He can still remember his first day on set. He stood there, palms sweating and shaking like a leaf.
“What are you doing here?” he thought.
But Kabelo Ngakane soon got over his nerves after his fellow Gomora cast members made him feel at home.
Now the 44-year-old is in his element – rubbing viewers the wrong way as the villainous Ngoveni who’s made it his mission to make life difficult for Gomora’s “Nelson Mandela”, Melusi (played by Zolisa Xaluva).
Ngoveni is viciously plotting Melusi’s downfall so he can take his job as the principal of Gomora High School.
Offscreen, it’s a different story. “We’re like little boys in a toy shop. We would laugh after our scenes,” Kabelo says.
Being back on TV feels like a new experience, even though he’s got several credits to his name.
“I had to get over wanting to be liked. I’m more mature about what the industry is about now.”
He’s worked as a Channel O presenter, a producer and a radio host on 5FM and Metro FM, among other things.
He took some time out of the industry and when he was ready to come back last year, he got some bad news.
“I had a tumour and I was going blind. The work dried up in two ways, I couldn’t see the work and I lost out on work because it was decided that I couldn’t do the work,” he explains.
Joining the cast of Gomora wasn’t an easy decision, he says. But it’s been a spiritually moving experience so far.
He remembers binge watching Gomora a while ago to see what it was about.
“When I watched Gomora, Mam’ Sonto (Connie Chiume) was slapping her onscreen daughter, Thathi (Katlego Danke). I stopped watching and I had an emotional moment,” he says. In that scene Thathi had given up on life after losing her husband and the life of luxury. Her mother wouldn’t have it and slapped her to remind Thathi she had two children to live for.
But Kabelo went back, watched it again and was hooked. He shared his love of the show with a friend who works on the production.
A few days later he was asked to record and send in his audition for the role of a villain. But he had reservations.
“Because I’m so deep in my faith, I had a spiritual argument over the role. You know, this is my walk now, this is who I am. I asked God to please give me a script that will reflect who I am, something that will show that I pray now.”
But in the end, he decided to go for it. “I took a long time to record [the audition]. I couldn’t learn the lines. But then again, all I knew is that I needed this job,” he says.