With “Shaka iLembe,” a fantastic fictional portrayal of historical events, South African actress, businesswoman, television personality, human rights activist, and accountant Nomzamo Mbatha makes her executive producing debut.
The 13-episode narrative is set in pre-colonial South Africa and recounts the origin tale of the illustrious Zulu King as well as the occasions and people who influenced his extraordinary early years.
The prime-time television program was developed by Bomb Productions with full funding from MultiChoice for M-Net channels like Mzansi Magic, Africa Magic, Pearl Magic Prime, and the online streaming service Showmax.
Lemohang Tsipa plays King Shaka Zulu, along with Thembinkosi Mthembu, Senzo Radebe, Khabonina Qubeka, and Nomzamo Mbatha, who not only plays Queen Nandi but also serves as the series’ executive producer.
I got to interview Nomzamo Mbatha about her experience supervising the production of “Shaka iLembe” while also appearing in the movie, what she hopes audiences take away from the experience, and what’s next up for her. Read On!
- Tell us about who Nomzamo Mbatha is, your series is coming in a few days, and we are super psyched:
Love to hear that! Love that hear that!
- You are a movie star, tell us about life before you got into film.
Oh my goodness, where do I start? Life before I started in film was as a student at the University in Cape Town, I was studying for a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting and I had the opportunity to go and audition for a TV presenting show. I didn’t win, but I made it to Top 3 and through being on TV for that TV show I was scouted by a company that is now bringing you SHAKA. With the company, we were putting together a show called “Isibaya”. I believe that Uganda also saw “Isibaya” because we broadcasted it across the continent. And so “Isibaya” was my breakthrough into the industry and I’ve done many contents out there and now I get to play Queen Nandi for “Shaka iLembe”.
- So, did you face any challenges getting into the film industry? What was it like getting into the industry, what were some of the challenges that came your way?
Of course, there are always challenges when you are chasing your dream. There are always challenges when you want to really pursue something that’s so much greater and it feels like such a huge craft. For me, it was really just about perfecting my craft, becoming good at what I do, and constantly just learning and becoming better and better and better and using each project as an opportunity as well to just learn and be a good student to life.
- Shaka Zulu is an iconic figure and you do play the role of his mother in the series that’s coming up. Tell us more about “Shaka Ilembe”:
Shaka Ilembe is an epic series that everyone is going to be able to experience. It is set in the 17 and 1800(s). It is set in Pre-colonial South Africa I would say. It is set in Kwazulu Natal. It also tells a story of the way life was. That’s really the epi-tail of Shaka Zulu, it has got Love, it’s got passion, it has action, it has drama.
- You are the Executive Producer, and still an actress in the series. That does mean that it brought with it some challenges, what were those that you faced during and post-shooting?
Well challenges of trying to navigate myself you know outside of just being an artist and a talent, but also being able to trust my voice in the creative process and in the writer’s room or the producer’s room and having to fit things that I bring to the table, like suggestions, things that you gotta fight for as a producer and be like “Fine, if you A, can I also just have like a smaller “a”? Compromise! I have learned it’s really about collaboration. Because you are a producer with so many people who are so experienced in the industry, you have to trust that what you bring to the table is just as good. And then obviously making sure my peers were just as comfortable. And obviously being a lead actress on it was such a huge role of Queen Nandi, it was very challenging. I wanted to best portrait it in the best possible way and yeah and live up to the legacy.
- How did you overcome the pressure and what were some of those things you told yourself to calm down and tell yourself that you got this?
Continue voicing your opinions. Continue to trust yourself, trust the creative process that what you have to contribute is just as good enough. You continue to you know just show up instead of having to stifle your voice. You don’t ever want to stifle your voice, you want to be able voice your opinion, and also compromise. You know when and what to let go and choose what to fight for.
- You are going to be seen all over Africa come June 18th. What’s the goal of the “Shaka Ilembe” project? Cuz you did mention it tackles Pre-colonial South Africa. What else does the project look at?
The project looks at how life was. I think for us it was very important to reflect a civilized society because, for so many history books, black people on the continent before colonialism came, are portrayed as though we looked like non-civilized people or not a civilized society. So for us, we want to show them there was ingenuity with people, there was creativity, and there was science before it was even named science. We are painting the picture, we have the paintbrush, we have the paint. We have resources, we have the plain canvas, and that’s really what it is, to tell it, from the custodians of the story.
- We have seen him in movies like “Oasis” and “The Boy Who Harnessed The Wind”, What’s it like working with Lamogang Tsipa?
He’s just so fantastic! Playing his mum was amazing. Cuz he’s always been such a powerful actor and being his mum, I got to tell him “you are my son, you are my child, you are my baby”. He’s amazing. I love Lamo. He really embodied the character and really pushed forward. You could just tell the dedication every single day. So, I can’t wait for everyone to experience it.
- You did say that one lesson creating this series has taught you was the power of collaboration, you as you, what was/ were your proudest moments of the creation of the entire project?
The proudest moment was witnessing everyone being so dedicated. We shot in the thick of winter and we all had to be naked. So to shoot in the thick of winter and to be naked, and seeing that everyone that as soon as it was time for action, everyone wasn’t complaining, everyone was really fine for the scene. That was incredible and amazing.
- What reaction should we expect from viewers upon them clicking play on Shaka Ilembe Episode One? Any emotions?
The emotions are going to be inspired. Everyone is going to be screaming. I feel sorry for the neighbors. Like “hey, what are you watching? I’m watching Shakaaaaa!”
- Shaka Ilembe aside, I have a pop quiz for you before I let you go. Zamunda? or Wakanda? If you were to pick a place to live forever, which would it be?
- If you were to pick a snack, have you heard of the Ugandan Rolex? The one of Chapati and eggs rolled together? So if you were to choose from it and the Nigerian Indomie for a meal for life, which would you pick?
The chapatti and egg.
- Last one! Queen Nandi or Queen Ramonda (Wakanda), who is your star?
It’s not a question. Queen Nandi. She was real and she was the real deal. Yes.
- One final one, to the girls, the youth out there, what’s the one message you’d have for them, most especially those who wish to join film?
“It’s not EASY, but it’s NOT IMPOSSIBLE!”
- Last Last, any other upcoming projects, because this one is almost out of the way, the world is going to see and as a creator, you are constantly challenging yourself to create even more exhilarating content, so what else can we look forward to?
So, there is a project that I can’t speak about right now. It is still under NDA, but I’m excited about it. It’s an international project. I would like to do both international and local and yeah, that’s really just it but right now SHAKA has my heart.
- So, on 18th June, the world gets to see the work of your hands, do introduce it to the people once again before I let you go:
Okayy! Whassap people. Make sure you that watch SHAKA ILembe. It is by Us and for Us.
Watch the trailer of “Shaka ILembe” below:
On Sunday, June 18, at 20:00, SHAKA ILEMBE will air on M-Net channels such Mzansi Magic, Africa Magic, Pearl Magic Prime, and the internet streaming service Showmax. Each week, new episodes will be broadcast.