She first graced our screens as Sarah Ngcobo, the rural and submissive wife of Khapela Ngcobo (played by Mike Mvelase) on SABC 1’s Generations many years ago – and since then actress, Deli Malinga, has played similar roles in other local productions such as Rhythm City and The Queen.
However, in the new faith-based telenovela, Umkhokha, which is about two families at loggerheads over church leadership after the death of its leader - the actress’s light shines brighter as we see her take the lead with her villainous role of MaMzobe – a role she’s been eagerly waiting for throughout her career.
“I’ve always known what I’m capable of and I’d always see certain roles and think to myself ‘I’d kill this role’, but was never given a chance. Most casting directors would only see me fit to play the role of a rural woman who doesn’t know much,” she tells TRUELOVE.
“So I’m very thankful for the opportunity to play uMaMzobe because she allows people to see my versatility as an actress. I always work 200 times harder when I get a role because I want people to see my talent and I’m happy with this role,” she continues.
She chats to us about playing MaMzobe, her acting career and waiting on God’s timing.
Her character on the show is loved and hated by viewers because of how ruthless and hardcore MaMzobe is. But Malinga says that people do not see how loving MaMzobe really is.
“uMaMzobe is a loving mother but people don’t see that because of how they view her as a villain. But because of something that happened to her, she is the way she is and expresses her love in a different way to how most people would,” she says.
Although the actress says that the only thing she has in common with her character is that they are both human beings, she adds that she enjoyed channeling her because of how different MaMzobe is compared to the other characters she’s played before.
“It was very challenging yet enjoyable playing MaMzobe. She is different to what I’m used to in terms of acting. I really enjoyed playing her because I got to showcase more of my talent and had been yearning to play a different character since I had been typecast for most of my career, and I felt like I was not growing,” she explains.
On how she got the role, Malinga explains that the show’s producer, Duma ka Ndlovu gave her a call to come audition for the show.
“When I auditioned in Durban, the script only had two lines so they asked if I could do a monologue which they gave to me. I went outside to prepare and then told them I’d do it my own way and they agreed. After that I went back to Joburg to shoot a movie and I received a call from the producers of Umkhokha telling me when we’d start shooting,” she recalls.
Even though she had been working on a number of projects (including The Queen) at the time, Malinga says she accepted every role because she believed she was capable of doing everything and doing it well.
Starting her career through theatre
Unlike other actors who only realised they wanted to be in the industry while doing other jobs, the 56-year-old who is also an acting coach, has always known that acting was what she wanted to do.
“From an early age I loved acting. I used to tell myself that people would go to the cinemas and pay to watch me,” she tells us.
And although falling pregnant at a young age and becoming a teenage mother disturbed her goals of becoming an actress, Malinga did not let that get in the way and chased her dream by joining a community theatre group in her hometown of Umlazi in KwaZulu-Natal.
“My first breakthrough was a professional gig where we did a show about drug abuse in schools and sexual harassment. The show played at the Natal Playhouse and opened a lot of doors for me. I learnt a lot from theatre and was helped by a friend of mine who had been working with Mbongeni Ngema,” she says.
After doing a few more theatre productions, Malinga then decided to head to Johannesburg where she worked in productions for the Market Theatre and would later get her breakthrough role as Sarah on popular soapie, Generations.
“I started working for Generations as a Zulu script translator and worked behind the scenes in the script department. Two years later I was fired from that role and had to go back home. After that, Palesa Madisakwane, who worked as an actress on the show, gave me a call to tell me about a role she thought would suit me.”
“I then went to Generations and spoke to the writer, Mark Graham, who said I’d be called for auditions,” she recalls.
Shortly afterwards, she received a call and was told that she had gotten the role as Sarah.
Waiting on God’s timing
Having started her acting career in 1989, Malinga had to wait till 2021 to get her first leading role. This is something she regards as God’s timing.
“To be honest, I feel that everything has its own time and God’s timing is the best timing,” she says.
“I would have loved to get leads because I’ve always known what I’m capable of. I just took my past as training because no soldier goes to war without proper training. Maybe I wasn’t ready enough to handle what I’m currently doing,” she adds.
Advice to aspiring actresses
Malinga says that there are a lot of challenges that come with being an actress but advises aspiring performers to push through those challenges and to focus on what they want to achieve.
“Always know what you want and focus. Acting is not all glitz and glam as it seems, there’s a lot happening behind the scenes and no one should sell their soul. If you’ve got talent, be patient and wait for your time, don’t sell yourself because you want to be seen,” she warns.
“There are two types of actors in my opinion: real actors and celebrities. You need to know which of the two you want to belong to. If you want to be a celebrity then it’s easy, all you need to do is go naked on social media and you’ll be very famous but to be an artist - it takes a lot of hard work and patience. It does not matter when your time will come, what matters is that it will eventually come,” she concludes.
Catch Deli Malinga as the ruthless MaMzobe on Mzansi Magic’s Umkhokha every Sunday at 20:00.