Bahumi Madisakwane. Picture: Supplied

Being the daughter of Somizi Mhlongo, Bahumi Madisakwane was always going to be in the spotlight. But her actress mother Palesa and her dad
schooled her on how to deal with the attention.

“They taught me to be my own person and how to go about certain things. I’m glad that I got to have that eye and perspective of things. Now that I’m in it (the industry), I’ve got a better understanding of it,” she said.

Currently studying towards a Degree in Film at AFDA, she is no stranger to the camera, having done many commercials as a kid, and more recently
being cast in a supporting role in the SABC 2 sports drama, "Keeping Score".

Getting cast as a younger Lebo Mathosa in BET’s biopic series about the singer was a big deal. Madisakwane said: “The process started around April-May. That’s when the auditions happened. A friend of mine sent me a picture of the auditions. I was very excited until I saw it was an open call. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, how am I going to do this?’ I really sucked it up and gathered the courage to audition on a Saturday. Waiting in line and for callbacks seemed like forever.”

A month and a half later, she received a response – she was to play Lebo, the pre-fame version.

Bahumi Madisakwane. Picture: Supplied

“I went ballistic when I got the news. Especially when you are playing someone who actually lived, and people are so connected to, you really want to capture the essence of who that person really was. I knew I had to do a lot of research and obviously speak to people who knew her on a personal level.

Because I’m playing the younger version of her that not a lot of people knew, I had to rely on a lot of prayer and guidance of the people who knew her.

It was more of a spiritual journey for myself than anything else, which is quite fitting as her story is a spiritual journey as well.”

She also auditioned for the older Lebo part, which, at the time, Kelly Khumalo was earmarked to play. The role then went to KB Motsilanyane.

As for getting to work with Motsilanyane, she said: “I looked up to her growing up. This cast is star-studded. I love her music. She has such an amazing work ethic and she was amazing to work with.”

On getting trolled after the casting announcement was made, Madisakwane said: “It is something I pretty much anticipated. Hence why I was nervous to go to open call auditions because I knew people were going to be looking. 

"But I knew I really wanted to do this for me, and really deliver. It was a beautiful role to play, just to know you are playing Lebo Mathosa, the legend. The story is so beautiful. You don’t want to deviate from it.

“It’s great to be a part of such an amazing production house. I’m glad the story is told by BET, who celebrate black excellence and black empowerment.”
Given her father’s close friendship with Lebo, Madisakwane grew up with her around.

“I think people overestimate how much time I really spent with her. Honestly, she was my father’s best friend. I had a few moments that I shared with her that were really just nurturing. That is the side I remember of her (most) because I was fairly young. So the time I would spend with her, she was actually more of a maternal figure.

“She was actually a lot calmer than people assumed her to be. She had my best interests at heart. She would defend me at anything. She would come home and give me nice treats. It was a very mother-daughter relationship.” 

On slipping into the skin of Lebo, she conducted a fair amount of research. As for what she learned from it, Madisakwane said: “One thing I really realised is that it wasn’t something that happened overnight. It was something she had to grow into.

“Everyone will see that when they watch it (the show). Her being this amazing legend and confident person that we knew her to be was something that she had to push out of her. That’s why I related to her a lot. There were so many similarities between the two of us, and it really helped me tap into this role.

“Yes, we know she was this amazing icon, but what it took to get there, it wasn’t an easy road.”

From growing up in the spotlight to playing the role, Madisakwane said: “I’ve always wanted to become an actress. I’ve never wanted anything more. To be living it right now and knowing there is more to come, is just really great.”

*"Dream: The Lebo Mathosa Story" is on BET (DStv channel 129) on Wednesday at 9.30pm