WHEELING AND DEALING: Tumisho Masha makes his debut as Gibson Mosia in Mzansi Magics new gripping drama, Saints & Sinners.

The homegrown dramas continue to proliferate on the small screen with Mzansi Magic announcing the debut of Saints & Sinners. This stylishly shot show boasts all the attractive trimmings of a hit TV series and pulls it off with South Africa’s acting cream of the crop with talent like Tumisho Masha in the plum role of Gibson Mosia, writes Debashine Thangevelo.

THROW Tumisho Masha into any role and he swims his way to victory. After breaking free of the shackles of Dumisani Thusong on SABC3’s Isidingo, he has gone on to fine-tune his craft in an array of gritty dramas, soaps, the telenovela Isibaya and movies.

And it doesn’t matter whether the role requires him to exude negative or positive traits, he handles it with sheer finesse, as witnessed with him in the role of Jackson, a sleazy but calculating and charming lawyer, in Isibaya.

While the fate of that character remains hazy, Masha has extended his reach by inhabiting the role of Gibson Mosia in Mzansi Magic’s Saints & Sinners.

He says: “My character (Jackson) has gone on hiatus to Nigeria. I thought he was going to at the beginning of the year. As far as I know, he is supposed to come back at some point.”

Meanwhile, the producers of Saints & Sinners counted their blessings when they learnt his call sheet was open.

“I got a call from the producer and the guys had said to her: ‘Give Tumisho a call, he would be great for the part’. They did that. And I guess it worked out.

“From the table reading, I got a sense of the quality of the script and the cast,” he contines.

After whetting his appetite for fascinating characters over the years, he was understandably excited to slip into the skin of his new one.

“My character (Gibson) is one of those you might have heard of in the papers. Incredibly shady and totally selfish. Sometimes you don’t know why he does these things.

“He is terribly materialistic and takes advantage of anyone he can,” the actor says.

Somehow, through his wheeling and dealing, he becomes embroiled in the lives of the Khumalos and Moloiswas. One family comes from an affluent background and the other leads a humble existence in Diepkloof, where they also try to uplift and empower their community. And so these worlds collide in a way none of them could have imagined.

What anchors this 13-part drama series is its relevance and resonance.

While Masha’s character feels invincible, he isn’t.

He notes: “He doesn’t have a rival or so he thinks, until, by some chance, he starts having an affair with Phindi (Khumalo), played by Nompilo Gwala. This turns out to be his Achilles’ heel. Before he knows it, she is the reason his life starts falling apart.”

On his screen time with the likes of Nthati Moshesh, S’dumo Mtshali, Tshepo Maseko (Isidingo’s Parsons Matabane), Warren Masemola and others, he offers: “I think we have done one show before (referring to Moshesh). But this is the first time in over decade that we are doing so again. She is always amazing to work with. I always enjoy working with S’dumo. He is so easygoing – they don’t share any screen time though.”

Expanding on the pull of this drama, he says: “First of all, the storyline is very real. A lot of what happens, you would have read about, like the shady deals my character is involved in. His relationship with Phindi touches on that whole older man buying affection. Then there are other things like the sort of trouble people get into by uploading personal stuff on their phones and social media.”

And Masha is delighted he gets to switch things up with this dodgy character.

“You don’t want to play the same character too often because then you get to work and go on auto pilot. And that is not what anyone gets into the industry for. I try to find parts of myself to put on screen that the audience didn’t know was there. Sometimes, I surprise myself, too. Presenting our greatest dreams and worse nightmares – if I can translate that on screen, then I am happy.”

Going by the promos aired on TV; Sinners & Saints is stylishly shot with aesthetically captivating backdrops of Illovo, Roodeport, Maboneng Precinct, Soweto and central Joburg.

Interestingly enough, Masha has been cast in Mandela’s Gun, a biopic directed by John Irvin, and a short film, The Beginning, which has produced by his production house, Money Box Media, has been entered into the South African Film and Television Awards for next year.

Looks like Masha has another ace up his sleeve as a producer. As I said, he is full of surprises – pleasant ones, thankfully!

• Saints & Sinners airs on Mzansi Magic (DStv channel 161) at 8pm on Sunday.