The Wife's Stella Dlangalala on her blooming acting career: ‘It just keeps getting better’

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Stella Dlangalala
Stella Dlangalala
Supplied by Stella Dlangalala
  • Stella Dlangalala plays the character of Three20 on The Wife, which she says made more people see her acting.
  • The multi-talented actress is also a dancer, fitness enthusiast, content creator and TikTok star.
  • Stella chats to us about the difficulties of breaking into the television industry and her wish to play characters with depth.

Many know Stella Dlangalala for her role as Nomusa’s dangerous cellmate, Three20, on Showmax’s popular drama series, The Wife. After starring on Netflix's making a cameo as Tiny on Mzanzi Magic’s Gomora, actress Stella Dlangalala is quickly becoming a household name.

The Port Shepstone-born actress, who has also starred in Netflix’s Jiva!, is multi-talented and is a dancer, a fitness enthusiast, comedian, content creator as well as a TikTok star.

“Growing up I was very shy and quite insecure about knowing how to be a girl because I grew up around brothers only. I was very much a tomboy and did a lot of sport and when I got into doing drama, I gained my confidence back and learned how to communicate better with people,” she tells TRUELOVE before explaining how she fell in love with acting.

“We didn’t really have drama in primary school but in Grade 7, just when we were about to leave the school, one of the teachers suggested that we do a skit for our farewell party. I knew what a skit was because one of my brothers used to like doing such things with his friends and was a good storyteller, so I came up with an idea for the skit and it was very funny. That’s when I realised that I was funny and entertaining,” she explains.

“After that, I went to high school and luckily the school had drama and I chose that as a subject. I’d write my own monologues and not do the published monologues and people would tell me how good I am and ask me to redo the monologues during break time. In Grade 10, I received the most improved actress award and that’s when I realised that this is what I wanted to do,” she continues.

However, her mother discouraged her from studying drama in university and asked her to study something else as a backup.

Photo: Supplied to TRUELOVE.

“My mother was concerned that drama wasn’t a real career that would give me a proper income so she said I could only study drama if I studied something else too. I then studied drama as well as marketing and my first job was at a theatre company that paid decently and my mother then became less strict about me doing drama,” she says.

She tells us more about breaking into the industry, her role on The Wife and what the future looks like.

Breaking into the industry

Although Stella knew that she is talented and had gained a lot of experience from doing theatre, she says that breaking into the entertainment industry was not as easy as it seemed.

“It was very hard and it’s still quite hard. I moved to Joburg in 2016 and stayed with a friend who accommodated me and paid rent that entire year. At the end of that year, I found an agent but even with that I wasn’t getting work. The first thing I got was two scenes in The River and hoped that would help me grow but that did not happen,” she shares.

“I then got theatre work to help keep myself sustained with rent and food but I really wanted to do well in television and it just wasn’t happening,” she continues.

Someone then advised a hopeless Stella to grow her social media platforms to get noticed.

“They told me that in South Africa, having a big following helps and that sometimes it’s not about the acting but how many likes and followers. So, I started getting into social media and, luckily for me, I enjoyed putting content out there and people liked my stuff and my following grew significantly but I still wasn’t getting booked,” she says.

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She continued to post content consistently on her platforms and three years later she got a supporting lead role in Netflix’s Jiva!

“I thought that after Jiva! I’d become one of the most booked actresses because I’ve got the numbers, I’m talented and I’m on this popular show that was on a global platform. Jiva! then came out and it didn’t do as well as we thought and that was a bit crushing, but I’m still hopeful and believe in God’s timing but every year gets better,” she explains.

Playing Three20

On joining The Wife, Stella says she was approached by one of the casting directors who had seen her work.

“It was honestly one of those things where I saw God in my life. My manager had told me that I’m known as a TikToker but people needed to know me for being a trained actress as well and we had a meeting about how we could do that and we started praying a lot about it. Shortly after that I got an Instagram DM from the casting director from The Wife and she said she’d seen my reels and would like me to send through a self-tape for a role they’d be having on the show,” she reveals.

“I was excited for this and told myself that even though the role is a cameo, people would know me because this is one of the most-talked about shows in the country. I read the script and saw that this was an interesting character that was really different. I sent through the self-tape and the next day or so she told me that they liked me and asked if I was available and that’s how I started on The Wife,” she continues.

Three20 and Nomusa (Played by Lerato Mvelase) on The Wife.

READ MORE | Lerato Mvelase on playing Nomusa on The Wife - ‘I relate to her choices as a mom’

When she got to set, Stella made sure that she puts everything into her role.

“I brought my A-game and working with Lerato Mvelase made me feel so comfortable and I was able to push myself because she’s a very present actress and we were able to feed off each other very well. I played Three20 so well that she was extended for more episodes,” she says.

Although Stella says that she feels that her character on Jiva!, Lady E, was her biggest role – she admits that playing Three20 got her more noticed and was more challenging.

“I wouldn’t say that Three20 is my biggest role because Lady E was a supporting lead on a Netflix production that has a much higher reach, however, playing Three20 made more people see me and was a challenging role because Three20 is schizophrenic and a lot of research had to go into that because I only know anxiety and not much about schizophrenia,” she explains.

What the future looks like

While Stella has enjoyed playing all her characters, she says that she would love to play more impactful roles in future.

“I wish Three20 was longer because I’m very interested in mental health and the character I’m playing now in Gomora is a boss lady and that’s wonderful, but what I’m craving now is to be part of a comedy drama because I enjoy being funny or an action drama where I’ll get to be a badass warrior that kicks and fights and all that. I’d really like a challenging and meaty role that’s not just on the surface,” she says.

For now though, the actress looks forward to seeing what’s next for her journey in the industry and hopes to host a standup comedy tour.

“I’m in a season where I feel like I’ve been doing so much to get noticed and I just want to surrender now. I’m excited and curious to see what’s next for me. I mean I didn’t see myself on The Wife or on Gomora but here I am, so I’m excited. I’d love to star as a lead soon and continue teaching drama and to perform my standup comedy and maybe even do a tour,” she says.

“I can’t wait to see what’s next. It just all keeps getting better.”

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