Thembi Seete has come a long way since being a part of the pioneering kwaito group, Boom Shaka, in 1993.
In fact, for the past two decades, she’s evolved into a multifaceted artist, planting her feet firmly in the acting space.
It started with “Hijack”, “Yizo Yizo and “Gazlam”, and now she’s soared to greater heights by holding her own as a judge on Mzansi Magic’s hit reality series, “Idols SA”, which recently ended, and the second season of Showmax’s “Adulting”.
The testosterone-charged drama centres on four varsity friends in Johannesburg, who navigate their way through carving a career, exploring the modern-day dating pool as well as dealing with everything else in between.
As they try to grow as men, finding love, success and the best nightlife spots in Jozi, they turn to one another for laughs and support.
What’s interesting about the latter show is viewers will get to see Seete bare all for the first time.
Before delving into character Portia’s scandalous storyline, she opened up about her “Idols SA” journey, where she went from a guest to regular judge, alongside Somizi Mhlongo and JR Bogopa, in seasons 18 and 19.
In a recent chat with the 46-year-old star, I was blown away by her humbleness. Despite her clout in the industry, she spoke with refreshing authenticity.
And she paid homage to her humble roots of growing up in Soweto.
On her “Idols SA” journey, she shared: “I started as a guest judge and I had fun, I was relaxed. And then I got a call for season 18, oh my God, I could not believe it.
“For me, I was just having a good time. I freaked out as now it meant taking it seriously. It’s having to decide on somebody else’s future. How do you be nice and honest without damaging anyone?
“It was lovely doing live television for the first time. It’s a different ballgame completely – there is no going back once you say something.
“In season 19, the last season, I had the best time as you know what to expect. Somizi, JR and ProVerb were amazing. To answer your question, it was the best experience of my life.”
Grateful to have the show under her belt, she said she was blessed.
And pushing boundaries is what Seete enjoys most as an actress, which is why the brief but impactful role in “Adulting” 2 was welcomed.
Seete said: “Portia is a very interesting woman. She is a family woman. She is married. At the same time, with life and relationships, things don’t go according to the way you’ve planned.
“And she’s going through a lot of challenges in her relationship.”
Now, she isn’t in the series for the full duration of the series as her character is part of a story arc.
“It’s a necessary part. They don’t go back to exactly how the problem started. With Portia, we see that she is married, she has a lavish life and she is a spoilt housewife.
“Yes, she has a mind of her own and she can do things for herself but she is not getting the attention that every woman needs.
“You know, you want that love, you want to be asked how your day was by your husband. You also want to have conversations, where you talk about the day. And she’s having none of that from her husband.
“She’s a very lonely woman and it got to a point where she decided, I need to have control over my own life, I need to make myself happy. And that is exactly what she did.”
Portia finds herself in an entanglement with Vuyani (Luthando Mthembu), who has a part-time gig as an instructor at the gym where she works out.
Seete said: “She went and looked for this excitement that she is yearning for and she bumped into this young man at the gym and she decided: ‘I’m going to get my fulfilment, no strings attached.’
“I’m sure many women will relate to her but I’m not so sure about the paying part. There are a whole lot of women out there, be it a relationship or marriage, going” ‘Are we in this or not?’
“Sometimes, as a woman, you want that attention, love and someone that you can talk to.”
And her approach to the character was to be empathetic and non-judgemental.
“My take on this is that none of us were born in Sandton. Most of the characters I have played are from the township. I’m also from the township. I’m from Soweto.
“So, yes, Portia is a glamour puss, she’s spoilt. But also, at the same time, her approach is from home. I took the approach of making her feel real with this experience.
“She’s enjoying the moment with this boy. When she’s at home, she’s trying to genuinely get the attention. The approach is not a plastic one; I took a genuine one that everyone can relate to with her loneliness from her marriage.”
Given the context of her character’s storyline, intimacy is a huge part of the narrative.
That means, Seete, for the first time, had to show more skin than she’s done before.
Thankfully, times have changed. Many intimacy coaches are coming on board to ensure everyone is comfortable with the scenes.
“I had about a week to sort of get in my mind and psych myself up. The one thing I told myself is that this has nothing to do with me as Thembi. I am portraying this character, I need to wear her clothes. I need to be her wholeheartedly.
“It is great to have coaches to take us through the scenes and make sure that we are comfortable with the scenes that we want to do and don’t want to do.
“It was really important for me to tell myself, this character is representing someone. I needed to be present.”
Somewhat of a perfectionist, Seete said she took lessons to develop her craft to ensure that she ddid justice to every character she played.
“I go for acting coaching as much as I can. I never thought I would be still acting. I started as a musician, a performer with Boom Shaka, and all I wanted was to have my own identity. I wanted to be known as myself. I think I’ve done that successfully.
“With acting, it is a learning process. You need to portray every character differently.”
As for where music stands amid her career plans, she shared: “Music keeps following me but we’ve (Boom Shaka) not recorded anything. We are still doing classic music.
“We tried to come up with new music but people still want to hear the old music that we created.”
On what else is in the kitty, Seete revealed that she’s got a few things in the pipeline but she has yet to sign on the dotted line.
∎ “Adulting” 2 is streaming on Showmax.