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    Walking into the cast screening room, Thembisa Mdoda-Nxumalo greets everyone with a warm smile before taking a seat in her elegant green gown. Underneath, her orange traditional Xhosa costume peeks out, adding a vibrant touch.

    Thembisa Mdoda-Nxumalo shares her process of researching and understanding her character, which has allowed her to bring the role to life. To portray a second wife in a Xhosa kingdom accurately, she delved into history books and familiarized herself with the ancient isiXhosa dialect. This exploration helped her grasp the behaviour, speech patterns, and attire expected of such a character.

    In her quest for a reference point, Thembisa went beyond her previous roles and studied queens and kingdoms from around the world. Surprisingly, she found a more suitable reference in an unexpected place. She compares her character to Bree van de Kemp, portrayed by Marcia Cross on the TV show “Desperate Housewives.” This American character provided a face and personality traits that resonated with the woman she had to portray. Thembisa describes her character as slimy, versatile, and capable of deceit, much like Bree van de Kemp.

    In addition to her research, Thembisa drew inspiration from Korean dramas where the female characters are not outspoken but still drive the story. Watching these dramas helped her understand the subtleties required for her role.

    However, despite her thorough preparation, finding comfort and fully embodying her character took time. On set, the pressure to have all the answers was challenging, but Thembisa persevered. She shares that she created a MaMthembu book where she writes down the emotions and feelings that arise in scenes, even those she hadn’t anticipated. This exercise allowed her to dive deeper into the character’s psyche and dynamics.

    Thembisa reveals that she can easily switch in and out of character, relying on prayer to help her transition. She prays both into and out of character, using a spiritual approach to connect with the role. Writing in the MaMthembu book has become a daily practice for her, aiding in her understanding and portrayal of the character’s complexities.

    As she discusses her journey of bringing the character to life, a crew member enters the room, carrying the remaining pieces of her outfit. Thembisa had specifically requested these items to fully experience the essence of MaMthembu. The outfit includes a two-horned hat covered in black and red cloth, with beads peeking from her hairstyle. A matching shawl drapes over her shoulders, completing the regal attire befitting her character’s ancient lineage.

    Main Image: Thembisa Mdoda| Instagram

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