He is by any measure a true epitome of black excellence. A hustler of note whose genes are embedded deep in kasi roots, and a gang member whose weapons are instruments and a camera. Most popularly known as Themba from “Ses’top la”, a show loved and watched by millions of South Africans and is the Director of Black Brain Picture’s whose work needs no introduction nor do they need any elaboration. Mandla N graced us with his presence at the Kas’lam headquarters for a quick chat with T-Rapz on the couch of legends to talk about his incredible journey and how he became SA’s King of TV production.
You’re an actor, Business man, musician, Director, Producer and entrepreneur, that’s just a lot for one person. How does one get to a point where they are doing it all? Geez man! I guess when you’re at school you did Geography, Maths, Biology and all the other subjects, So I’m just applying the same principle of multi-tasking doing the acting, the producing, the business so yah… it’s basically about scheduling and having a great team.
When was that point where you realised your vision and how did it all begin? I think it started where I’m from, I’m from Pimville (Soweto) and that’s basically like the Hollywood of South Africa because all the biggest celebrities are from there. So, obviously growing up and seeing celebrities and getting inspired, I just thought I wanna do that as well one day. I then went to study at AFDA and ‘I wrote City Ses’la’ while studying at AFDA, after the third episode it became the highest watched Sitcom in South Africa. I then decided to start a business while busy hustling on the music side.
Now for most of us; we got introduced to you through the musical trio ‘Gang of Instrumentals’, which came first between the acting and the music? The acting, I even went to study it… But the music has always been there, but then I started taking it very seriously when SABC wasn’t commissioning some of my work. So I thought let me try music and open another door, we thought it was just something we were gonna do just to perform there and there and it just blew up man! It took me by surprise, I never thought it was going to get to that level.
And then from music you took it to the screen … From music I created a lot of other shows, my specialty was comedy most of the time. I did City Ses’la, Ses’Top La, AboMzala, Thandeka’s Diary, Vat ‘n Sit, so I did a lot of comedy and obviously the industry just boxed me as the comedy funny guy who dabbles in music. Until last year they gave me a chance to do a Drama, my first drama called ‘Locked Down’ and became the highest watched drama in Mzansi Magic. Now I’m in the drama world and I’ve been commissioned to do a few other dramas.
As you’ve mentioned Black brain Pictures is doing a lot on TV right now, but obviously the vision goes beyond that. Where is the vision headed? Well, you know as I’ve said I’m a business man and I’m out to hustle. There’s the TV shows, there’s the communications and Ads side, there’s the property and other businesses that I can’t mention right now. It’s the land of milk and honey right now and there’s a lot of opportunities especially when you’re black, you just need to explore that and I’m exploring that path and you’ll never know where it might lead me. Who knows? I might be an Astronaut or supply Astronaut equipment Ey! I’m black, I’m the ultimate middleman.
For someone who is inspired by your work, what would you say are the principles and the key values to grinding and hustling every day? Let’s say you’re a musician, an actor or producer you must constantly be at that, don’t think that when you’re taking a downtime, Mandla N is also relaxing …No!
You also need to strive to be number 1, everybody remembers number 1. You don’t remember 5 or number 8, so in whatever you do put in everything, put in all your time and trust me it’s going to pay off.
Another key thing is relationships, people work with people they like, and they don’t work with people who are amazing, brilliant or whatever. If you want to work with people don’t be a DIVA, don’t be late you know what I’m saying. People work with people they like so be a nice person and the world will be nice to you.