It started off as a small role. Five years later, he is a fully-fledged character who has become a household name.
He is Jamaica, a flamboyant gay character on etv’s Rhythm City. Mzamo Gcabashe (29) tells Drum that playing Jamaica has been great.
“I appreciate the opportunity because it very hard in this industry to find roles for us gay people.”
What the actor is even more grateful for is how the industry is opening up to gay people.
“Lately we have been seeing a lot of television shows that have at least one gay person and I hope it continues being like that. Because that shows that times have changed and society is accepting us as a part of them,” Mzamo says.
“Not that we need people’s approval to exist because we exist just like one of them, but it is just nice to see that.”
The actor, who is originally from Ndwendwe in KwaZulu-Natal, says he appreciates seeing gay people being given their own roles.
“Khanya Dlala was on uZalo playing a gay role and he is gay in real life.”
“I really dislike it when they have straight guys play gays because there are certain things that they won’t get. No matter how brilliant of an actor you are, there are just certain things that you won’t get that we as gay have it - that’s naturally to us,” he explains.
He commends Rhythm City, Quizzical Pictures, and everyone person within the industry who are giving gays a chance.
The actor had no formal training in acting when he joined Rhythm City.
“I joined Rhythm City in 2014. Immediately after being on Big Brother. So, it has been five beautiful years.”
He tells Drum the first time he was in front of the camera he was terrified.
“It really was hard for me in the beginning and I had a lot of anxiety because I knew that tv was watched by millions of people.”
But as time went by, the nerves went away and now he just enjoys his role as Jamaica.
“I got more confident. I had never acted before prior to that and even though I had been on Big Brother before and in front of cameras that wasn’t acting, I was simply being myself,” he says.
Being camera shy was also not the only challenge that the actor had to face. While he is meant to get tongues wagging, Mzamo has also had to deal with a lot of homophobic comments directed at Jamaica.
The talented actor says because he had to grow a thick skin very early in life, he wasn’t moved much when some viewers came for his character.
“I have never been in a closet. I was always like this even as a kid. And when you are gay and not in a closet, from a very young age uyajwayela [you get used] to the fact that the world is not a very kind place and people will say very mean things to your face.”
Mzamo tells Drum that all the ugly comments directed at him from a young age molded him into becoming a strong individual.
“There is nobody stronger than a gay person. They say women are strong, but gays are five times stronger - as we need to create a space for ourselves in a society that doesn’t have it for us,” Mzamo says.
All the nasty comments from viewers was nothing new to the actor.
“So, for me, it’s nothing new. I think everything that I have ever gone through has prepared me for the industry that I am in.”
Last year Rhythm City announced that the show was coming to an end in mid-2021.
“I am so sad. We are all just so sad,” he says. “It’s been my home for the past five years; it’s been all I know. My first acting gig and it solidified me in the industry.”
But as sad as Mzamo is, he is also aware that all good things must come to an end.
“The only constant thing in life is change. Things change and nothing stays the same. It’s the way life is. And I am okay with it. As sad it is, we also need to challenge ourselves, move on and take on bigger projects and see how far we go.”