IT'S ACTING: Sello Maake Ka Ncube does gay well.
Sello Maake ka Ncube’s stage presence has long transcended bounds and limits but it’s his latest role in Mzansi Magic’s telenovela, The Queen, that has set tongues wagging.

Even though the telenovela is intriguing in its own right and the acting by many is superb, it’s Ka Ncube’s role that has attracted most attention recently. Viewers are “confronted” by a different Ka Ncube playing the role of an extremely queer gay man, Kgositsile, who is part of a complex rich family riddled with controversy.

This character has captivated many but equally left others perplexed and in awe on social media. The Sunday Independent caught up with him as he was on cast this week, and his reaction to all the fuss was decidedly low-key.

“Playing a gay character came as shock to many people, I suppose, especially from those who are a bit homophobic you know, saying things like ‘wenzani manje uSello’ (what is Sello doing now?)

“But besides that, generally the responses have been positive. People love it,” he says.

There’s unmistakably politeness in Ka Ncube’s constant laughter as he speaks. He abruptly shifts gear to underscore a point of utmost importance to him.

“For me, an actor is like a glass, you pour Coke, it will take the colour of Coke, and you pour Fanta it will take the colour of Fanta. An actor is just basically a clear channel that can embody anything.”

Ka Ncube is no stranger to the South African small screens and has over the years acted in roles depicting masculine men of power who rule with an iron fist in corporations and families. The role of Kgosietsile adds a fascinating twist to his numerous abilities.

“I am glad there is some recognition that I am not just one dimensional and that they (viewers) got to see another side of me as an actor,” he says graciously.

But before Ka Ncube could fully understand his role, his interpretation of the character differed. “I remember reading the breakdown but somehow it didn’t really dawn on me as to what the role really was,” he recalls.

“I thought the role was written almost like a character similar to the flamboyant Cyrus from The Fixer but I never thought of the gay side.”

And with just two days to go before shooting, he had to bring the character to life. He was nervous at first.

“The only problem was that I had not really decided on how I would play Kgosietsile but along the way I just found my voice for the character by using my experience of observation,” he adds.

“In our business you always work with gay people and using that experience of observation I picked up mannerisms and behaviours and emulated those, but also gave it my own breath and my own life experience.”

The 56-year-old father of five says portraying Kgosietsile’s character has broadened his understanding of the gay community. He has the gravity and the beauty of his hand gestures to help him emulate many gay men convincingly even though not everyone is buying it.

“The feelings that I am using, the feelings of love showed me that love is just love. There is no male love or female love but love is just love, whether in a gay relationship or a hetero, you just see love,” he says.

“I’ve always known about homosexuality. I love the human condition so that is why even when I realised that this was a gay character, I didn’t act macho and say, ‘I have an image to protect therefore I can’t do it’. I embraced the role and so far it has been an interesting journey.”

In a short time Ka Ncube says, he has learnt a lot.

“Like when you’re gay and much older, life choices have diminished; and to experience the frustration of having a younger lover who is playing you, this made me understand what women go through. It has made me learn and experience that aspect of life.”

The portrayal of uncomfortable societal issues still remains important for him. He doesn’t abide by such assumptions.

“One of the things I said in my early days was that an actor is an instrument for mind liberation.”

He weighed in on the recent incident of Somizi Mhlongo storming out of Grace Bible Church after a pastor used homophobic ideas in a sermon.

“All I can say is that Somizi must know he’s got support from some of us. If ever there is some kind of mobilisation that’s needed, we will gladly support him,” he says.

“Once I started understanding that there are people who live an alternative lifestyle, and having sons, I asked myself what I would say if one of them came to me and said ‘papa I am gay.’

“I think allowing yourself to think about these things is important, knowing that you’re going to stand in front of your child’s happiness because of what you believe in.”

Ka Ncube started his acting career at the age of 15 and has since won various accolades. He has featured in various films and stage plays and is currently portraying Can Themba in the play #HouseOfTruth, a figure whom he says saved his career.

“I was just about to give up acting because I felt my career was not going anywhere. But then I read a book by Can Themba and it sparked my love and interest, and refreshed my views on acting, making this a very special play to be part of.”

The Sunday Independent