From shower-singer to TV star

2012-05-13 00:00

The actress, who plays the role of Amira Mokoena in e.tv’s drama series, 4Play – Sex Tips For Girls, said she had never considered a career as a performer until theatre impresario, Mbongeni Ngema, heard her singing in the shower when he came to fetch one of her cousins, who was working for him at the time.

“He told my cousin to call me and asked me to sing for him right there in the street,” Maphumulo said. A few months later she gave up her career as a beauty therapist, moved to Johannesburg and soon won roles in the musicals Umoja and The Lion King. “I had no idea that the musical of The Lion King existed and had only seen the cartoon version. I really couldn’t imagine how it was going to work on stage,” said the actress, who remained with The Lion King for nearly a decade.

“I started in the ensemble, but played almost all the female roles, including Simba’s love interest, and was also cover for Rafiki, the witchdoctor.” On her return to South Africa the actress became a familiar face to fans of the SABC2 soapie Muvhango, in which she played the girlfriend of James (Dingaan Mokebe) in 2008. She has also appeared on The Wild on M-Net, playing Tsolo, one of Itumeleng’s (Shona Ferguson) girlfriends.

But she’s best known to South African viewers as Amira, the whimsical singer-songwriter in 4Play.

Maphumulo, who won the South African Film and Television Award (Safta) for best actress in a drama series for her performance, told Weekend Witness that she originally wanted to play the role of Nox Madondo (played by Kgomotso Christopher), a wealthy socialite plagued by marital woes and who is dealing with her HIV status.

“I auditioned for Nox, but the producers had already decided to cast Kgomotso, then three days after my audition they asked me if I wanted to try out for Amira. In the end it proved to be a much better role,” she said.

In 4Play, 30-year-old Amira is a bubbly person and loved by everyone, but her habit of seeing the world through rose-tinted spectacles leaves her vulnerable to being hurt by the men she falls for. She’s also trying to cope with the sudden success of her music career, and in the new season finds herself tempted by hunky dancer Jimmy, played by Pallance Dladla. Maphumulo said that while she loved playing the character, she had little in common with her. “We are both singers, but that’s where the similarities end. She has no direction, doesn’t know who she wants to be, a real lost soul. That’s definitely not me,” she added.

4Play is described as a South African Sex in the City, and like the American drama series it centres on the lives of four 30-something friends — Amira, Nox, Danny Gibson (Tiffany Jones-Barbuzano), a trendy image consultant and self-confessed commitment phobe, and Noma Mkhize (Xolile Tshabalala), a salon owner and single mother who is often the voice of wisdom for the group. Now in its third season, the show follows their friendship and how they navigate their lives and their quest for love. “I love the fact that lead roles are all woman,” said Maphumulo “We really understand each other. There are a lot of sexual themes involved in 4Play and having an all-woman cast makes it easier for us to talk about the problems and insecurities we as women have.”

• ‘4Play: Sex Tips 4 Girls’ is on e.tv every Tuesday at 8.30 pm.

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