Zola Nombona sheds her skin to play Monde in Lockdown

12 March 2020

Zola Nombona sheds her skin to play Monde in Lockdown

Monde has evolved a lot over five seasons. Monde was one of the original characters who introduced SA to Thabazimbi. We first see the prison as Monde comes into it. You see her get arrested and go to jail. It’s one of the things I’m proud of – without my character, no one would have known about Thabazimbi.

“She moved from being a superstar to being an inmate; she has love stories here and there – she’s like an onion that keeps on peeling.”

Zola Nombona

I feel so fortunate to have played Monde. She’s not a one-dimensional character. We see her in the outside world and on the inside. We see her growing and having to adapt and readapt to circumstances. She moved from being a superstar to being an inmate; she has love stories here and there – she’s like an onion that keeps on peeling. We journey with her in her discovery of herself.   

With Monde, you can expect the unexpected. Viewers are going to see a side of her that I don’t think anyone will see coming. We’ve been with her for four seasons; we’ve seen her escape; we’ve seen her be raped; we’ve seen her dealing with all those things, but Season 5 is the most surprising storyline for her.

Lockdown has been an amazing journey. (Producer and director) Mandla N is a cast whisperer. It’s a gift. He knows how to bring these amazing souls together in one place, and we all just become one. There are no divas. Every woman here is a proper thespian, people who respect the art, and want to tell the stories as effectively and beautifully as possible. No one is here to outshine anyone else. It’s a wonderful sisterhood – we cry together, and we’ve grown so close that we’re like family. I can’t imagine not coming here and feeling the love and support.

Even Sophie (Lichaba, who joined the cast in Season 5) has just fitted in so effortlessly. It’s like her seat was already sitting there, waiting for her to fill it. I hope every set I’m on is like Lockdown.

Lockdown S4 scared a lot of people. Even my family didn’t really watch the last season! Even though it touched on difficult storylines, it’s important to talk about it. We can’t just tell you love stories.

Actors “cheat life”

I always say my superpower is transformation. It’s something I absolutely love. In this career, I love stepping into someone else’s shoes and living their life. Fortunately, in our medium, you can live three or four years in the space of one year – we cheat life, in a way. We get to live nine lives at one time, which is something that’s absolutely amazing for me.

Loving the craft is in my DNA – I can’t pinpoint how I do it. I’ve studied drama since high school and I did an Honours degree in Dramatic Arts, so I think the investment of years studying the craft has helped me to make it look effortless.

Playing Monde is my dream role. I’m always intrigued by the ugly side of life. At the beginning of my career, I was starting to be typecast as the bimbo with the hair and the boobs and short skirts, and I was tired of it. So when this came along I thought, thank you Lord! I’ve always wanted to be ugly on TV, and play an outcast. I can get on set and there’s no fancy makeup. It was so great that she started with the makeup and the weaves, and now we see where she is today.

My acting process it to try to be honest and true to the story. I don’t meditate and sing or run my lines in front of the mirror. It’s about trying to understand who my character is and what her objectives are. For me, a proper actor is someone who’s rooted in a community space. It’s about me, it’s about (producer and director Mandla N), it’s about the camera department, makeup, wardrobe, my fellow actors – that’s what makes the character real. All I have to do is invest in the script to try to understand it the best way I can, and work together with the team to bring it to life. It’s a community effort, not a me thing. I just play my part the best I can and then I rely on everyone else who’s there to make it real.

We all connect differently with the characters. Some people connect with her truth or her trauma, or how she deals with things. So whatever that person connects with is gold for me. My role is just to be as truthful as possible. I’m just the vessel.

As actors, we say we lose ourselves so Monde can take over and then I come back when the cameras stop. But that’s not really realistic – there are parts of me that are her, and she’s me. From an artists’ point of view, I’ve broken and pieced myself back together. I’ve hit stumbling blocks and I’ve learnt more as an actor, like how to let go, and how not to judge a character.

There have been many times when I’ve said, why is she doing this? I come to Mandla and say, Are you sure? There are moments when I’m like, I can’t.

What I like about Monde is her strength and how she’s able to adapt. I don’t know what I would have done if I were thrown into jail because someone gave me drugs and all of a sudden I’m in for 10 years. I think I would have been depressed or tried to commit suicide. So seeing how she just takes it and survives and always sticks to who she is inspiring.

Each season exists on its own. We try to deal with society’s ill each season. What sets Lockdown apart is the investment in the truth of the story. We have actual inmates we ask: does this really happen? And they lead us – yes, this happens, no, this doesn’t. It’s a big bonus as an actor being able to have that direct reference.

Binge all ten episodes of Lockdown, plus all past seasons, only on Showmax.

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