We’re just six episodes into Mzansi Magic drama series Mzali Wami and to say that the storyline is shocking is the mother of all understatements.
Speaking of mothers, actress Lungelo Mpangase is enjoying her role for two reasons. “It’s amazing working with established professionals like Masasa Mbangeni. She plays Joyce, my character Ntokozo’s birth mother. And the storyline itself, human trafficking, is something that affects the world we live in and I have come into contact with it myself, and now I get to share this story even though it’s not so nice,” adds the young star.
We chatted to her about her role, and what lies in store for Ntokozo.
Who is Ntokozo?
She’s a nice girl. She’s ambitious, she’s kind-hearted, she volunteers at an orphanage. She tries to uplift the community even though she doesn’t really have all that much herself. She is very much a healer and a care-giver, that’s her personality.
But she isn’t who she thinks she is, right?
Right! Her mother isn’t her mother. Ntokozo graduates, and not long after, the woman who raised her reveals that she isn’t Ntokozo’s birth mother. This young woman, my character, suddenly doesn’t know where she fits into this world. She doesn’t know who she is.
This woman tells Ntokozo that she was a stolen baby. Ntokozo was taken when she was born and given to a family who’re not hers. That utterly shatters her. She suddenly finds herself searching for her birth mother, searching for who she is, searching for some truth to cling to.
Such a heavy topic must’ve taken a lot of research…
You’d think so, but not really. I watched YouTube clips and other shows where people are stolen and raised in a lie. But the most important research for my role was already done before I was cast. This situation has happened to people in my inner circle, my friends, people I know and interact with daily. Their lives are broken when they find out that the people who raised them are not the people who gave birth to them.
In that position, the person is betrayed by those who are meant to protect them. They’re confused and angry and in distress at the thought of not belonging. They feel the need to belong, the need to find their birth parents, or at least their mother and their mother’s story, to find out where they come from, who they come from. It’s an incredibly traumatic thing to go through and I would not wish it on my enemies. It’s incredibly unfair.
Right before the auditions, I was helping a close friend with this. He found out that he was not who he was raised as, and this helped guide me in creating this onscreen persona. Obviously, we get really good help and guidance from the writers and producers, but at the end of the day it’s up to us as actors to create these characters that you connect with.
How did you get the role? Was it an open audition or did you get a call saying “we want you”?
I was approached. This is my second-ever gig (she plays Khethiwe on gritty drama series eHostela S1). I went in for the reading, they loved what I did with the role and I was cast. It’s huge for me and humbling at the same time, because I’m working with people like Masasa, Nolwazi Shange, Dumisani Mbebe…
I’m learning so much from my co-stars, Masasa especially. She’s like a mother to me on set, she makes sure I’m taken care of and we can and do chat about everything, not just work. She’s been giving me tips and advice and help on my performances and it’s just amazing.
What I love about this show, is that while it’s based on real life and the producers and writers have their ideas, they’re open to us actors adapting and changing things where we need to, to make it not just more entertaining but also more believable. Our writers are also on-hand during filming, so we can always check things and get guidance.