22 July 2019
Who’s who in Grassroots
In the new coming-of-age drama Grassroots, two talented rugby players from feuding rural families must face their complicated past in order to follow their passion for the game.
From the punishing trials of the traditional Xhosa initiation ceremony in a far-flung corner of rural Eastern Cape, to the harsh hazing rituals and dorm room drama of a prestigious private school in Johannesburg, two teenage boys who have both earned rugby scholarships are thrown together, despite being sworn enemies. A co-production between 1Magic and Showmax, Grassroots is an original drama telling a uniquely South African story. It follows Monwabisi and Asanda, who will have to confront the demons of the past to overcome the obstacles in the way of their future at the new school.
Monwabisi and Asanda grew up together in Butterworth, where their families used to be closely linked through business and friendship. But the tragic accidental death of Monwabisi’s father, Gcin’umzi, while working with Asanda’s father, Buzwe, on a construction site tore the families apart as suspicion and accusations of foul play came to light.
As the boys enter their late teens, traditionalist and community leader Buzwe is disappointed that his rugby-obsessed son has turned his back on the initiation ceremony in order to play a game for his team. Monwabisi, meanwhile, completes his initiation journey to the mountain, but without his father by his side, he feels conflicted and struggles to become the man he must be.
Both boys are selected for scholarships to attend St Sebastian’s, a fictional Gauteng private school, and both decide to take up the offer, eager to escape Butterworth for their own very different reasons. But in the unfamiliar enclave of old-boy traditions, hazing and racial tensions, Asanda and Monwabisi must put aside their troubled history and band together against their common foes.
Monwabisi Nala (Oros Mampofu) – The 17-year old wants to be a top attorney rather than a professional rugby player but hopes a rugby scholarship will get him to law school. Deeply cultural, he considers himself a man because he has been to initiation school.
Funeka Nala (Sibulele Gcilitshana) – Monwabisi’s mother, a widow after her husband Gcin’umzi’s death in an accident that happened on one of Buzwe’s construction sites. She dreams of seeing her son go to university and build a career and life for himself outside of Butterworth.
Asanda Debeza (Lihleli Tini) – Also aged 17, Asanda hails from royalty and is a talented fly-half who always dreamed of being a professional rugby player, in stark contrast to what his father Buzwe wants. He’s extremely determined – he fights for his dreams and never gives up.
Buzwe Debeza (Luzuko Nkqeto) – A proud community leader from a family of royal chiefs. He rules over a business empire in Butterworth, where his high standing in the community is very important to him. He is hard on his son, Asanda, whom he expects to take over the family business and chieftaincy.
Epainette Debeza (Zikhona Sodlaka) – A strong woman who puts her children first and will do anything to ensure their happiness. Married to Buzwe for 20 years, with three children, she enjoys the status that comes with being the wife of the chief and a successful businessman but wishes her husband would recognise her son’s dreams of being a pro rugby player.