Lorcia Cooper Kumalo from Red Ink on her intentions when choosing roles

By Zibuyile Dladla27 March 2024

Lorcia Cooper Kumalo from Red Ink on her intentions when choosing roles

Lorcia Cooper Kumalo won the SAFTA for her role as Tyson on Lockdown, and fans have been just as impressed by her latest role in Red Ink, adapted from Angela Makholwa-Moabelo’s bestselling novel.

Zibuyile Dladla sat down with the much-loved actress to find out more about embodying the feisty, courageous and clever Detective Morapedi in the hit Showmax Original, which is now available to binge after getting rave reviews. As Debashine Thangevelo writes on IOL, “To say I was blown away by what I’ve seen of Red Ink.. would be a gross understatement… The South African TV and film landscape has grown in leaps and bounds in recent years. So much so that it can longer be compared to Hollywood… Simply put, we are no longer followers but pioneers in our storytelling.”

Lorcia Cooper as Detective Morapedi in Red Ink S1

You come across as an actress that is very specific about the roles she takes on. Why did you decide to work on this project?

Starting in this industry I was very particular about what kind of artist I wanted to be. The answer always came back to me: wanting to be an artist that would have an impact. As a dancer, I always wanted my work to touch someone. That was my bottom line all the time, and the same applied to when I started becoming an actress. So any story I take on I’d like it to have an impact – I always ask myself if this storyline will invoke some type of emotion and if the storyline makes the audience think beyond what they knew. Red Ink for me ticked all those boxes. This is why, when I do take on roles, I am specific – I don’t commit 99%, I go all-in because somewhere out there, there is someone who really is a Detective Morapedi and so I’d like to be earnest about that, and about how I tell that story.

Did you ever find yourself delving mentally into a dark place to understand or tap into why a character like Napoleon is the way he is?  

I had to figure out how to find the balance between finding my calm and figuring out why a character like Napoleon was so dark. It’s about finding that synergy – because if you then buy into why a character is so dark your empathy leans too much towards the perpetrator, and you start buying into their narrative and their story. 

Lorcia Cooper Kumalo as Detective Morapedi in Red Ink

We all have a story in our lives and how we either respond or react to that story ultimately determines whether we stand on moral or immoral ground. So yes, I wanted to know what this person’s (Napoleon) backstory is, but cannot buy into their backstory so much that they end up having empathy for them because at the end of the day there is a victim involved. I had to look at the facts about this character and who am I protecting – which is the victim.

What were your thoughts when you first read the Red Ink script?

I’d like to first mention that South African writers are so phenomenal with not only how they write but also with the kind of stories they write. This story could really sit anywhere in the world and I appreciated that the author [Angela Makholwa-Moabelo] was so ingenious in doing that. Red Ink is a story that can appeal to a global market and the fact that it is written by a South African excited me even more because here’s a book that’s already great and I get to be a part of it – giving it legs from a film perspective. I love that and I also love that the storyline was so layered that you’re not quite sure how the story will play out. Even when I was reading the script, I kept wanting to get to the end because I wanted to know how everything was going to end.

What’s the one thing you’ve come to appreciate about your character on Red Ink?

I appreciate how my character has so much composure. Even when she loses it, it’s strategic. Detective Morapedi is not careless or clumsy with her emotions or how she reacts to something – she is constantly plotting and planning. And because she stands for justice, she always wants to find what the answer is. I also appreciate how she’s solution-driven; she doesn’t cower when there is a problem because she believes that with a problem there is ultimately a solution.

What material did you either watch or read to prepare for this role?

I think I’m very careful about what kind of material I specifically watch before prepping for a role because you can cross the line between being inspired and mimicking, and I don’t condone mimicking. But I did start watching specific crime shows just to understand how the mind of a serial killer works. So I did research on serial killers, and from a detective’s point of view, I did some research on how detectives can coerce a suspect to eventually tell the truth. 

Red Ink is a partnership between Makholwa-Moabelo’s Britespark Films and Bomb Productions. This marks the first Showmax Original from Bomb, who made DStv’s most-watched drama series, Shaka Ilembe, as well as classics such as Venice winner Yizo Yizo, Oscar nominee Mandela, Sundance winner Amandla: A Revolution In Four-Part Harmony, and SAFTA winners like Isibaya. SAFTA winners Zeno Petersen and Adze Ugah (both directors on Shaka Ilembe) direct Red Ink, which is executive produced by Makholwa-Moabelo, Oscar nominee Angus Gibson, and Emmy nominee Desiree Markgraaff. 

See Lorcia in conversation with co-star Nkosinathi Mlambo, who plays her partner, Detective Khumalo

Quirky moments: Red Ink approval or prison time?
Red Ink: Nqobile Nunu Khumalo unveils Lucy