She’s only been on Mzansi Magic's Gomora for less than a month, but Nandipa’s Khubone’s character on the show has everyone talking.
The feisty 16-year-old Sibongile (played by Nandipa) entered Zodwa’s (played by Sana Mchunu) household with a bad attitude, a quick mouth and spoilt girl tendencies but was quickly called to order by Zodwa and half-brother Teddy (played by Sicelo Buthelezi).
“Sibongile recently lost her mother which also meant that her life of privilege is now behind her," Nandipa explains.
"Because she and her dad, Don (played by Israel Matseke-Zulu), had been depending on her mom, they have to come back to Gomora (Alexandra) where he is from. This is her first introduction into a whole new world where she also meets her older brother who she hadn’t known about."
“It feels like her whole world has turned upside down because she had everything and now has to adjust to having nothing. She feels that the world isn’t treating her fairly,” she adds.
The actress, who hails from Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, tells TRUELOVE about how the role came about, studying film in America and more.
Like many actresses who were in pursuit of their big break, the 21-year-old had to go through a number of auditions before landing her debut role on Gomora.
“I auditioned through my manager who was able to get me through to the producers after seeing a casting call," she says.
"I matched the character description and I submitted my audition tape by myself and it wasn’t seen, so I sent it again through my manager and it was seen by the producers. They then called me right away and told me it was a done deal. We went in for one more round and it was history after that,” she recalls.
Being a new talent in the industry, Nandipa says being on set with veteran actors such as Israel Matseke-Zulu, Katlego Danke, Connie Chiume and Zolisa Xaluva - amongst others - has been a crazy but amazing experience.
“It’s been such a crazy experience because these are the people I used to see on TV while growing up and I’d point at the screen and tell my grandmother that I was also going to be on TV one day,” she says.
“But they are honestly just people who are there to do their job and they are also so helpful. They want us to feed off each other and will ask me what I need from them; they are very communicative and open. Everyone has created such a lovely environment for me where I can learn and it almost feels like family. It’s quite lovely working with everyone; the veteran actors don’t see themselves as that so that eases off a lot of pressure."
Although Nandipa says she is not as bratty and disrespectful as her character, Sibongile, she does admit that they are similar - especially in the way that their childhood experiences have moulded them. She also adds that they are both young girls who are trying to figure life out.
Pursuing her acting dream in America
Nandipa is also an alumni at the New York Film Academy and says she fell in love with being on stage when she was still in primary school.
“I used to get small roles in plays in primary school and I knew that I wanted more because I really enjoyed being on stage," she says.
"So when I got into high school I focused more on extra-curricular activities and started doing public speaking and other things that would get me on stage. I also started theatre and when I saw that I was excelling in it, I knew that this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life."
This is when she decided to go abroad to further her education.
“I then decided to go abroad to study acting. I went there in 2018 and had to come back last year because of Covid-19 but I continued my studies online for a little while. I studied filmmaking, directing and producing as well,” she continued.
Although Nandipa agrees that the experience of studying abroad was eye-opening in many ways, she says that she always knew that she’d come back home to pursue an acting career here before pursuing one in Hollywood.
“I always knew that I’d come back home to act. I definitely want to pursue an acting career that side but at the same time, I know that in order to take off that side I’d first have to have the support of my own people from this side. So it was very important for me to have something solid in my own country before branching out,” she adds.
Growing her craft
With Gomora being her debut role, Nandipa says she looks forward to growing into her role and also playing characters across different genres.
“I look up to actresses such as Meryl Streep because she can play all these versatile roles. She can be this blonde woman but also transform into a serious old woman and then morph herself into so many things. She just has so much range and she really inspires me. It all looks so effortless and I also look forward to being as versatile as she is,” she says.
On what the rest of the 2021 looks like for her, Nandipa says she’s working on elevating herself as a performer.
“I think what’s next for me is to elevate my name for myself and to become a household name where there’s a difference between uNandipa and Sibongile. I’d like to come into my own in this industry and be recognized and seen for who I think I am,” she concludes.
Catch Nadipa Khubone as Sibongile on Gomora every weekday at 19:30 on Mzansi Magic, DSTV channel 161.