It's wonderful to see a fresh face on screen. Even better, when said person displays acting flair that belies their four years in the industry. And that is what Keke Mphuthi has proven in her time on TV.
The 27-year-old actress from Kimberly started out as a choreographer before the acting bug bit. She said: “After that, I went for a lot of auditions (and) got a company to manage me. I did a few short films for eKasi Stories and Mzansi Magic, landed a role on Isidingo, had a part on iNumber Number, and so on. This eventually led to Unmarried and now The Throne.”
It was her role as Lesego in Unmarried that saw her register on the radar of fans as well as industry people.
“Yes, it was my first major role. My character was a typical Jo’burg girl, who was all about the glitz and glam. She travelled with her sugar daddy. She didn’t necessarily have a mind of her own. However, in terms of her being a friend to those closest to her, she was loyal.
“It was a very traumatising but interesting role to play.”
In the series, she had the inimitable Renata Stuurman as a co-star.
Moving on to Mzansi Magic’s The Throne, which debuted on Monday, Mphuthi plays Dipuo, niece to Queen Mosadi (Monnye Kunupi) of the Batswana kingdom.
Her father, Moseki (Don Mlangeni), is the Queen’s younger brother. He was passed over to take over from their father, which has left him embittered over the years. Now his daughter Dipuo has designs on ruling the kingdom, a vision he supports wholeheartedly.
Peeling back the layers of her character, she said: “She’s of royalty but she can’t dress. Co-ordinating outfits and colours doesn’t come naturally. She is set on making herself the queen of the village. She’s evil. She plots a lot. Some of her plans fail, some work out. She’s more street- than book-smart. She isn’t well-spoken. But she’s got big dreams. Her sarcasm is on a different level.”
She’s a daddy’s girl, too, which viewers have picked up. He’s also her biggest ally.
On working with a giant like Mlangeni (better known for his role as Zeb Matabane in Isidingo ), she says, “Bra Don is amazing. He is easy to work with. Our chemistry flows. We get onto set, get through guidelines of what the script should be, and everything comes together. How we end up saying the rest of the things that we say, I don’t know, it just comes out.”
The chemistry clearly works.
She adds: “They are two deceptive beings that love each other. They never tell the other that they are wrong. If one says the sky is purple, then they will find a way to make sure it is so and everyone believes it.”
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On slipping into the skin of this deceptive character, she says she used two well-known actors as a reference.
Mphuthi laughs: “Everything happened so abruptly. I had a few people I chose on a personal level (as a guideline) such as Kgomotso Christopher on Scandal. I saw her relevant to my character. Moshidi Motshegwa, who is now in The River. Back then she was Naomi on Rhythm City. I thought about how she used to inflict her wickedness. And I just tried to put the elements of those two people together. It was such an amazing combo, and they are gifted artists.”
Of her choice in characters, where there is a concerted effort to play roles with gravitas, she said: “I’m trying to shy away from the norm. I’m very big on women’s empowerment in our industry. Roles don’t have be just about being a pretty face. There is so much more and I want to help raise the bar to help transform that girl next door to want more and better.
“My characters are not an extension of me. I would love to play a psychotic part. I think I would do very well at it. It would challenge me and it is out of the normI would love to do movies, maybe international projects, you never know what God has in store.”
But now, she is focusing on leaving her footprint in unconventional roles. It’s all about taking her craft to new levels and ensuring her performances are nothing short of authentic and convincing.
Watching her in The Throne, she’s certainly reigning in more ways than one.
The Throne airs on Mzansi Magic (DStv channel 161) from Monday to Thursday at 7pm.