Thembisa Mdoda talks ‘Isibaya’, parenting and her hidden talent

The Citizen had the chance to catch up with the gorgeous presenter and find out more about her personal life and on-screen career.

Thembisa Mdoda was introduced to most South Africans through Mzansi’s popular reality television show, Our Perfect Wedding.

Since then, the actress and television personality has been casted on a few soap favourites such as Isibaya and The Queen.

ALSO READ: Pregnant or bloated? Thembisa Mdoda answers your questions (sort of)

The mother of two is also the presenter of Old Mutual Amazing Voices, a 13-episode, pan-African singing competition reality television show that takes place in five African countries, namely South Africa, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria and Zimbabwe.

The Citizen had the chance to catch up with the gorgeous presenter, and find out more about her personal life and on-screen career.

Here is how the Q&A went:

What were your feelings about joining ‘The Queen’?

Entering a show that’s been running as long as The Queen is already nerve-wracking without the pressure of taking over a character that has been shaped, fitted for and by somebody else.

When I got the call, I had to pray hard about it. I had to speak to my mom and get my spirit in tune, and then make a decision. All this while shooting Old Mutual Amazing Voices in Sun City.

By the end of all that, it was a no-brainer. I was born to perform. I trained in this and a challenge can only make me a better performer. I also saw the script and I loved every single bit turmoil Vuyiswa would go through. So what are my feelings? Blessed, happy and privileged.

When did you start presenting, and what was the first show you presented?

I started presenting on a lifestyle show on Africa Magic by Mmadipotwane Productions. It was so long ago, and I remember it being a lot of fun but tough because I wasn’t in my power then. So I doubted myself a lot.

I worked a lot with artists from Africa and it was the best part of my job.

When did you start acting, and what was the first show you appeared on?

I have been in performance mode everyday of my life. I realised my love for stage at five when my mother took us to a Gibson Kente show, at City Hall, in Mthatha. I’d watch soapies and ask my sister, Anele, to act out scenes with me.

I saw my talent when my aunts would have us do talent shows and we’d win prizes. At Brooklyn Primary, I did modern dancing and theatre. At Sutherland High school, I’d do sports and run to musical auditions in between.

After graduating I started working as a graphic designer and it was then I finally had the courage to follow who I really am. An actor. I quit everything and went to Wits Drama school. My point is, I have been an actor.

My first professional job was a theatre production called, Not the Princess, at a small theatre in Parktown. I then did a beautiful production of Brer Rabbit at the Market Theatre. Then television knocked and I played a ditsy fashion assistant called, Calypso, on Home Affairs. I could go on and on…

How has production and filming been for you in the pandemic? (Referring to The Queen & Amazing Voices)

Filming during a pandemic has been an eye opener, and a rude awakening all at once. You don’t only think about your safety but everybody else’s too. Including your family at home.

It’s isolating and that’s weird because art like this needs everybody coming together but with this pandemic, not too close. It took a lot of getting used to but I’d rather perform with all the restrictions than not performing at all.

What do you like about presenting Old Mutual Amazing Voices?

The anointing of every person on this production. The music. Africa coming together under one roof to celebrate each other. This is a love letter to Africa and I am privileged to be part of it.

Why do you think we need a show like Old Mutual Amazing Voices?

It makes kilometres between countries become centimetres. In music, in culture and spirit. Music becomes a mutual spirit and no language or beat can separate us. It’s a show that makes dreams come true for everyone and that is just beautiful.

What was your highlight of working with the Isibaya crew and being an actress on the show?

The Bomb Shelter productions has been family to me for a long time. Even before I start on The Road, they made shows that were inclusive and shows we could all relate to.

I loved my role on Isibaya. I loved that I could push a side of myself that I would usually suppress. I loved that I could show my love for languages by pushing my knowledge of isiZulu. I loved that no matter how small the role, they would make sure each moment was big. Also, working with Aubrey Poo is always amazing.

What would you say is the most challenging part of being a parent and specifically, being a parent as a public figure?

Being a parent is challenging enough without the craziness of my career.

Being a public figure means setting boundaries I wouldn’t ordinarily set. It means I have to have conversations with my sons I wouldn’t ordinarily have. It’s basically loving and protecting your kids differently than any other parent.

A lot of people were introduced to you through ‘Our Perfect Wedding’. How did it feel to leave the show and move on?

It was a scary move but one I had to make. I do miss it at times but I don’t regret my decision.

What does Thembisa get up to when she’s not being a mother and not in front of a camera?

She watches Korean dramas and Latino telenovelas. She also travels and spends time with her close friends. She finds new ways of elevating spiritually.

What is your hidden talent, which your fanbase and followers may not know about?

I’m a really good singer. I did so many musicals and performed at the Grahamstown National Arts Festival but it’s a side of my art that I’ve yet to explore. Most people would say, comedy, I still say, music.

If you weren’t an actress and presenter, what do you think or feel you’d be doing career-wise?

Law. This could be because of my need to help people and being a lawyer gives me the tools to do so.

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