9 May 2024

Nqobile Sipamla joins the cast of Showmax Original Empini

Showmax has just released the trailer for Empini, an action-packed, 52-episode drama set in the dangerous world of private security. The Showmax Original premieres on 23 May 2024, with new episodes on Thursdays.

Alongside multi-award winner Nambitha Ben-Mazwi and three-time SAFTA winner Siyabonga Thwala, the trailer gives us our first glimpse of Nqobile Sipamla as Masasa Fassie.

Nqobile is a household name from shows like Ikhaya, Imbewu – The Seed, The Wife S3, Diep City, Abo Mzala, Ashes To Ashes, Shuga, Home Affairs and many more. In Empini, she plays a gracious, humble, resilient, and deeply private woman, whose association with a former lover sees her become the centre of attention.

“Empini is an edgy show that will have viewers thoroughly entertained,” says Nqobile. “It will showcase the intricate dynamics of how it is sometimes necessary that some secrets be kept for the safety of others, while, on the other hand, some secrets must come to light.” 

Nqobile admits she was initially called to audition for the role of Winnie Bhodoza, which went to Angela Sithole. “I’m glad I got called back to audition for the new part, because once I found out that Masasa resides in Kokstad. I then thought to myself, ‘This is good for me!’ My heritage derives from the AmaHlubi ethnic group, and my mother is Swati/Ndebele. So when I read up about Kokstad and learned that it is just this melting pot of cultures that include AmaHlubi and many other ethnic groups, I was pleased that I was going to be portraying such a character.”

Nqobile’s maternal grandmother, who was of Griqua heritage spoke isiXhosa and understood IsiBhaca, a Bantu language traditionally considered a dialect of siSwati, isiXhosa, and isiZulu, which motivated her to strengthen her preparation for the character linguistically as well. “I’ve decided not to be afraid of challenging myself in terms of languages – with respect, of course,” she says. “I want to explore different languages and I want to explore different dialects, so I was totally in my Xhosa brain when I was asked to return for the second audition.”

Watch the trailer for Empini

Empini’s all-star cast also includes industry legend Owen Sejake (Tsotsi, Beat the Drum) as General Moeti, SAFTA winner Charmaine Mtinta (Yizo Yizo, How To Ruin Christmas, Isono, and Makoti) as Dorah Themba, and SAFTA and Africa Movie Academy Award nominee Neo Ntlatleng (Zone 14, Soul City) as Ghathuso Moeti, not to mention the likes of Sparky, Xulu, Simphiwe Nkabinde, Kabelo Thai, Amahle Khumalo, Joseph Sedibo and Ernest Ndlovu. 

Masasa is in her 50s, so Nqobile is much younger than the character she portrays. She explains that this has been a strategic move. “I feel like it’s been the story of my life,” she says. “Ever since I started my career, I’ve been aiming for characters that were 10 to 12 years my senior. I’ve always wanted the meatier, more challenging, and juicier roles. I find that it takes one out of a space where you’re more likely to show your own habits. Older characters challenge you to do more research and understand more substantial things about life, values, and personality traits.”

“For the Masasa role, I went into a process of researching personality types,” she adds. “She is in the agricultural space, which, for me, means that she is a nurturer of sorts but also quite an independent thinker. Which also says to me that the work she does takes a certain sense of courage. That is why I appreciate the challenge that comes with playing older characters: they give me so much to work with. I must say though, every character I have played has presented me the opportunity to learn, which is what I love.”

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