‘I Don’t Care About Being Sexy; I Care About The Craft’: Uzalo Star, Wiseman Mncube

The Safta (South African Film And Television Award) winning actor and ‘Uzalo’ star is known for delivering stirring performances and has been named one of the actors to watch.

By: Blacklight writer
Images: Supplied

Since his 2019 breakthrough performance as Jama on Mzansi Magic’s telenovela eHostela, Wiseman has been lauded for his dynamic acting. His portrayal of Jama earned him his first Safta for ‘Best Actor’ in a ‘TV Drama’, beating worshipped actor Warren Masemola of The Republic.

“Winning the award is quite a big achievement for me,” he tells Blacklight during our virtual interview. “I always knew that I was destined for such big things because of the amount of work I put into my work. I am constantly pushing myself to do uncomfortable things as an actor.”

The Ulundi-born playwright, director and actor has since joined Mzansi’s most-watched soapie Uzalo – with an estimated 11 million viewers – where he plays Sibonelo; a medical doctor who has been lured into a life of crime, including car hijackings & heists.

This week, he takes center stage as the drama unfolds with his much-anticipated nuptials to two women, Nonka, played by Thuthuka Mthembu, and Sphilile, played by Tee Xaba.

The star says he is excited about the wedding storyline, especially with how it depicts the current effects of the coronavirus pandemic regulations.

“We had to re-write the whole event due to the COVID-19 social distancing regulations,” he reveals. “I love the way the storyline unfolded and how it was shot – getting married to two women and the drama within that. People might think it will be a big drama but they will be surprised, and everyone will see Sibonelo in a different light.”

Unlike the tough roles he has been portraying on screen, Wiseman comes across as slightly reserved and introverted. He admits that due to the hard-core demeanour of his characters, people are often intimidated by him in real life. “I am nothing like the characters that I play,” he proclaims.

The Durban University of Technology Drama graduate earned his stripes as a performer in theatre, even winning a string of awards. He wrote and directed the acclaimed production, The Weeping Candle, which scooped Best Production and Best Script awards at the Multi-Art Centre in KwaMashu.

Blacklight: What do you think has made you resonate with so many people?
Wiseman Mncube: I stay true to myself. I am original and honest in my work. I always make sure that I give my best and I am transparent. These days we have actors who want to keep it all ‘cute’ because they want to appear sexy on screen. I don’t care about being sexy; I care about the craft. I come from a theatre background which celebrates being completely raw, so I am bringing that element to TV and that is why people resonate with me.

BL: So, your theatre background played a significant role in shaping you as an actor?
WM: What prepares you for acting is doing the actual acting. It’s all about understanding yourself as an actor and also understanding the different stages, theatre and TV. When I wanted to branch out into TV, I had to educate myself and equip myself with the necessary skills for that platform. Yes, as much it’s all acting, its different variations of acting. I had to find a way to bring Wiseman, the guy with a theatre background, into that space because that’s my signature. I remember when I was doing Generations: The Legacy, the director commented that I bring so much energy on set even when I am quiet – meaning I have a presence. So, being able to merge the two worlds has resulted in me creating my own signature. 

BL: Would you say being a qualified actor gives you a certain edge?
WM: Being a qualified actor helps 110%. I always say that being born with talent is great, but you have to go to school to refine that talent or skill. To be a successful ‘professional’ actor, you have to be multi-skilled and versatile. Sometimes people can cut it in theatre but fail to make the transition to television or film, visa-versa. A skilled actor who has studied his craft is able to make that seamless transition. You also learn certain techniques that help you dip in and out of character and how to fully immerse yourself in any character that you play.

Wiseman is nothing like the characters he portrays on TV. [Photo: Supplied]

BL: You recently celebrated your 30th birthday, how does it feel to turn the big ‘three-0?’
WM: 30 is a big number – it’s a milestone. Unfortunately we were already under lockdown, so I could not do a celebration – I was at home with my daughter, which was great. I am just taking everything (life) as it comes. I don’t put unnecessary pressure on myself. I take it one day at a time, one step at a time, and everything that comes my way I receive.

BL: Besides spending time with your six-year-old daughter, what did you uncover about yourself during the nationwide-lockdown?
WM: It gave me time to rethink my life. Sometimes we get so busy that we don’t take time to do introspection. I was able to sort out my life and deal with everything that I have been through. I was also able to plan or to find ways to improve where I had been lacking. As a result, I want to grow more business-wise, especially since I have some sort of following. I want to be able to leverage more business opportunities that make sense to me, because the spotlight comes and goes, so we have to use our opportunities wisely. If you are drugged by fame, you may wake up when it’s too late and the opportunities are no longer there. It’s important to make the most of every moment.

BL: Were there ever moments when you doubted your chosen path?
WM: Yes, there were many moments of doubt. There are times when you go to many auditions and you get rejected a lot, then you begin to wonder if you took the right path. I remember after doing theatre for a long a time, I auditioned for Uzalo (Season one) and I got rejected. I then moved to Johannesburg, where I did a few cameo roles on a few shows, but I felt like I was not cracking it in the TV game because I was not getting the big roles. I was even contemplating going the teaching route to make a living because when you are living in the city you end up working just for rent, transport and food. That role on eHostela came at the right time and it changed everything for me.

BL: What has your daughter Lwandle, taught you about yourself?
WM: My daughter has taught me to be strong. She has taught me to man-up and to face any situation that comes my way. We lost her mother in 2018, and even now it still affects me. She is the one who comforts me, instead of me comforting her. She is truly something else. I take from her energy and implement it in my life.

BL: What do you think is your role as creative in these times of uncertainty?
WM: Our role as creatives is to create stories that capture moments in hopes of addressing the issues we are faced with on a daily basis. We need (more) productions to be written about pressing issues so that actors can be able to address issues like gender-based violence, black on black violence, and so forth. 

Catch Wiseman on Uzalo, every weekday at 20h30, SABC 1. 

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