What’s meant to be journalist Hlomu’s (played by rising star Mbalenhle Mavimbela) usual trip to the taxi rank following a long day at work turns into the start of her tumultuous yet intense romantic journey with taxi-driver Mqhele (Bonko Khoza) in Showmax’s original telenovela, The Wife.
It’s love at first sight when Mqhele lays eyes on Hlomu, and he doesn’t think straight in the first episode. After seeing her climb into his brother Qhawe’s (Kwenzo Ngcobo) yellow taxi, Mqhele quickly grabs the keys from Qhawe’s hand, he jumps into the driver’s seat, sets his foot on the pedal and he drives Hlomu home – anything to grab her attention…
And just like that, a grand romance is born. “Hlomu and Mqhele’s romance is adventurous and light-hearted. She quickly falls for his charm,” says Mbalenhle, before warning us that Mqhele’s family secrets and illicit dealings in the taxi industry later threaten his and Hlomu’s relationship. “As much as Hlomu is attracted to his mysterious side, it’s another reason she questions his intentions,” reveals 24-year-old Mbalenhle.
Read on as Mbalenhle shares details about her audition process, meeting author Dudu Busani-Dube in person, and her emotions after she learnt that she’d be portraying the coveted role of Hlomu in The Wife.
Crazy in love
Describe your character Hlomu in The Wife. What’s her backstory?
She’s a hard-working journalist who recently moved to Johannesburg from KwaZulu-Natal, after landing a job at one of South Africa’s most reputable media houses. She also has a twin brother, who she calls every night before she goes to bed. Hlomu doesn’t have much of a life outside of work, and she doesn’t have many friends. You could say that her personal life is dull.
Well, that’s until she meets Mqhele, who lives on the edge?
Of course, and Hlomu utterly falls in love with Mqhele, despite the fact that she has a boyfriend back at home. Mqhele feeds her adrenaline, and she loves that she can’t always read his mind. He also has this quiet confidence, which is intoxicating for Hlomu – she’s attracted to danger.
What are some of the red flags waving at Hlomu that she ignores regarding her romance with Mqhele?
There are so many, but I’d hate to give the story away. What I can say is that there’s something thrilling about the chase – when a man goes all out to impress a woman until she finally falls for him. But there’s a fine line between persistence and obsession and in the initial stages of their romance, Mqhele blurs the line between the two.
The telenovela isn’t exactly like the book. How did you breathe new life into Hlomu?
I brought myself to the role. I read the book when it was first released, in 2015, and I was in my last year of high school. In the novel, Hlomu is described with chubby cheeks, and she has long braids when we meet her. I might not look entirely like her, but I believe that I share similar personality traits to her as when I think of Hlomu’s fight and her tenacity, I relate to that.
How did you prepare for your audition?
At first, I sent a self-tape to portray Hlomu’s colleague Lerato and the audition went so well that I received a call to read for Hlomu. I dressed up, ensured that the lighting and camera were in order, and I called an actor friend of mine to recite my lines with me. I put in effort because I wanted the role that much.
A few weeks later, I received a call from the casting director for another round of auditions. When I arrived at the casting call, I was met by a long queue with plenty of women who looked nothing like me, and I had a million thoughts running through my head such as “what if they’re not looking for someone who looks like me”? But I put the negative thoughts aside, calmed my nerves by taking a long walk, and I went in for my audition.
And that was it? You got the role?
Not at all. That was only the beginning. A few weeks after, I was told to return for a chemistry test and that evoked more nerves as I didn’t know what to expect. I was introduced to Bonko, and we had an instant connection. To familiarise ourselves with each other, we went through a series of exercises like hugging, staring in each other’s eyes, and holding hands.
By the time we were called in for our audition, we were comfortable with each other, and we hit the audition out of the park. When I eventually got the role and learnt that he was going to play Mqhele, I was overjoyed.
What has been your standout moment on set so far?
The author of The Wife, Dudu Busani-Dube, gave me the book. I’ve been a fan of hers for some time now, and it was a great feeling when she gifted me with it.
Binge the first three episodes of The Wife from Saturday, 11 November 2021. Three new episodes will be added every Thursday. The Wife is exclusive to Showmax.
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