From channelling his inner Rocky in ‘Knuckle City’ to exploring the meaning of identity in ‘Still Breathing’ to learning Hindi for ‘Bhai’s Café’, Siv Ngesi has been a busy man.
Johannesburg - There are a few things that come to mind when you hear Siv Ngesi’s name. 

A comedian, MC and presenter – with Man Cave and Wingin’ It a hit with audiences – he’s also an actor. In a nutshell, he is a master of many trades. And he is a fearless voice on social media, too. 

He pointed out: “Authenticity is what I live by. There’s nothing online that isn’t authentic. Too much stuff is fake out there. I try to keep to myself, I try to fight injustice as much as possible and I try to be truthful to what I believe in and what my mother taught me. That’s what I try every day. If that means the odd debate, swear word and argument here and there, bring it on.” 

Despite a very manic work schedule and several other projects in the pipeline, Ngesi took a break to chat about his upcoming projects, which have taken him out of his comfort zone. He said: “Still Breathing is a star-studded, roller-coaster ride of incredible emotions. It was really incredible working with a calibre of actors and actresses that I respect.” 

On the script, he added, “It’s authentic characters dealing with grief, happiness, family; just everyday life. And I think that everyone who is watching will relate to one of the characters, if not all the characters.” 

This series, which is directed by Johnny Barbuzano and created by his co-producer wife, Tiffany, ticks many boxes. It covers everything from love, friendship, complicated relationships, betrayal and long-kept secrets between a circle of former friends, who are reunited by a tragedy. The cast includes Kate Liquorish, Lorcia Khumalo, Shannon Esra, Ty Keogh and Jane de Wet. 

Of his character, T-Boss, Ngesi revealed: “It is a dream character for me. He is a multi-layered onion of a man, who is in a very interesting space in his life. A father of two, a husband and a doctor, he is also the son of a domestic worker and what comes with that is the question of identity.” 

The TV series is releasing in February along with his two movies, "Knuckle City" and "Bhai’s Café". Talk about a happy coincidence. In "Knuckle City", which was South Africa’s official submission for Best International Feature Film at this year’s Oscars, he plays Goatee. 

Ngesi surprised many fans and industry colleagues with his fluent Xhosa in the movie, which has been playing at various festivals. He said: “I am fluent in Xhosa. I am Xhosa. I’m from Gugulethu. Both my parents are Xhosa. Many people don’t know that, which blows my mind. 

But I haven’t worked much in Xhosa. I think that is why people have not known that I am Xhosa. But I have another TV show that I’m working on that is Xhosa and it is coming out shortly.” 

It wasn’t too difficult slipping into character. “I’ve been boxing for about 7 to 8 years now. When I heard that I’m going to be in 'Knuckle City', well, I have always wanted to do a boxing movie. 
I’ve always wanted to train for a film and have my Rocky Balboa moment. When we were growing up there was no such thing as Creed. No one looked like us on TV, who was boxing. We weren’t represented in these films. So when I found out, I started gyming even harder. My character is an egotistical, in-your-face boxer,” he shared. 

Getting to work with a director like Jahmil XT Qubeka has been a memorable experience for him. He confirmed: “It’s the first time I’m working with him but it’s definitely not my last. He is a genius. 

Even at the Toronto International Film Festival people were talking about him as the next big thing in the film industry, internationally. You always know South Africans only click when the world clicks about a South African talent. I have a feeling he is going to be bigger overseas than he is in South Africa.” 

He laughed: “I wish every role would take me out of my comfort zone. I think the cool thing about the three projects that are coming out is that they really, really bring me out of my comfort zone. I don’t think I’ve ever had such eclectic work as I have in the month coming up.” 

As for "Bhai’s Café", Ngesi said: “I had to learn how to sing in Hindi as I recorded a Hindi song. Initially, they were going to get someone else to record it and have me mouth the words. I was like, ‘Not a flippin’ chance, I will learn it and I will do it’. Give me a challenge and I will take it on. And I had to go to Bollywood dance lessons, which I did.” 


Although this movie is a rom-com, Ngesi doesn’t get to flex his comedic muscles. He offered, “Everyone else does funny. I am the serious one. My character has a very pinnacle role. It’s all about gentrification and how it’s affecting everyone. It’s a conversation that needs to be had.” 

By the end of next month, Ngesi’s acting prowess should be the talk of the town. 

Still Breathing airs on M-Net (DStv channel 101) on Thursday, February 27 at 8pm. Bhai’s Cafe opens on the big screen on February 14 and Knuckle City on February 28.