Kagiso Modupe has solidified himself as an actor who plays memorable characters on our screens. Having been in critically acclaimed shows like Scandal, Harvest, Ambitions, The Republic and Vula Vala, being able to bring a sense of humanity to each of these roles is something that Kagiso prides himself on.
The thespian and producer has not only cemented himself as a renowned performer but also as an industry pioneer – he was the first producer in South Africa to pay royalties to his cast and crew after the success of his box office hit film Losing Lerato.
Kagiso Modupe currently portrays the character of Simo Nkosi on Mzansi Magic’s latest drama series, Nqobile.
We spoke to the trailblazer about his experience in the industry and his new role on Nqobile.
You’ve been in the industry for over a decade – what are some of the lessons you’ve learned?
I’ve been very fortunate to work with many industry giants such as Connie Chiume, Sello Maake Ka-Ncube and Dr Jerry Mofokeng. These people have given me valuable lessons about how to manoeuvre myself in the industry.
One of those lessons is the importance of treating everyone with the same level of respect, as if they were the star of the show.
Whether they are a security guard, an extra, or an executive producer, you have to treat everybody with the same respect. I think that’s what has got me so far in the industry.
I’ve also learned that you cannot allow the industry to dictate who you want to be. I believe that it’s not the most talented people who are on TV, but it’s the most disciplined ones.
I’ve also learned that you can’t allow your success or your time in the industry to be based on someone else’s yes or no.
Are you intentional about the roles you choose?
Absolutely. You’re the one that moulds your craft into what you want it to become. Even when you go hungry, there are certain roles that you stay clear from because those roles do not fit into your plan.
If you look at all the roles I’ve played, they are very educational and they somehow have to touch people’s lives.
How do you remain consistent in your craft?
It takes discipline and respect for the craft. A lot of people are in this industry because they want to be famous and most do not have respect for the craft.
You see it on set and when people are cast for a role. They could have done a better job but fell short. Consistency comes when you humble yourself and stay true to the craft.
What led you to start telling your own stories and what challenges did you encounter as an independent filmmaker?
I think the biggest issue to transition from actor to producer is funding. But in terms of the craft itself, it’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done.
I didn’t just go from the ranks of being an actor to a producer. In between, I’ve worked in the wardrobe, sound, lighting and art departments. That’s why people love Bakwena Productions – because there’s somebody who’s able to hear them.
I’m able to pick up when an actor is going through something and understanding the whole chain. That’s why we are the only production company that pays royalties to cast and crew. That transition for me has been a fulfilling one – having to bridge that gap between actors and production.
How did your role in Nqobile come about?
I got the call from the producers. When they looked at the role, they needed somebody who was raw but sensitive, and it’s very difficult to find that dynamic.
When I got the call and was told about the character, I was like ‘this is the one.’ I told myself I’m going to go for it because I’ve been an ambassador for Brothers for Life for four years now. Gender-based violence is something we condemn and we do a lot of workshops on it.
Can you tell us more about your character, Simo?
If you look at Simo’s character, he’s not violent because he’s not like that in nature. It’s just that he has a lot of burning issues inside that affect him. But because we as men don’t talk, he chooses to deal with his issues in a physical manner.
What have you learned from this role?
Men need to talk! If you look at my character, he doesn’t have a money or arrogance issue. This is a guy who’s dying to have a relationship with his father, that’s all.
His father wants him to be a certain man but he forgets that his son is his own man who has his own life choices – this shows the vicious cycle that occurs from one generation to another. The father doesn’t speak to the son and so the son directs his frustrations towards his wife. And to some degree, his children.