Chit Chat: Melusi Yeni

2012-03-24 14:11

Have you left The Wild, seeing you’re on Generations so often these days?
Yes, I officially belong to Generations 100%. I had a year contract with The Wild after which a decision had to be made. Not to say that I didn’t enjoy my stay at The Wild because I had a great time. I still have good friends there like Tumisho Masha. But this role on Generations is the kind I always wanted.

Is it homecoming for you since you did a lot of SABC1 dramas?

Absolutely, the bulk of the market watched my work on Home Affairs, Tshisa and Sokhulu & Partners. Going to M-Net was to experiment and to tap into the other market.

So far, how are things at Generations?

I am very happy. I knew when I got the brief that I would enjoy playing this role of an ambitious and driven man from Durban who moves to Joburg to climb the corporate ladder. And of course joining this family?– there are a few actors I look up to here and now I am working with them.

Such as?

I think Katlego Danke has established herself as a solid actress who is loved. I work a lot with Menzi Ngubane, in fact there is a storyline between us coming up that will throw off the viewer. Mike Mvelase has made the role of Khapela a timeless character. The focus is on the work here; to bring your A-game and to deliver.

Any revelations since you joined the soapie?

I am so used being on a movie set for two months or a drama for four months where I know the introduction, body and conclusion of my character. I know the journey he will take, but on a soapie I am not guaranteed where my story is going?– next week Phenyo could be a murderer. You live for the moment.

What is the culture like?
There’s the rhythm and a pace here. We are klapping an episode a day but the machine is so smooth because people have been doing this for so long. We finish 20 scenes a day. There’s a lot of work that goes on in one day and it’s not as easy as it looks.

What do you know for sure about the entertainment industry?

I am blessed that this role came later in my career when I have learnt so many lessons. I know for sure that acting is not a hobby or a game; it’s ruthless. I don’t know if I would recommend it to anyone in my family. Half of the people in Joburg want to be in the limelight and I don’t think they would cope with the long hours and the tedious “cuts” on set. If you don’t have the passion and patience you shouldn’t pursue it. You are hot property today and your phone doesn’t stop ringing and tomorrow when there’s no work, it stops.

What keeps you sane?
I keep a solid base?– you can call it few friends?– and they keep me grounded and focused. I am the same person I was when we were growing up.

What don’t we know about Melusi?

Anyone who has met me will tell you that I am a storyteller first and the rest follows. I am also proud that every time I stepped on a set I’ve managed to tell the story the best way I can.

What is it about you that draws people to you?
I don’t know but I remember the aura of great actors such as Don Mlangeni on Hlala Kwabafileyo, Joe Mafela on Sgudi Snaysi, Henry Cele on Shaka Zulu. There was something special about these actors, some x-factor. I remember performing the role of Joseph at Roseland Primary when I was in standard two and the thrill I got from the warm reception of the entire school. It was not money but power when the hundreds of school children fixed their attention on me.

And your music connection?
I am not a musician or a singer, but I was a tenor in the church, community and school choirs and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Many thought I would be a musician. And when I came to Joburg in 1999 to pursue a career on the small screen my focus became musical theatre. For three or four years I was in shows like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast and I got to sing and act. But acting took over.

How do you avoid becoming tabloid fodder?

I am not much of a socialite. I stay in and cook, maybe have a braai with good friends. I will attend an event if it is work related, like I attended the recent SA Film and TV Awards (Safta), which is one night where actors go out and celebrate each other’s achievements.

What does the Saftas need?

They are getting better year by year but my concern is that not many productions enter and that robs us of healthy competition. We had quality winners this year, but we need a strong field. We need to see more local work compete on TV and more work for actors, and we will grow.

How do you let your hair down?

I love travelling. On any day off you will find me in Durban. The pressure of Joburg and the long hours at work can get too much. Plus Joburg can be a lonely place. I am at work at 6am and I leave at 6pm, so going home is a way of recharging. I would also love to travel on the continent because we always say we are African but we don’t travel much in Africa.

Which three words describe you?

Driven, passionate and grounded

Three things you can’t live without?

One, my BlackBerry, two, my Nikon camera and my mother mam’Mpungose.

How would you like to be remembered?
As someone who brought their A-game to everything. I hit potholes and struggles but I got up.

» Generations is on SABC1 weekdays at 8pm

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