In the driver’s seat

Local 12 November 2021

Mondli Makhoba sheds a light on his taxi boss character Nkosana, who’s steering his family’s business in Showmax telenovela The Wife.

In the driver’s seat

Based on best-selling novel by local author Dudu Busani-Dube, the cult classic tale follows journalist Hlomu (Mbalenhle Mavimbela), who falls in love with Mqhele Zulu (Bonko Khoza), from Johannesburg’s most notorious and wealthiest taxi-owning mob family. Before she knows it, Hlomu is embroiled in Mqhele’s dark past, secrets and lies, which threaten to ruin their romance.

While their love story is at the centre of the series, Mqhele’s unshakable bond with his brothers develops in the background. With eldest brother and single dad Nkosana (Mondli Makhoba) at the steering wheel of the taxi business – ensuring that none of his seven brothers die during their many taxi wars – the Zulu siblings continue to grow their empire.

“Nkosana is the patriarch of the family. He loves his brotherly dearly – although he’ll never show it as he prefers to give them tough love. He’s also a good father and an even better leader,” insists Mondli, who tells us about how he gets into character in The Wife, despite the fact that he hasn’t read the book yet...

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The man in charge 

Why did Nkosana step up and take charge of the family’s taxi business? 

Nkosana’s parents died when he and his brothers were young. As the eldest sibling, Nkosana took it upon himself to raise his seven younger brothers, which also helped him to grow. He is more of a father-figure to his brothers, and he would stop at nothing to protect them and their father’s legacy.

What does each brother bring to the family dynamic and the taxi business?

They all have responsibilities to ensure that everything runs like a well-oiled machine. Take Sambulo (Sipho Ndlovu), he hardly speaks but when he does say something, he offers sound advice. He’s also the peacemaker and the glue to the family. There’s Qhawe (Kwenzo Ngcobo), and he’s always thinking of a strategy to expand their business, and Nqoba (Abdul Khoza) is the brother who’s ready to fight their battles – he’s the type to think with his fists and regret his actions later. These are just a few examples but essentially, they each have an integral part to play in the business and the telenovela.

What’s Nkosana’s opinion on Mqhele and Hlomu’s romance considering that she’s a journalist and the Zulu brothers are hiding secrets?

Nkosana is too occupied with issues of his own and raising his three kids to be meddling in his brothers’ personal lives. At the same time, he appreciates that Hlomu wouldn’t comprise the family business because she loves Mqhele that much. For a long time, there wasn’t a present female figure in the family and when Hlomu joins the family, she brings warmth and a caring nature. It’s as if she lights up the Zulu home.

Because Nkosana is based on a character from a book – an adored one at that – is there pressure to fully emulate him or did you breathe new life into him?

Firstly, I didn’t read the book. I’m simply relying on the script as I was told by the producers that the book and telenovela are different. Before my audition, I went through the script and Nkosana’s backstory, which provided all the information I needed to get into character. While I was reading through the notes, I realised that Nkosana isn’t too far from who I am – I’m also the eldest son in my family and I have the same calm spirit. So, I’ve lent a bit of my personality to this character.

How did you prepare for your audition?

I’d just ended my morning prayer, and I received a call from The Wife producers, offering me a role. I immediately connected them to my agent to discuss further details of the role and later that day, I received the script. I was asked to send a self-tape to confirm whether I was indeed the right fit to play Nkosana. Soon after, I was told that I got the role and all this happened within a day. I was beyond elated.

It must be reassuring to get handpicked for such a big role… 

Definitely. This is how you know that your work is working for you – that it has an impact. I’m glad to be waking up every day to work on this incredible show.

What’s your favourite part about playing Nkosana? 

The show is authentic and relatable to the South African audience. It’s a first of it’s kind too – a story about eight brothers who are taxi drivers. They also experience a series of ups and down as the telenovela unfolds. I believe that readers who fell in love with the book will fall head-over-heels with the telenovela too.

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