Opinion: Same cast, different shows

By Drum Digital
31 August 2016

Actors in SA get overlooked when characters are cast in new shows in favour of actors “with more connections”, they say.

By Siyabonga Ngcangisa, Associate Editor

In 1999, the late US RnB heavyweight, Whitney Houston released an album titled Same Script Different Cast, bemoaning a man who would say the same thing to all the women he tries to woo.

And in South Africa, actors have a tune they have been singing for years. They get overlooked when characters are cast in new shows, in favour of actors “with more connections”, they say.

But this song gets even bitter.  Many attribute this trend to the reason a number of Mzansi actors live in poverty or even dying as paupers.

It must however, be recognised that many new shows have been created on our TV platforms in recent times, a move that opened doors for several previously unleashed talents. But many actors, both old and new, still often find it hard to land roles, as the same actors get rotated and recycled from one show to another.

In fact, two actors – a stalwart and a young but experienced one, once complained to me about how they have been to all the auditions in recent times, with no luck. The veteran last landed a role in the old Generations in early 2014, and the younger one recently appeared on the new Mzansi Magic Xhosa novella, Isikizi.  Albeit, for a paltry two episodes.

The veteran actor, a legend in the acting establishment, also revealed resorting to selling his car, as “jobs were not coming, while the scripts I’ve created keep getting rejected.”

And if the trend created by DSTV channel Mzansi Magic, where the same actors get casted in different shows is anything go by, the lines on Witney’s song would now be amended as a matter of, Same Cast Different Shows. The same actors get recycled from one show to the other. Zandile Msutwana features on the recently ended hit show Igazi and just as her character was still lingering on people’s minds, she resurfaced on Igazi’s successor, Isikizi. Isikizi airs on Mondays, but from Monday until Thursday, the same actor also features as a cop on The Queen on the same channel.

She plays alongside Shona Ferguson and his wife Connie, with Sello Maake Ka Ncube, and all three of them feature on Rockville.  Themba Ndaba, the ex-husband of former Generations actress Sophie, also doubles in both shows. Some argue that the Fergusons should be spared because both Rockville and The Queen are produced by their company.

Sello Maake ka Ncube

And that US filmmaker Tyler Perry also features prominently in his own productions.

But this logic is prejudicial, considering the wealth gap between South African and American actors, who are still raking in billions of dollars on royalties for productions dating back decades ago.

The Fergusons, as local actors, know the plight of South African actors, and would it be unfair to suggest that they recuse themselves  from their own productions, and cast other national actors in them instead?

And besides, Danie Odendaal, the creator of 7 De Laan, Generations’ Mfundi Vundla, Muvhango boss Duma Ndlovu and Isidingo’s  Gray Hofmeyr, all don’t act in their productions. They just give guidance and leadership, and of course... collect and sign the cheques.

Still on the same tune of Same Cast Different Shows, actor Sello Sebotsane, both features on Greed And Desire and Rockville simultaneously, while at some point this year, Charmain Mtinta featured on Isibaya, Ya LLa and Igazi - all at once.

Another form of recycling also saw Thami Mngqolo doubling up as the greedy king wanna be, Jonga on Igazi and corrupt cop Msomi on Greed And Desire. This was the same with Nkopane Mohola, who played Lenka Moshoeshoe while simultaneously doubling up as Tokelo on Greed And Desire. 

Nthati Moshesh forms part of the cast on Greed And Desire and Saints & Sinners instantaneously.

Nthati Moshoesh

Many actors have refrained from expressing displeasure about this phenomenon, fearing losing, nothing really. How does one fear losing something they don’t have?

They fear losing an income they don’t have and an opportunity in an industry that only caters for, as they say, “the connected few”.

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