Phila Madlingozi on bagging a role on new Mzansi Magic's drama series Gqeberha The Empire

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Phila Madlingozi on his big break.
Phila Madlingozi on his big break.
Oupa Bopape // Gallo

His excitement is palpable. He's got everything going for him right now. 

With his new role on the star-studded drama series Gqeberha The Empire and his music, he's starting the year out just right. 

Phila Madlingozi is making a comeback to the small screen.

The singer and actor was last seen on Muvhango and had cameo appearances on Rhythm City before it ended.

He remembers being on a verge of giving up after he auditioned for his new role. He says the suspense was real because it took about four months before he got the call of his dreams.

"I drove to Port Elizabeth with Ayanda for the auditions. I had just buried my mother and I was not okay. So I went back to Johannesburg [afterwards]. In fact they took so long to cast, like about four months, and I was like maybe I didn't even get the job so I moved on to other things."

While he was at his home preparing for a music gig, he says he finally received a call to do a screen test. 

"I think I dropped my phone. I couldn't even hear them I was like 'huh?' I couldn't believe them until I got the email from my agents they were like 'Phila, we booked it.' I was, like, 'Booked what? 'GTE (Gqeberha the Empire).' I was so excited!"

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He says he couldn't contain his delight and immediately drove to the cemetery to give thanks to late mom.

"I said thank you, doll," the still excited actor tells Drum.

Phila felt at home again when he learnt that he will be working with industry legends that he's already worked with at his previous gigs.

"It was like a reunion. I've worked with Zikhona before, Zandile many times. I've also worked with Ayanda, so as soon as I found out that they are all part of the show, I was, like, 'welcome back'."

He says this for him, it's a comeback.

"My last big show was Isikizi and that was in 2016 and between that and now I did a lot of small things from Rhythm City, The Queen, but this feels like Intersections all over again because that's where I blew up. It feels like I've just begun."

Gqeberha The Empire
The cast of Gqeberha The Empire

He says all this came at a perfect time, in fact, it means publicity for his music.

"Being on one of the biggest shows in South Africa is going to sell my music because people are inspired visually. So as soon as they see it, then they'll start following even other things like 'oh he has music' because a lot of people don't know that I am a musician.

"60% of that room [at the launch] was shocked when they saw me get on stage they were like 'what is Phila going to do?'" 

Phila created a name for himself without the help of his legendary father, Ringo Madlingozi. He didn't want to get roles based on his name. He tells Drum that music remains, and will always be, his first love.

"I started acting because I couldn't afford to finish my degree at tertiary, so it was for money at the beginning. I studied film and television production. I knew a lot of actors from school and I was told that TV will help me out financially. I started auditioning till I got a role on Intersections and everyone loved it, and I thought 'maybe I can do this, let me go get some acting classes."

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He says from here, he is going bigger and better.

"I am trying to get international gigs. I want to do movies now. I want to do more action because I have done a lot of drama, soapies etc and I haven't done anything thrilling. This is my first actually because Gqeberha The Empire is going to switch things up." 

On the TV show, Phila plays the role of Ntando, who is a problematic and spoiled brat last born child.

"He is too close to me. When I read the script, I was like Phathu who told you? But it did give me the opportunity to show off because it was so easy playing Ntando because he went through the things that Phila goes through, you know, fighting for attention from their parents. It really took me to how I tried to deal with problems as Phila."

He says he used to fight being called, "umntana ka Ringo. I wished my father was a teacher or something because that on its own was too much pressure. I had to be perfect in a lot of things and that made me a rebel and with Ntando, he is fighting for attention because he is spoilt. He went to a business school, he has an MBA but he wants to be involved in the nitty gritty of the company but everyone looks at his big brother."

Gqeberha The Empire is replacing The Queen on Mzansi Magic after it got canned on its seventh season. It is set to premiere on Monday 16 January at 9pm. 

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