Remember how Taraji P Henson blew up as Cookie Lyon in Empire?
Well, Vatiswa Ndara attracted a similar kind of attention – here on home soil – when she started inhabiting the role of Igazi’s Nomarussia. She fast became one of the most despised characters on our screens.
Despite her immaculate outfits and makeup, this woman has evil seeping through her pores. She has not only been ruthless with her dark ambitions, she has been relentless.
In season one, she fought for the throne for her son Jonga at great personal cost. But all the black magic in the world couldn’t save her from prison and her favourite son being “killed”. Once again, her cousin S’cotho (Zikhona Sodlaka) comes to the rescue.
Tonight caught up with Ndara after a seriously long day on set. She was in an unexpected – but welcome – energetic state of mind.
Her story arc snakes along an interesting path this season. But before delving into that, she spoke about bagging this role.
She recalls: “The first thing I said when I saw Shona (Ferguson) was, ‘This woman is absolutely mad.’ He laughed and said: ‘That is exactly the reaction I want because we want Nomarussia to be seen as this menace. She’s really crazy.’”
That said, though, she had a few concerns about the reception of the character she was bringing to life on screen.
Ndara admits: “My worry was over whether I would be able to deliver, because with a character like that you can go wild and mess it up. I was worried about whether people would believe the craziness and have that love-hate relationship with her.”
Four episodes into season two, that’s a concern that no longer troubles her.
Her notoriety with this character sees her trending on social media every Sunday.
She offers: “I can’t deny some really hated her. Some found her really stupid and reckless. I loved that this character got people talking.”
Now Nomarussia won’t be winning any Best Mother awards – especially with her glaring favouritism towards Jonga, while her younger son, Phila, is kept at arm’s length, watching from the sidelines.
She explains: “Yes, it’s true, embarrassingly so. She doesn’t really care about Phila. But Jonga isn’t gay. That’s why she ‘loves’ him. He has the potential to become king. Also, Phila irritates her because he is sweet and loved by this family.”
In many ways, Jonga mirrors his mother’s darkness while Phila remains incorruptible.
Of course, there are many things brewing at the moment. While the king and queen prepare for parenthood, darkness descends on the royal house when Nomarussia worms her way back in.
She has become such a doyenne of deception, she would be the perfect agent for the NIA.
Ndara chuckles when I mentioned this.
She adds: “She’s playing a dangerous game. The people were happy when she was behind bars. But it didn’t bring her down to earth. She expects miracles from her cousin. She has no remorse about what happened. In that scene where she sees her son alive and you can tell Jonga isn’t normal (he’s dressed in rags), she doesn’t see it. She’s just focused on getting him to be king again.”
There’s a storm brewing in Nomarussia’s life – although she is oblivious to it. I’m talking, of course, about Jonga’s incestuous relationship with her cousin S’cotho. While she has no qualms about betraying others, how will she feel about it being done to her?
Ndara can’t reveal much, but she hints: “Everything is about Nomarussia. She is the only one who has the right to kill people and order people around. It’s her world. So you can imagine that would be a serious blow to her. At the same time, she needs her cousin. Without her cousin, Nomarussia is naked. That’s the one person she is holding on to for dear life.”
Of all the roles she played to date, including a cult leader on Generations years ago, the veteran actress admits to this one being her darkest.
Right now, fans can’t get over a scared Nomarussia discovering her son is a snake, literally. The scene where she fell, half-slithered and crawled to escape from the hut was priceless.