Hlomla Dandala on playing Govan Mbeki
Producer and actor Hlomla Dandala
plays Govan Mbeki in the new six-part Madiba series coming to Discovery Channel
on Monday 6 November. DRUM caught up with the actor to hear more about the
How was it playing the role of a
It came with a lot of pressure
because there’s someone who knows the struggle icon better than you and they
always sit there and analyse if did you do the character justice.
What did you do to get into
I had to first distil what it is
I’m trying to find out about Govan Mbeki – whether it’s the character of the
man, struggle icon, the father – and the story you want to tell. A lot comes
from the script and the story you’re trying to tell, then once you’ve distilled
that you go and find the people who knew him and try to capture the soul of the
What did you enjoy most about the
I enjoyed almost all of it. If
anything, it was the joy of performing what other people lived. Being on Robben
Island working with a hammer while screaming, “Good God these guys did this for
years days on end and we as actors complained about our hands being sore for
just doing a scene for two hours”. I also suggested that maybe can we get a
What was challenging about the
The challenge was to capture the
soul of a man; it sure isn’t an easy thing. Firstly, it’s having to reduce a
lifetime of one man into 10 things. Secondly, it’s to get those 10 things
What are some of the lessons you’ve
learnt playing this role?
I’ve learnt to extremely respect
the struggle icons a lot more. People tend to talk lightly about how Govan
Mbeki went to Robben Island. This is a guy who spent years not speaking to his
wife and children, this is someone who had to carry, not a fake hammer, but a
real one in all sorts of weather where people were trying to make his life
difficult. They had to run with chains around their necks.
Had you been in that era, do you
think you would’ve turned out to be a struggle icon as well?
I know I tend to talk a lot, so I
would’ve gotten myself into trouble and ended up being part of the struggle.