Angela Sithole, an absolute powerhouse renowned for her roles in TV shows like The Queen, In The Dock, and Zabalaza, stars as Winnie in the new action-packed Showmax Original Empini, alongside Siyabonga Twala and Nambitha Ben-Mazwi

Xabiso Ngqabe sat down with the Joburg-born actress about her role and what to expect from this series.

What drew you to this story?

I think because it’s a beautiful story and the fact that it’s done by Showmax. Also I love that Winnie Bhodoza is such a strong character and there’s so much depth that goes into her. There are a lot of internal struggles she faces in order to keep the family together, which is what drew me to her in the first place. She’s indeed an interesting character.

Can you tell us a bit more about Winnie Bhodoza?

She is the wife of Khaya Bhodoza (played by Siyabonga Twala). She’s a very strong character and will do everything to ensure that the Bhodoza name remains clean in the public eye. She’s very charming, persuasive, and does what she needs to in order to get her way.

How did you tap into the core of this character in order to portray her authentically?

There are quite a few people that I had to reference and look into in order to see how they handled certain situations. Winnie goes through a lot and still has to remain strong. She has to show that she still has everything under control. There are a lot of women out there who go through certain things in life but on the outside they need to remain stoic. Just by viewing and referencing other strong women that I know and have seen, even just looking at certain things from my mother, I don’t have to look far. 

I also just looked at the type of person Winnie is and how she would react to this situation because we all handle situations differently. Also finding her reasons for why she has to keep the name Bhodoza alive. What it really means to her. Lastly, just one thing I always do when receiving the script, is to never judge my characters. Whether they’re doing good or bad, they all have their reasons why they do what they do.

What do you hope viewers will take away from watching this series?

Oh, there’s a lot, but I think mainly for Winnie. I know for a fact that there are women who will relate to her story, even the challenges she goes through and I also think people will get a glimpse into what really goes on in politics behind the scenes.

What are you most excited about regarding the show?

First of all, the casting is so good, and the people I am acting with are so talented. It’s such a beautiful ensemble, like a nice stew mixed with good spices. I’m excited about how we are going to bring this story to life. What we’ve shot so far is looking so beautiful and I just love the glam. It’s very big!

How is it reconnecting with Nambitha Ben-Mazwi, having worked together before?

It’s always lovely working with her, that’s my girl! We’ve worked together before, even before Savage Beauty – we were castmates on Diamond City. I got so excited when I saw her at the reading. 

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

I’d say this one is different because I don’t think Winnie has any ulterior motives, she’s not devious in a sense. Whereas the characters I’ve played in the past were like that, they are quite weird – they do bad things to get their way. But I think Winnie is very charming and poised in the way she carries herself. Even myself, I take from that and I’m like damn, I can learn something from her.

Tell us about the dynamic between Winnie and Khaya?

It’s lovely! They have built this empire together for so many years. They have a beautiful family – two kids together. Every relationship has its ups and downs but they love each other deeply. It’s also so beautiful to see a black couple just genuinely love each other like that with no infidelity. Well, for now. 

What is it like working with Siyabonga Twala?

It’s been amazing. We always laugh every day on set. He’s an amazing person to work with, he has an amazing energy. It’s my first time working with him and we have such great chemistry.

How is Winnie as a parent to her kids?

She loves her kids equally, even though the last born would always have a little bit more love. I see that with my mother too, she definitely gives a little bit more care to the last born. It’s just the love that a mother usually has for her last born. It’s just natural and we grow to understand that. Especially because he is a boy, she will be softer to him as compared to the daughter. She will give more tough love to her because she knows how the world is just being a female.

What were the challenges you had in portraying this role?

I think portraying the character in general was challenging for me, I had so many moments where I was worried if I would be making the right choices and mannerisms. Also, what was most challenging is that the character is older than me, so I was extremely nervous about that, but as we started filming, I became more comfortable in portraying the character. I was really just trying to make sure this is completely different from anything I have done – I think this is my third time playing a slightly older character than me so I needed to tap more into my emotional maturity.

Watch new episodes of Empini every Thursday.

Fact Box:

Where were you born and bred? 

I was born and bred in Johannesburg and am currently living there.

When is your birthday? 

3 July 1993

Languages: 

English and isiZulu

Tell us about your childhood? 

I really enjoyed my childhood. Most of my childhood memories are what I cherish the most and they’re always a reminder of how far I’ve come and how God has blessed me over the years. I was raised by a single mother, I am the second born of four children.

Which high school did you go to

I went to Athlone Girls High school

When did you know you wanted to become an actor/actress? 

From a very young age I knew that acting is what I wanted to pursue, I remember imitating my teachers and friends in the mirror. Watching Sarafina growing up also made me love the performing arts as a whole. 

How did you get your first break? 

My first break was Zabalaza. Although I’d featured in Binnerlanders and Isibaya before, Zabalaza was my first big role. 

What’s the best career advice you’ve ever received?

The best career advice I’ve received was to always remember the reason why I started and to remain kind always. 

Do you enjoy fame? What’s your relationship with it right now? How has that relationship with fame changed?

Fame is something one has to get used to when your work is in the public eye. I prepared myself for that. Although, I never let it get to my head. That’s where some lose the plot. No matter how famous or well-known you are, never forget humility. Ubuntu.