Newsmaker – Mfundi Vundla: Keeps calm and carries on

2014-08-24 15:00

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In a room full of journalists hungry for headlines, one young woman sticks out like a sore thumb.

She isn’t interested in the story of the week – the end of Generations as we know it. She just wants a job. More precisely, she wants to be the next big thing on South Africa’s premier soapie, which has made people like Sophie Ndaba, Menzi Ngubane and others local superstars.

But executive producer Mfundi Vundla  is having none of it. “Auditions will take place, but it will not be like Idols,” he tells the young woman with a self-satisfied smirk on his face. “We will be looking at people who have already been discovered. As an actor, you should have been discovered by now.”

It’s Friday, and Vundla seems remarkably unshaken for an executive producer who has lost 16 of his principal cast members.

To the millions of Generations fans across the country, this is a national tragedy. A crisis. All Vundla initially told me on the sidelines of his Friday media briefing was: “Generations is continuing.”

And what about when the prerecorded episodes run out in November? He is famous for not mincing his words, so his response is no surprise: “Generations was not made by the actors whose contracts were terminated this week and the series will certainly not die because they are no longer there. This notion that they are indispensable is bogus.”

He fidgets with his cellphone. “Ah! We made headlines on the BBC!” he exclaims, then seems to remember he was mid-conversation. He sighs. “Where were we?”

He exudes soft power. He’s a comfortable, amiable man with wary eyes who speaks in a deep voice. Those who have worked with him sometimes substitute the word ‘power’ with ‘arrogance’ when describing him.

On set, the wags say, Vundla’s word is law.

Before I can remind him we were discussing the biggest story of the week, he jumps back in.

“We will probably take a bump in ratings and market share, but we will recover. We will come back bigger than ever.”

Options are being considered, he says.

Like what, I ask.

“This includes bringing back popular actors from the past,” he replies.

Could we see the return of 90s show leaders like Pamela Nomvete, who played ruthless businesswoman Ntsiki Lukhele? Nomvete isn’t currently working on anything, and Vundla says her and Fezile Mpela’s storylines are among his all-time favourites.

The show’s producer, Friedrich Stark, who along with his wife Elsje and Vundla built the show, said earlier the company had been inundated by calls from local actors who were keen to join the cast.

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