The Queen’s Uncle Brutus: There’s one in every family
Brutus in the Mzansi Magic telenovela The Queen is no fun uncle – he’s loud and controlling and mean, the kind of guy you want to avoid at family gatherings – but he’s also completely relatable, because we all know someone just like him.
If you’re part of the Khoza household on The Queen (the entire show is on Showmax, with new episodes arriving express from Mzansi Magic every weekday), there’s no escaping a tongue lashing from Uncle Brutus (Themba Ndaba).
He knows everyone’s business and always has something to say. When he isn’t meddling in the lives of his nephews Kagiso and Shaka (Loyiso MacDonald and Sthembiso SK Khoza), he is mansplaining everything – including his belligerent behaviour – to his niece Kea (Dineo Moeketsi).
As far as he is concerned, Brutus is always in charge, explains Themba: “Brutus is driven by control. He is still anchored in patriarchy and he believes that he should be calling all the shots.”
Brutus permanently moved into the Khoza mansion after his drug dealer brother Mzi (Treasure Tshabalala) was assassinated in the first episode – orchestrated by Mzi’s wife Harriet (Connie Ferguson), who took control of their drug distribution business following Mzi’s demise. While Brutus was shattered by his loss, he was ready to step in as the foundation and backbone of the family.
It’s not an easy position for Brutus, admits Themba. Brutus had expected to take over the family business, only to be ousted by his sister-in-law.
“Harriet holds the reins and she keeps Brutus at arm’s length and refuses to let him bully her. Brutus is actually furious,” says the actor. “Brutus believes that he should be the boss. After all, Harriet only came into the picture after he and Mzi had established the drug business as a cash cow, with the family’s trucking company as front. He can’t stand it with her being at the forefront.”
Running the show
Brutus could easily pack his bags and return to his offscreen wife and their kids in KwaZulu-Natal, but he doesn’t want to report his every move to a woman. Living with Harriet and her kids gives him the freedom to stay out until all hours of the night while still having “his” family around.
“He prefers this life. He is independent and he likes doing his own thing,” adds Themba. While in Johannesburg, Brutus does his routine checks at the trucking company to ensure that Harriet isn’t letting the business sink and he offers his niece and nephews unsolicited advice about their love lives despite his outdated views.
“As a babomncane [younger uncle in isiZulu], Brutus loves his brother’s children. He treats them as his own. Family is everything to Brutus and he still cares about his wife and kids although he doesn’t get to see them every day.”
Pulling the strings
These Joburg Khozas have a love-hate relationship with Uncle Brutus. Although he annoys them at every turn, he means the world to them.
Remember August 2018 when they went into a tailspin when he was reported dead in a boat explosion? They launched a full-scale search for him. Like his family, Queen fans on social media mourned the dead character, threatening to turn off their TV sets unless he returned.
And just like that, boom – Uncle Brutus returned four months after the explosion, seemingly rising from the dead.
“Brutus is relatable. He reminds people of their own uncles or middle-aged men that they’ve come across,” says Themba, who loves the fan interaction and knowing that his character has such an impact and resonance with viewers.
But just because Brutus is always walking around pretending to be the big boss and having a laugh at everyone’s expense doesn’t mean that he isn’t serious – and mean!
Themba reminds viewers that his character is a traditionalist at heart, which is why he was ready to cut his son Bheki (Robert Mpisi) out of his life in May 2018 after learning that Bheki was gay. Going to a sangoma to fine a “cure” for Bheki’s sexuality is the last thing that Themba himself would do, but he explains that his character isn’t from the “modern” world.
“Brutus depicts real-life. Although he loves power, he is traditional. He is his past and he is true to where he comes from,” says the actor.
Catch up on Seasons 1 and 2 of the Queen, and get brand-new episodes fresh from Mzansi Magic on Showmax every weekday.