CLASS ACT: The struggling actor days are over for Durban-born Malusi Mbele  he has bagged a meaty role as Zolani (DH Radebes brother) in Rhythm City.

First introduced to South African viewers as one of the Top 10 in SABC1’s talent scouting reality series, Class Act, Malusi Mbele has ebbed his way into the spotlight with roles in Muvhango, Soul City and now Rhythm City. Debashine Thangevelo got the lowdown on his struggles to achieve his dream and what he is enjoying most about his powerhouse character…

LOQUACIOUS – that’s Malusi Mbele for you! He loves chatting, which certainly helps in an interview.

We were first introduced to Mbele when he was an actor-in-the- making on SABC1’s Class Act. Although he made the Top 10, his journey didn’t extend far beyond that.

But prior to us seeing him on the reality show, Mbele spent two years in Jozi trying to gain a foothold in the industry.

His efforts, however, were fruitless and, with no other options, he headed back home to Durban.

“I had to go back to the drawing board,” he says.

And he job-hopped from working in construction to getting hired at a call centre, where, within the span of four months, he bagged three promotions.

A go-getter , Mbele shares: “I was able to buy myself a car. I gave my mum everything she wanted. But the thing is, my mind was there (at work), but my heart was saying, ‘this isn’t where you belong.’”

And when Class Act happened, he decided to give acting a go again – this time, far more confident than he was before.

He might not have walked off with the title, but, being the self-starter he is, he managed to bag the role of Vuyo in SABC2’s Muvhango.

His character accidentally killed Thandaza’s husband and returned, years later, to seek forgiveness only to fall in love with the sister of the man he murdered.

“It was such a great experience,” he admits.

“Class Act was a turning point as I was introduced to being in front of the camera and being directed by a director.

“You know, I never studied drama so it was always a disadvantage for me.”

That was in 2010. Three years on, and myriad acting workshops later, he is creating his own path. After about a year-and-a-half on Muvhango, he worked in SABC1’s Soul City.

He gushes: “That was another great experience, working with Leleti Khumalo. I respect her and grew up watching Sarafina! To work alongside her – that was something else.”

Mbele landed the coveted role of Zolani (DH Radebe’s brother) after getting wind of the audition from his agency.

He says: “I knew I got this role – I just felt it. And this is despite me going up against another actor who used to be on Isidingo.”

With his confidence securing him the part, Mbele sheds light on his character: “Zolani is crazy – I am not going to lie. I’m enjoying him. He is the kind of guy who is irritating and loveable at the same time.

“He comes in at 9-Nine radio station to run things while his brother is away. He arrives as one of the board members.”

Although cocky, Mbele’s character also has a huge chip on his shoulder stemming from his sibling rivalry with DH – the brother who could do no wrong in their mother’s eyes.

He points out: “Zolani is determined to prove he can run the business and make it a success without his brother’s interference. DH has always been the leader. They are rich because whatever DH touches turns into gold.

“With Zolani, he always moves backwards. For once, he wants to change that.”

Things, however, get rather entangled when he also charms the pants, so to speak, off Lucilla (KB Motsilanyane), who is dating his brother. Oops!

Singing the praises of his co-star, he says: “I can go on and on about KB. She has been amazing, as have been the directors. I wouldn’t have been that comfortable had it not been for her. This role is so very complex – there are so many dynamics at play.”

Dressed in a suit – sans the tie because he is cool like that – Zolani has quite a bumpy journey ahead.

Mbele laughs: “There is a lot of drama – and I mean a lot.

“There is also a lot of laughter. He is going to keep people on edge. He isn’t a villain, but there is that element of it in him.”

There’s nothing like a bit of sibling rivalry and some power struggles to spice up the script. And so the plot thickens, along with Zolani’s disarming charm!

• Rhythm City airs on on weekdays at 6.30pm.