Bonko Khoza is celebrated as one of Mzansi’s finest actors after ‘The Wife’, ‘Heart of the Hunter’ and ‘Red Ink’

South African actor Bonko Khoza. Picture: Instagram.

South African actor Bonko Khoza. Picture: Instagram.

Published Apr 12, 2024


South African actor Bonko Khoza is currently the man of the moment on the small screen.

He has earned high praise for his leading roles in the history-making Netflix movie, “Heart of the Hunter” and the hit Showmax series, “Red Ink”.

This follows the Joburg-born actor’s award-winning role on the popular local series, “The Wife”, where he played Mqhele Zulu.

And after a busy few months, he is finally enjoying the fruits of his labour.

“For me, this is what I have always dreamt of, it's what I’ve been working towards and it feels so surreal that all these projects are out there and have been well received,” he told Independent Media Lifestyle.

“As an actor, you often work in isolation so it's quite an experience when people actually get to see your work.”

Khoza explained that he had to endure months of physical preparation for his role on “Heart of the Hunter”, which secured the number one spot on the Netflix Top 10 weekly rank between March 25 - March 31, making it the first film to come out of Africa to ever achieve this milestone.

Bonko Khoza plays Zuko Khumalo in ‘Heart of the Hunter.“ Picture: Instagram.

In the movie, he plays Zuko Khumalo, a deadly, retired assassin who is forced to leave his ordinary life working at an auto shop to save his country from a corrupt presidential candidate.

“This role was out of my comfort zone and I underwent about four weeks of training before we started shooting.”

“I actually hurt my back during the training but it all worked out and I did a lot of the stunts in the movie but a lot of them was also done by my fantastic stunt double and I think with him doing a lot of the fighting scenes and me doing the acting, we really managed to heighten the character.”

Khoza also ventured into unfamiliar territory when he played serial killer, Napoleon “The Butcher” Dingiswayo in “Red Ink,” which was adapted from Angela Makholwa-Moabelo’s best-selling 2007 debut novel of the same name.

Bonka Khoza as Napoleon ‘The Butcher’ Dingiswayo on ‘Red Ink.’ Supplied image.

“Napoleon’s world was far removed from mine, so I did a lot of research on prisons and serial killers to gain some insight into what goes on inside their minds.

“I also lost a lot of weight for this role and used all my personal tools, such as the tone of my voice, how I wore my hair and beard and I even suggested that he wears glasses which the director agreed with, so I think that all added to Napoleon's demeanour.”

This was a particularly taxing role for the 32-year-old as he also played the twin brother of “The Butcher” in the series.

But much of the focus was on Napoleon and due to his complex nature, Khoza was determined to humanise him so that he could be relatable to viewers.

“I wanted people to feel like this could be any guy that they see at the shops or just out in public because my job as an actor is to make a character personal and to bring something to the table.”

“I also wanted to create an internal conflict with this character, who sees nothing wrong in what he was doing and he felt justified in his actions because I think that good characters are not just good or bad, they are essentially human.”

He admitted that it was was an emotionally challenging to tap into a serial killer’s mindset.

“I tried to immerse myself into an idea of what I perceived Napoleon to be, he had to have his own quirks and I had to make him interesting.”

Despite Khoza’s recent leading roles, he also enjoyed his time on “The Wife,” which earned him a South African Film and Television Award (Safta) win for Best Actor in a Telenovela

“This was a fun role to play and I could constantly tweak my portrayal of the character and I felt like I was constantly growing as an actor during this time.”

And while he insists that he didn't need validation as an actor, Khoza admitted that the response to his work surpassed his expectations.

“As much as we are entertainers, I think that the essence of a good actor is to be an honest storyteller,” he said.

“The first thing I think of when I land a role is how far can I push a character in the opposite direction to the script, so when the response to a role is positive, it makes me feel like I am on the right track and that I can continue building my skills as an actor and continue to make art.”