Five minutes with businesswoman and Mzali Wam actress Zinzi Zungu

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Zinzi Zungu is an actress, presenter and the director of Star Quality Management.
Zinzi Zungu is an actress, presenter and the director of Star Quality Management.
Supplied/Zinzi Zungu

She's been in the spotlight for more than half her life. She had leading roles and supporting roles in various productions including the SABC show Nomzamo in season one,, Mfolozi Street, Uzalo and recently Mzansi Magic’s Housekeepers.

Even though she’s been mostly involved behind-the-scenes running her artist management company, Star Quality Management which handles talent like Enhle Mbali, Thuthuka Mthembu and Duduzile Ngcobo, the star hasn’t let go of her first love – acting. 

Zinzi is now starring in a new show called Mzali Wam alongside stars such as Nolwazi Ngubane, Masasa Mbangeni and Lungelo Mpangase. 

Drum catches up with the actress, presenter and businesswoman on all things work, her time in the industry and her new role as Captain Vilakazi on the Monday night drama. 

Read more | Nolwazi Shange takes on her first leading role as an adversary in Mzali Wami

You started your career in the industry at a very young age, how would you say you have grown since then? 

I think every single thing that one does in life, creates and contributes to the person that you become. Starting off at an early age gave me a leg up in the industry and an early insight into it’s nature. What usually happens with the entertainment industry is that you’re never sure of it but once I got in, I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. 

I was 16, still in school so having to juggle my schoolwork and my presenting gig on Craze taught me early discipline which is something I believe all artists need in order to make it work in the industry. 

Everything I've done in my career so far was a learning and teaching moment for me. I live on the principles of hard work, discipline and that knowledge is power. It's important to know the type of industry you're working in and having this attitude and always opening myself up to learn has immensely contributed to my growth, time and time again. 

How does it feel to be back on the small screen? 

It feels amazing. I really missed being on screen. It’s like I had this little itch that I couldn’t reach or get rid off so it’s really exciting. The team that I worked with both behind-the-scenes and the acting talent was amazing. 

It’s exciting to be part of something new and shooting that series was re-energising. The feedback and reviews from viewers of the show always make it worth it. 

Tell us a little more about the work you do with your artist management company, Star Quality Management. . .

Star Quality Management is an agency and performing arts college in one and we are in the business of not only managing some of the industry's finest talent but also educating and making dreams a reality for many individuals aspiring for a career in the industry. 

We've been very fortunate to  have a good eye and work with a lot of talent that started off with us and have now grown and moved on to other agencies. We've had so many people that started off with us because we gave them that chance because everyone has to start somewhere. 

With our performing arts college, it's there for those who cannot afford your AFDA's, Wits and other art schools because everyone deserves a chance at making their dreams a reality. We try to also not only teach acting but incorporate the business side of the industry so that our talent can have a better understanding of how the industry works. 

What do you prefer more, being on screen or the behind-the-scenes managing artists?

Can I say both? I really cannot choose between the two. It’s like making a parent choose which of her children is their favourite, I simply can’t. I believe that everything plays into each other. 

I always say that I’ve always known two things: I wanted to act and I wanted to own a business. I’ve been sure about them since a very early age and I enjoy both for different reasons and they fulfill me in different ways. I love both, fully. 

Read more | Five minutes with Gugu Zuma-Ncube, the producer behind some of the Mzansi's leading productions

Could you tell us a little about your character Captain Vilakazi? 

She starts with all of the other characters, her character develops along with the storyline and the journey of the main characters as she has been right there from the beginning. I love her because she has her own personal journey of going from being a police officer, a detective to a captain. 

She’s incredibly passionate about the subject matter of the show which is human trafficking. She’s a tough cookie with a soft heart and I think viewers will love her enthusiasm and commitment throughout the show. 

I loved portraying her because it required me to reach into something that’s very far removed from who I am as a person and I think that’s always exciting for any actor. 

Can we expect to see more of you on screen this year? 

Yes, actually. I will be making an appearance on etv’s Durban Gen which I’m quite excited about. You will be seeing a little bit more of me this year on TV this year. 

What would you say is the key to making it at least one foot in in this industry?

The saddest part about the industry is that not everyone will make it. It's like a place with many many doors, many of them will be shut in your face, others will open only to close later but there are those that will open in your favour.

I'd say they would need to keep up with the changing times. We're in the digital age, we're doing online castings, some people are being recognised from their work on their YouTube channels, Facebook skits or Tiktok videos that go viral so tap into other avenues that will open you up to opportunities. It's not all about waiting for that one opportunity to come through but creating your own content and making a name of yourself outside of any production or TV set. 

What advice do you have for someone who wants to get into the industry but is held back either by uncertainty or fear? 

I get asked this question quite a lot but it boils down to the fact that whichever industry you work in, what matters is the tenacity, the hard work and the drive that you put into it. 

So if you go into a career because of the paycheck or something of that sort, you’ll never make a career or something out of it because you’re in it for the wrong reasons.

Be in it because you’re passionate, be in it because you realise that this is it for you. This industry is hard, nothing is certain and just because you might have gotten that one leg up doesn’t mean that you’re going to be the next big thing. Talent speaks above anything else and you need hard work to back it up. 

When opportunity meets timing, nothing can delay your big break so it also requires a lot of patience. 

Most importantly, it's important to remember that the industry is always growing and forever changing so it's important to inform yourself about other things you can do in the industry. Don't close yourself of and have tunnel vision. Open yourself up to learning about the industry as a whole. 

If you go for it, go for it wholeheartedly and with vigour. 

Mzali Wam airs Mondays on 1Magic and Mzansi Magic (DStv Channel 161) at 20h00. 

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