If you’ve watched Zone 14, Soul City, or Tsotsi, you are no stranger to the legendary actor Owen Sejake. Known for his deep and authoritative voice, Sejake’s distinguished career dates back to 1971 and includes winning Best Supporting Actor at the Monaco International Film Festival for his role in Beat the Drum. In the Showmax Original Empini, he plays General Moeti, a powerful political figure with ambitions of becoming the Deputy President. Xabiso Ngqabe sat down with Owen to find out more:

What are you most excited about regarding Empini?

Empini reveals many things that people don’t see, especially what happens inside Parliament. I’m interested in how Empini shows the public that these people are supposed to be serving us, not the other way around.

How is this role different from the roles you’ve played?

This character is more stoic. He is aware that he has seen it all, especially in the warzone (empini). He has spent time in caves and holes, sometimes drinking dirty water to survive. He has witnessed so much and is very calculating.

What have you learned playing this character?

If there’s one thing General has taught me, it’s discipline. Through this character, I learned how people behave when they are put in a corner.

General is friends with Khaya Bhodoza, played by Siyabonga Thwala. How is the relationship between the two?

General is the one who recruited Khaya, but you know, when you recruit someone into a job, you then later want to also earn some perks or benefits, and that person has to be controlled by you. That’s what happens between General and Khaya. General believes that if it wasn’t for him, Khaya wouldn’t have been in that position.

How was working with Siyabonga Thwala?

I met him through theatre. The first time I saw him, he was a tiny little boy; we were doing industrial theatre. He was playing a naughty type of young man. That’s where he really built himself. We travelled the whole country. It’s always nostalgic when I look at him and remember those days. Now he’s grown, and he’s a husband. A few weeks ago, we were talking, and he said, “You know, bra Owen, as you grow up, it’s important to have someone who’s a friend. All those things you taught me, now I also have a wife.” I was very encouraged and proud hearing that.

What message do you hope viewers will take from the show?

I believe we are in a new era. Every time you watch TV, you realize that being in politics is similar to being in a war zone. You have to contend with every type of character. Some you will know well, but others you’ll recognize yet not trust. Even in their meetings, it’s chaotic! Each person wears different colors, despite the expectation of unity. These individuals are meant to share the same objectives, yet each harbors different motives. It’s a war!

Sounds like this show will bring out a lot of things we didn’t know about?

Yes! That is the work of artists. This is what artform is all about.

Watch Empini now on Showmax, with new episodes every Thursday.