9 September 2022
Mothusi Magano on his role as King Letsha III in Blood Psalms
In Blood Psalms, the epic Showmax Original African fantasy launching on 28 September 2022, Mothusi Magano stars as King Letsha III, the eccentric leader of the Akachi.
The mad king is haunted by the ghost of his father (Sello Motloung, who played Nelson Mandela in An Act of Defiance) and scared of his daughter, Zazi (Bokang Phelane from Keeping Score, Isidingo). He has two untrustworthy advisors: the Uchawi queen, Assili (Faith Baloyi from Flatland), and his uncle, Nkamanzu (SAFTA nominee Sello Maake kaNcube from The Herd), while his army is under the command of General Toka (SAFTA winner Zolisa Xaluva from Gomora), supported by Commander Lekoya (SAFTA winner S’dumo Mtshali from iNumber Number and is’Thunzi).
Other key Akachi characters include MaDlamini (Albert Ibokwe Khoza, who was also the cultural advisor and choreographer, key in crafting each tribe’s rituals, heritage and beliefs), a mother figure to both Letsha and Zazi, and four-time SAFTA winner Warren Masemola (Black Is King, The Republic) as Mfengetho, an Akachi priest.
Much of Blood Psalms is set at the Akachi citadel, where rival tribes like the Uchawi, the Ku’ua, and Great Nziwemabwe have gathered for Letsha’s upcoming wedding.
Blood Psalms marks Magano’s third collaboration with director Jahmil XT Qubeka (South African Oscar entries Knuckle City and Sew The Winter To My Skin) , after winning the SAFTA and Africa Movie Academy Award for Best Actor as Parker Sithole in Of Good Report and acting in his SAFTA-winning sci-fi short Stillborn. Magano has also won SAFTAs for his roles in Emoyeni, 90 Plein Straat, and Skeem Saam. Magano was also nominated for the Outstanding Actor Golden Nymph at the Monte-Carlo TV Festival as Mingus in The Lab and has had great roles in the Oscar-winning Tsotsi and the Oscar-nominated Hotel Rwanda, among other career highlights.
As Phelane, who plays his daughter, says, “He’s absolutely brilliant; it was such a treat to watch him work and learn from that.”
We caught up with Magano to find out more about his starring role in the biggest and most ambitious series Showmax has ever made:
How would you describe your character, King Letsha?
He’s very Shakespearean. That’s how I looked at the whole series: even the language in Blood Psalms has that higher sense to it. It’s Shakespearean Setswana, if there’s such a thing.
Letsha is very tragic. He’s driven by fear and guilt. He’s done a lot of terrible things that haunt him, and he keeps doing more terrible things.
He often feels like he carries the world alone; that other characters are constantly trying to manipulate him or the situations around him.
So he’s a bit of a tortured soul, with some serious daddy issues. I get to go crazy.
What was the funniest moment of the shoot for you?
We were filming a battle scene in the Eastern Cape, next to the sea. It was pretty cold and it had to rain during the battle. So we were drenched as well. Everybody’s supposed to look like they are fierce and don’t care about the cold. But every time the director called cut, all these big bad soldiers started running to the trailers!
And the hardest part for you?
Honestly, the biggest challenge was probably the nudity. That’s always awkward.
Why should audiences watch this?
It’s never been done before. And there’s a lot of action and romance – something for everybody. Blood Psalms is going to be very entertaining: it’s a heck of a ride. Not only visually, but cerebrally too, and it gives you a thrill as well.
What do you mean: cerebrally?
For African folk, mostly, the history goes back 200 years. That’s what we’ve been given, and it’s from Western perspectives. We really don’t know anything much about our own history. So Blood Psalms poses a lot of questions and will give people a lot to think about.
About King Letsha’s regal look
Magano’s shaved head in Blood Palms marks him as part of the Akachi. “They’re the clean cut kingdom,” says SAFTA winner Theola Booysens (Reyka), the makeup and prosthetics supervisor. “Because of a history of plagues and lice, they’re mostly shaven.”
Director Jahmil XT Qubeka describes the Akachi as “the most opulent” of the tribes, so take a moment to appreciate Magano’s gorgeous costumes.
“These are all handcrafted pieces, made from completely natural fabrics,” says SAFTA-winning costume designer Pierre Vienings (Five Fingers For Marseilles). “The nature of these costumes was not just, ‘Let’s quickly throw it under a sewing machine,’ so our biggest challenge was to source the correct craftsmen. For context, it took one beader about 12 weeks to bead just one of King Letsha’s shirts.”
Premiering on Showmax on 28 September
Shot in the Eastern Cape, Gauteng and North West provinces, Blood Psalms is a Showmax Original in partnership with CANAL+, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition, the Eastern Cape Economic Development Corporation (ECDC) and the MultiChoice Innovation Fund, which supports South Africa’s most exciting entrepreneurs, enabling them to bring their unique, innovative and creative business ideas to life.
The first two episodes of Blood Psalms will premiere on Showmax on 28 September 2022, with new episodes every Wednesday until the end of November 2022.