Winnie Ntshaba takes witch role with church blessings

The Chronicle

While the US has the powerful witch in Angelina Jolie playing Maleficent, we have MaMngadi of the just-ended Mzansi Magic drama The Herd.

But unlike internationals who marvelled at Jolie’s witch attire, witchcraft in Africa is not something taken lightly.

In fact, Winnie Ntshaba, who gave a powerful performance in the Sunday night drama, says she had to seek church counsel before accepting the role as a witch who practices black magic.

“As a devout Christian, I approached my pastor and told him this is a huge opportunity for me, but I also don’t want to enter the realm of darkness as I know spirits and spells exist.

“I can’t turn around later and say, ‘I was joking’. The pastor advised me to pray and go ahead with the role as it’s work. He also said the church would cover me in prayer so I’d be protected from any evil forces,” said the passionate Ntshaba.

She said this role was as challenging as playing a domestic worker who built herself up to be in one of the leading roles in Generations.

“Although I couldn’t research the role, I knew that evil happens and tapped into my skills to bring justice to the character. It’s all about passion,” she said.

Having become a big name as Khethiwe on Generations in the 90s, she took a break from major roles after the Generations debacle of actors striking for their rights and remuneration.

She also changed her surname from Modise to her maiden surname after her divorce in 2013.

But she says even though she had some small parts in soapies like Isibaya, The Road as well as advertising gigs, she craved to do something more as she felt a bit absent from the industry.

“Acting is my calling. Call it a cliché, but it’s like my soul wanted more than just small roles. I decided to put all my effort into it and go for auditions when my agent called. That’s how I scored this role,” she said.

Being an A-student in Maths and Science in the 80s, she thought she would naturally gravitate towards medicine.

But when drama classes were introduced in her matric year, she fell in love with the craft and being scared of needles and blood, she happily convinced her parents that acting was what she wanted to do.

She obtained her BA drama honours degree at the University of Natal in Durban in 1997 and scored her first role on e.tv’s Backstage where she played a pregnant street kid.

The actress also credits her new-found self-confidence and maturity in her 40s for her delivery of the role.

“I’m enjoying my 40s. I’ve been through so much in my personal and professional life which I don’t wish to rehash. I don’t regret those experiences, but I’m thankful for the lessons they taught me.

“Now, I’m no longer a people pleaser – I am doing me and I am happy.”

To aspiring actors, Ntshaba said it was not about being relevant in the industry if one wants to succeed.

“Relevant for who and what? The need to be relevant is why we have talented artistes being depressed and killing themselves. It’s way too much pressure.

“I’m no longer a liker of things who wants to be seen at every social gathering. I’m content being with my family and being at peace,” Ntshaba said.

— Sowetan.