Set in the 1700s, Shaka Ilembe tells the story of the making of the iconic African king, with iterations from his early childhood through to adulthood. The two key actors playing Shaka are the incredibly talented Lemogang Tsipa (adult king) and newcomer Ntando Zondi (boy-king). The star-studded cast is headlined by Amazon’s Coming 2 America’s breakout star, Nomzamo Mbatha, who plays Queen Nandi, the revered mother of Shaka, with Thembinkosi Mthembu starring as King Dingiswayo and Wiseman Mncube in the role of King Zwide. Mbatha will also executive produce the series.
“Being able to bring this important story to the screen with such stellar talent speaks to the heart of MultiChoice’s ongoing commitment and investment in our local entertainment industry. We are committed to telling great African stories and this is a proudly African series told through the lens of Africans for the very first time,” said Yolisa Phahle, CEO of General Entertainment & Connected Video at MultiChoice.
“I am honoured to bring the giant that is Queen Nandi to life. History will remember those who informed its people of where we come from, to better understand who we are. I am fortunate to be part of a project that is much bigger than ourselves and to tell this story in our own language. Impi iyeza!” expressed Mbatha.
“It is a cast with deep talent,” added Angus Gibson, Creative Director at Bomb Productions. “It is magical witnessing these performers bring life to characters we only know from the history books. When the cast arrive on set, fully dressed in wardrobe and hair from the period, I am blown away.”
The production has been six years in the making, consulting historians, academics and family descendants, including the late King Goodwill Zwelithini and Prince Mangosuthu Buthelezi. “This is our appointment with history; we want to capture the authenticity and deepen the understanding of this era,” explained Nhlanhla Mtaka, an executive and cultural advisor.
Striking a balance between historical authenticity and drama is crucial to the plot. “We want people to learn about our history and culture, but we also want to keep viewers glued in anticipation. This drama seeks to uncover nuggets of history, but creates narrative in the gaps by putting known characters alongside fictional characters in order to keep the story moving,” Phahle continued.
MultiChoice is the biggest funder of local content in Africa – producing content in local languages with local actors, and telling stories that resonate culturally. This production comes off the back of multiple successful co-productions such as Trackers, Reyka and most recently Recipes for Love and Murder. The group’s production quality and their ongoing partnership with international production companies allows for worldwide appeal and promotes South African talent on a global stage.