When he was first introduced to his character, he thought Tshabalala was going to be an honest and strict top cop. He pictured himself enforcing the law to the best of his ability.
Instead, Tshabalala has turned into a double dealing detective on 1 Magic drama series The River. He's been known to look the other way when Lindiwe (played by Sindi Dlathu) kills and maims and has tucked away a bribe or three.
Actor Chuck Shisana Wa Sekgobela (43) is the man behind the corrupt cop.
When he joined The River in 2018, he visualised being a good cop. This is until he saw the writers develop him into the underhanded officer he is today.
“I initially wanted Tshabalala to be a no-nonsense guy who played by the book,” he says. “But as time went and the writers grew his character, he reminded me of the gangster police officers from my kasi.”
Born in Shoshanguve, Tshwane, Chuck observed the many characters in his neighbourhood and was able to draw inspiration for detective Tshabalala.
“I’ve seen guys who are gangsters and when you get to know them, you realise they are police officers who just hang around the wrong people. Tshabalala is one of those sneaky guys who live off bribes and dirty dealings.”
He calls Tshabalala ‘the fixer’ because everyone relies on him, from gangsters to upstanding community members of the Refilwe squatter camp.
Chuck began his acting career in 2002 when he enrolled with Mabana Arts Foundation in the North West. He worked on many theatre productions before moving back to Pretoria in 2004 to work at the State Theatre.
“I did plays like Cards, The Rivonia Trial, Silent Voice, and Township Stories which toured Europe in 2006,” he says.
His TV work includes the political drama series Molo Fish, Hillside, Ga Re Dumele, Generations, Soul City, Rhythm City, and Isidingo where he also played a police officer.
“In most of my roles, I played a police officer. In Molo Fish, Soul City, and on The Republic, I was a cop,” he chuckles.
“I don’t know why, maybe because of my body structure or my look,” he adds.
But before the acting bug bit him, he was training with the SAPS to be a police officer. He studied Production Management at Pretoria Technikon and later applied to be a police officer.
“I was nearing the end of my training. I had passed all my medical tests and was ready for my final interview when I got called by the Mabana Arts Foundation in the North West, and when the acting bug bit me, I never looked back again,” he says.
“But had I been a police officer, I would have been nothing like Tshabalala,” he says.
The love of acting runs in his family; Chuck's older brother Aubrey Sekhabi is the Artistic Director at the State Theatre in Pretoria. As a youngster, he watched his brother form theatre groups in the community and looked up to him.
“I think that’s where I learned my way and fell in love with acting,” he says.
His wife Matilda Sekgobela (39), who works in the motor industry, and kids Mothusi (14) and Kagiso (6) are his biggest supporters. “They don’t miss a single episode and they attend every one of my theatre productions.”
Chuck says working in The River has opened him up to learning.
“I see myself grow every single day. Working with people like Sindi Dlathu who inspire me daily, who are humble and display such humility and a great sense of humour is a gift,” he says.
In the future, Chuck would like to act in more films.
“I did the Asinamali film with Mbongeni Ngema and I was hoping for more films but due to the pandemic, only time will tell, for now I will focus on nailing the role of Tshabalala.”