Dumisani Mbebe’s conflicted over his blood and the law in SABC1’s ‘Hush Money’
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Dumisani Mbebe is a household name in South Africa. The actor-turned-producer has been in some of the biggest TV shows and movies, some of them on a shoestring budget.
His latest role in SABC1’s “Hush Money” bears similarity to that of Bryan Cranston in “Your Honour”. And he is joined by his wife Mbali Maphumulo who plays Cebile Buthelezi.
The series revolves around the affluent Dukashe family and the impoverished Buthelezi’s.
One fateful night, Mayihlome Dukashe (Mpho Sebeng), a law student, celebrates his graduation with a massive party. On his way home, the inebriated graduate is involved in a hit-and-run accident which claims the life of medical student Nandi Buthelezi (Mandisa Vilakazi).
And so Mayihlome turns to his father Kadefuna, a prominent judge.
As someone who understands the law as well as his son’s chances of going to jail, a decision is taken to bribe her family. And this leaves him conflicted.
As for how this project landed on his lap, Mbebe, who co-owns Ingomso Film Skills and Youth Development, says it was through his business partner, who asked him to come on board for the independent series as a value add as they didn’t have much money for it.
Mbebe added: “It was was easy for me to say yes because it’s someone that I work with, in projects that have money, and, also, I loved the story as well.”
Unpacking the rich vs poor theme that dominates the series, Mbebe said: “The game between the rich and the poor is just becoming clearer and clearer, made more so by Covid-19.
“The story is basically about money buying you everything. My son in the story happens to be involved in a hit and run and he decides, ‘I’m going to ask dad to go and see this family of the victim and pay them hush money so that this does not get tackled by the law’.
“The irony in that, for me, is that he is a judge himself. He should be someone who upholds anything that has to do with a judiciary system and how things should be dealt with. And I guess, it’s blood vs law.”
Of course, all sense of rationality goes out the window in this situation.
The actor explained: “The fact that he’s a father, clouds his judgement.”
The series also sets off an interesting debate over what money can and can’t buy you.
He added: “I’m thinking, there is no amount of money that can buy any family, rich or poor, robbed of a loved one. You know they can receive the money but the pain is in the family, which is played beautifully by Maphumulo, who happens to be my wife (in real life), of course.
“It is going to highlight how really bad it is and how bad people with money treat people. It’s really sad. It’s a story that almost mirrors what happens in this country.”
As for working alongside newcomer Sebeng, Mbebe laughed: “I know him as a student, I used to go to his school and deliver inspirational speeches. And to see him play my son, I was like, no man. He is from the same school as my daughter.
“He’s an upcoming actor and a very good one as well. He is one of those actors who carries a character well, emotionally, physically and psychologically as well.
“He made it easy for me to play the father the way that I played him because of the emotional journey that he put me through. I could see he was in a tight corner. And how he portrayed that character made it easy for me.
“As a parent, the first reaction is you overreact. The second stage is acceptance. Third stage is, how do we get you out of this situation, which is when we now decide, you know what, hush money it is going to be because if he goes to court, I know there is no way he is going to survive it. Even with his father as a sitting judge.”
Although he loves being in front of the camera, with his recent roles being on “Isono”, “Vutha” and “Erased”, Mbebe’s very passionate about empowering the youth.
In fact, it is the very reason he started his company.
Mbebe is equally committed to educating viewers through storytelling.
He explained: “We started the company in 2010. And to be frank with you, we never really started it as a production company, the idea was to empower youth, especially those that are disadvantaged, that don’t have access to the training.
“As we regrouped, we had two notable projects, which we shot in KwaZulu-Natal as that was where we were getting financial support. Juggling the two isn’t easy.
“You know, no one has money for UCT. No one has money for Wits. We are a poor community in an extremely rich country.
“I could act all I can, yes, of course, I can do it. But the joy I get from seeing someone I have mentored being successful in the industry is just priceless.”
On the roles, he gravitates towards these days, he bluntly says: “Listen, for me, it is just straight up, I’m really not picky. I don’t think our industry is big enough for an actor to be picky. We get a few projects to choose from. We have to put bread on the table.
“It doesn’t matter how bad the story is. What I always say to my co-actors, it doesn’t matter how bad the script is, just get in there and be good. It doesn’t mean that because a script is bad, you have to be a bad actor as well.”
Mbebe also revisited three of his favourite characters and explained why they resonated so well with viewers.
“I enjoy playing baddies. I think every actor loves playing the bad guy because you can’t be bad in real life. You have got that freedom to be as bad as possible. In terms of the story, well I like to tell stories that deal with everyday life, the challenges that people face.
“As such, I I would say one of them was Dumisani Shabane on ‘Generations, the reason why I’m mentioning that character, we tackled through that character, the issue of domestic violence, male abuse, everything. That is just one of the roles that I believe resonated more with the people and it did more for the people than it did for me.
“Second, I shot a show last year, ‘Mzali Wami’. The character was named Terror. I’m mentioning him because the show itself deals with human trafficking, especially of young girls by this man that the community really holds in high regard. I’m hoping people watched the show for what it was and took away a lesson from that.
“I think the best of them all would be those Mzansi Magic low-budget movies. It was called ‘An Honest Living’, I played a man who is unemployed. He’s got the skill and is doing everything he can to support his family.
“You cannot disregard the pain he goes through because there is nothing more emasculating than not being able to provide for your family, which is the reality of this country.”
So whats next for Mbebe? “I’ve been a working actor, lately. After ‘Isono’ on BET, I jumped on this Netflix project and then a movie that we are shooting in Limpopo.”
And so the daily grind continues for Mbebe who is doing what he loves in front of the camera while also doing his bit to empower the next generation.
“Hush Money” airs on SABC2 at 7.30pm, on Sunday.