Lorcia Cooper in "Lockdown" as Tyson. Picture: Supplied

Black Brain’s award-winning drama series "Lockdown" has become the first Mzansi Magic drama to reach its fifth season.

Led by Mandla N, known for various small-screen roles and a former music career, the show is as explosive as ever, showcasing the talent of some of South Africa’s actresses. Mandla N drew inspiration from growing up in a township where he saw many people around him sent to prison.

He took it a step further by introducing the story of female prisoners, a new take for Mzansi, which often chronicles stories of male convicts, including in shows like the popular Yizo Yizo.

By shifting his focus from the norm, Mandla N created a niche for himself and further captured the hearts of many South Africans.

“I live in the hood, in Pimville, Soweto, and in that way I’ve been blessed with the insight into prison life, because you’ll find that this lady is from prison or that other one also.

“So, working closely with these women, you quickly realise that these types of stories can’t be faked by anyone, but need people who have lived the experience to bring it to TV. So it was important that I get the authenticity of the story to make it believable to the viewer,” said Mandla N.

“And as a company, we don’t cast for likes or the hype or followers. We cast for talent. We think outside the box. We are intentional about our storylines and we look for talent and actors who we know will convey the story perfectly.”

            Sophie Lichaba makes her return to the small as Palesa in Lockdown Season 5. Picture: Supplied

This season is no different, bringing in surprise acts such as Sophie Lichaba, Patrick Ndlovu and Skeem Saam’s Molefi Monaisa, who perfectly portrays Wallet .

Season five’s lead characters, according to Mandla N, have made it onto the powerful cast because they serve the story and nothing else.

“Because we know how difficult it is for local drama series to reach season five, this right here is a proud moment for me, because not only do I really put in the work, but we’ve managed to craft something that viewers find value in and can’t get over, thus sort of guaranteeing the crew work for the next 10 years and content that is authentic on the small screens.”

Mandla N has achieved a full career of 25 years, built on his desire for his work and productions to speak louder than he ever could.

“This industry, for me, has always been about the work. I got into it because of the work, not because I want to be in the media. I want people to remember me for this work and therefore it is very important for me to be known for what I do.”

His said he valued his privacy and admitted that it allowed him to craft work that matters, rather than being occupied with things that are not aligned with his vision.

“By cutting out the noise, it has allowed the work to be the loudest and that is what fulfills my soul.”

"Lockdown" has since been moved from Mzansi Magic onto Showmax, airing its first episodes last Thursday.

Among its many feats, the show collected a few notable awards at last year’s South African Film and Television Awards, including the Best Supporting Actress in a TV Drama award, won by Lorcia Cooper for her character Tyson, and the Best TV Drama award.

Returning actors include seasoned performers Pamela Nomvete, Zola Nombona, Linda Sebezo, Nomsa Buthelezi and Patricia Boyer.

The Sunday Independent