'The universe humbled me' - Masasa Mbangeni on Harvest role

Johannesburg - Two-time SA Film and Television Award and Royalty Soapie Award winner Masasa Mbangeni, best known for her role as arch villain Thembeka in Scandal!, has been nominated the nominees for Best Actress for her role in Harvest.

Harvest, also nominated in the Best TV Drama category, sees three women forced to take up the reigns of a marijuana business. Mbangeni says she was surprised by the nod.

"I really wasn't expecting to be nominated, to be honest, because Harvest was quite a radical work. But e.tv is a channel that's become synonymous with doing radical work that speaks to people who live on the periphery of society," she told #Trending over the phone. "This is a story about women in the illegal drug trade. It's not necessarily a story that's comfortable and entertaining, but I'm truly grateful the channel was brave enough to go there. So many people have shared their stories, and many people have an uncle or an aunt or a cousin who makes their living that way - families who have put their children through university by selling weed.

"But it was quite lovely to hear that I got the nomination, and that Harvest has been nominated. I acted with a serious bunch of actors and it was written so beautifully, so I'm really glad that they can be honoured and be seen."

Mbangeni’s role as powerful CEO Celia is one she says was physically and emotionally challenging.

“It’s a lesson that as actors we learn alot – of how much we can give to the character and immerse ourselves in the story, but still leave enough space to return to ourselves. It's a danger that the late Heath Ledger and Philip Seymour Hoffman fell into - this idea of immersing yourself so much into a character that you forgot that their drama and their heightened state of anxiety is not yours, and that you have a life and a family and a partner and kids that you must return to.

"Before having done Harvest I didn’t understand the idea of actors getting into character so much that they can’t step out. But the universe humbled me, and showed me that you can get so caught in an imaginary world that you neglect yourself.”

Due to Harvest’s time constraints, the show shot from 07:00 to 19:00, and Mbangeni suffered from adrenal fatigue.

"I'd had to be on set at 07:00, be switched on the entire time, my lunch was half an hour and even then I'm trying to get into another scene. At least when I was doing Scandal! I'd have a day off here and there.

“I’m sharing this body with this character. So my body doesn’t know that I’m not the one running from people because they’re shooting at her, or dealing with a delinquent child, or is in this drug trade with people threatening her life. 

"And this is something that people don't share with actors - unless you take time to step out of character and take time to do things that remind you of yourself, it's easy to get caught up and get ill."

Mbangeni has often played roles where she's stony, self-controlled and fiery. I ask her if that's how she is in her real life.

"Not at all. In real life I'm goofy, and that's the danger of being good at something in our country - because people tend to typecast you and think you can only play the roles that are sad. I'm dying to play someone happy for a change!"

Mbangeni is extremely proud of her fellow nominees, who she went to Wits University with.

“No matter who wins in this category, I feel like I win as well, because I love them so much,” she said. 

(Photos: City Press/Supplied)

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