faced by lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people and the backlash of “coming out”.
“To prepare for the psychology of this character, I read up a lot on trans culture, transgenderism, what it means to be a trans woman and a trans man. For me specifically it was obviously focused on women, because that was the character. Also understanding male mannerisms,” said Chiedza.
The Zimbabwean-born actress said her role required a lot of preparation.
“I watched a lot of different trans films, trans documentaries and I met a lot of trans women in Cape Town, where I started my research and my work. That’s where I was living and it just really opened up my eyes because up until that time, my knowledge of LGBT was in fact the LGB maybe the Q, the I, the A, not so much about the T,” she said.
Chiedza has a BA in live performance from the SA School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance. The actress wants to scratch beneath the surface when it comes to transgender culture. “For me it’s more than just playing a boy who is a woman, it’s about telling boys and girls you can be whatever you need to be and especially telling women that you can be empowered by telling your message.
“The character has so many layers: it’s the sex, it’s the empowerment, it’s talking to the generation of young black South Africans or just young African human beings.”
In the coming weeks she said viewers would see a rising level of commitment from Wandile to finally live her life.