We were first introduced to her talent back in 2007 when she played the troubled character of Akua Yenana on SABC 1 drama series, Society.
Now, almost 15 years later, Zandile Msutwana – who has starred in a number of shows – will be getting to play her second lead role in Mzansi Magic’s new drama series, Grootboom and Sons. The drama series premieres on Monday, 4 October at 8pm
The actress says that viewers can expect to see a whole lot of drama from the show.
“Grootboom and Sons is a Xhosa show with mostly a Xhosa cast. The story is centred around a funeral parlour which is a family business that gets inherited by the younger sibling, Vuyo, after their father, who was the family’s patriarch, dies, ”she tells us.
“The younger daughter is given the business because she’s more responsible than her older sister, Funeka (played by Msutwana), whose life is all about having fun. Funeka then walks away from the family business to open her own cosmetics business. She gets into trouble with bad guys and runs back home to be part of the family business again."
Although Msutwana has played a number of roles such as Vuyiswa Sebata on The Queen, NomaKhwezi on Igazi and Sister Sonto on Soul City – she says that playing Funeka was a different experience for her because of how flamboyant the character is.
“Funeka is very stylish, manipulative and young at heart – even though she’s older,” she says before describing how different Funeka is from her popular character, Vuyiswa, on The Queen.
“Vuyiswa and Funeka are complete opposites. While Vuyiswa is a good cop who isn’t corrupt in any way, Funeka is corrupt. She likes shortcuts and money, is devious and manipulative, and uses her sexiness to get through life. She’s also a lot more stylish than Vuyiswa I must say,” she laughs.
Msutwana says that she enjoys playing Funeka because she keeps her on her toes and allows her to grow and to learn. She says she looked to personalities such as Bonang Matheba and Vinolia Mashego when preparing for the role.
“When I received the character description from the production house, personalities such as Bonang and V-Mash (Vinolia Mashego) were some of the references on the list. So I watched Bonang to get a glimpse of her dress sense and luckily, I had grown up watching V-Mash on Jam Alley, so I knew her personality. Somehow I had to bring these two characters together to portray Funeka. I also watched Lynn Whitfield on Greenleaf; she tends to play classy characters with an evil side."
Like most professional thespians, Msutwana’s first encounter with acting began in high school before she went on to complete a Performer’s Diploma in Speech and Drama at the University of Cape Town.
“My love for acting started off in high school with drama classes. I’d lead roles most of the time and my drama teacher tried to convince me that acting was my calling but I denied it and said I’d become a chartered account,” she recalls.
“I then applied for drama and accounting at UCT and the drama school accepted me. I was doing really well in drama school and the dream of becoming a CA wasn’t there anymore."
While in drama school, Msutwana would do theatre until she came to Johannesburg and was introduced to television.
“When I had just started television, I got a lead role in Society alongside four other ladies. I feel like acting chose me. I didn’t have the dream of becoming an actress, but it all worked out and I see now that it truly was a calling, ” she explains.
Learning tough lessons
Even though Msutwana’s breakout role was successful and saw her playing the lead, she quickly learnt how difficult navigating the entertainment industry was and struggled to get roles when Society ended in 2010.
“My journey in the industry has been quite pleasurable but has also come with lessons. After playing Akua and being a lead, everyone thought that I was going to blow up and that I was going to become a big star. But, unfortunately when Society ended, everything ended for me as well."
“I wasn’t getting any lead roles at all. I got very confused by what was going on because I had hoped this was the beginning of my career,” she adds.
Feeling hopeless about her acting career, Msutwana then studied psychology and started transporting school children to try to make ends meet.
“But four years later, doors started opening up for me again. I started getting small roles on Isidingo and Soul City. It almost felt like I was starting over gain but that was a great lesson because I realised that the inconsistency of the industry also requires me to learn financial management. It was a hurtful lesson but very necessary because I’m now in a much better position, especially with how I manage my finances,” she says.
She says that her supporters can look forward to a lot more work in the near future. For now, you can catch her on The Queen and in Grootboom and Sons which both air on Mzansi Magic.