I figured, since I’d only seen him in adverts and television shows before we met; I had braced myself to meeting a superstar… Wait, wait…What am I saying? Maybe I should start with a different approach. Let’s start at the beginning, shall we?
I always caught him at a bad time; he was either shooting or busy with a script or two. I understood, and I never felt the need to rush. I knew I’d write about him some day, I just didn’t know when. So, you could imagine the excitement I felt when he finally agreed to do the feature.
Thembalethu Brian Mncube, the twenty-three-year old actor and AFDA Johannesburg graduate from the East Rand, in Vosloorus; is short n’ sweet, a humble hard worker and a brilliant actor. I know this because we met officially at AFDA and he was everything I hadn’t imagined him to be; especially the part about being a superstar. In fact, he was rather quiet and reserved, until I spoke to him of course. And as you might have guessed, I threw that impression out the window.
Themba majored as a Writer/Director at AFDA last year and how he broke into the entertainment industry as an actor, years before that, is fascinating. “Before joining MLA (Moonyeen Lee and Associates), I was part of a fly-by-night casting agency which sent me to one particular workshop back in 2006 that sparked the growth and development of my professional career. During the workshop, I met the Creative Director of Rhythm City, Rolie Nikiwe, and he had a lot of interest in me and referred me to Moonyeen Lee. When we met, she told me that they had been looking for me for a long time and this gave me hope and confidence, especially since the compliment came from a world renowned casting agent. I still believe I was at the right place at the right time, only by the Grace of God.”
First an actor then a director, he shares that, “I recently learnt that both can co-exist equally so long as my reason to be an entertainer allows me. Acting is a talent that God has truly blessed me with and I am yet to explore how far I can push myself. Directing is a never ending journey and it gets better the more I become better at being human. I have great passion and enthusiasm for directing”. And then he laughed and added, “…You can decide which is first.” (Uhm, can I get back to you on that one?)
His biggest transition was to become better at everything he did. “I trust in my acting talent and being involved in bigger and better productions has truly excelled my expectations. High school and varsity shaped my career and I became skilled at balancing and prioritising my time and being confident with my work.”
At some point, Themba wanted to be an IT technician because, “I loved computers and I still do. I’ve always been a bit of a nerd, an introvert and I watched a lot of television and movies. I tried out IT but it proved to be a laborious task. I could have ended up as a computer engineer but the acting bug was bigger and juicer.”
Like any of us, fear of failure is something the actor battles with. “I battle with it almost everyday and I confess that this fear recently took over to such an extent that I stopped believing in myself as a writer/director and the paranoia of thinking I could never be able to become the best at both fields. Maybe its a generic fear amongst filmmakers and much of that fear stems into our greatest fear of self-doubt. In a way, it stopped me from achieving my goals but I am fighting against it. Bible scriptures and a powerful poem by Marianne Williamson, remind me of my worth during such times.”
Themba has been casted countless times for different parts and as he put it, “there isn’t any worst character that I have had to portray as I invest a lot in the characters I play; whether it’s a lead, a supporting role or as an extra. There may be one or two roles that I felt disappointed in, mostly from a technical point of view, but other than that, I believe in the roles I get, whether big or small.”
“My support structure is foremost God because He’s always at my side and has granted me the blessing to go for my dreams. My parents bestowed a Zulu saying upon me which ideally mirrors a certain path and hope. Mine goes as; ‘Umabekaphansi njengesambane esimba umgodi singawulahli. Bhala mabhalane ziyobukwa phesheya.’, which translates to; ‘He who looks down like an ant eater which digs a hole and never forgets. Write writer, it shall be seen overseas.’ I believe in the saying because they highlight my career, journey, hopes and dreams. I will never forget where I come from but I will be known and shared by the world.” (True, true)
I then asked him if there was ever a time when he wanted to quit acting. “I don’t think there was ever such a time and I don’t think I’ll ever want to. But there have been times where I wanted to quit trying and believing in my talent and what I had to offer as a person to the industry and the world. Acting is an applied element and, or rather, an extension of who we are as people. People don’t give up on their talents, rather, we usually quit at being the best people that we ought to or can be.”
The late and legendary Sir Robin McLaurin Williams has and will always be Themba’s most favourite actor. “When he was alive he entertained and made me laugh. He was a great part of my childhood and I will always remember him. My other favourites actors are Denzel Washington and Kerry Washington including; Sdumo Mtshali and Jamie Barlett, to mention a few.”
If given the chance, Themba would change a couple of things in the South African entertainment industry including; “the level of respect and the sense of professionalism. Plus, a growth injection into the production budgets wouldn’t hurt. There is no secret to succeeding in this industry, what you see is what you get. It’s all in plain sight. You get what you put in. Still, there is a lot I would keep because our industry is unique.”
And in closing he summed up his goals and dreams beautifully.
“Currently, I am on Ntunjambili on SABC 1 and I am part of two feature-length films; one international and another local production. Also, I am working on establishing my own blog and online talk show. It’s all about being a brand and admiring yourself and worth. The rest are just blessings from God.” #ThembaTalksMIND
An amazing actor, an amazing soul and over the years… You’ve proven yourself to be Prosperous.
“Art is Expression. Art is Self-Satisfaction and Admiration. Art is living in the moment,
exploring and being human. Art is about discovering ourselves in the world.” – Thembalethu Mncube
Written by Sithembiso Promise Xaba