Lorcia relishes her role in Lockdown

2017-01-15 11:27
Lorcia Cooper

Johannesburg - Dancer, choreographer and actress Lorcia Cooper is back on our TV screens, to the delight of her fans.

Cooper (38), best known for her role as Charmaine in the erstwhile e.tv soapie Backstage, feels liberated after bagging the role of Tyson, a prison boxing champion and gang leader, in the new local series Lockdown, on DStv channel Mzansi Magic.

Expressing her gratitude to Mandla Ndimande, the show’s writer and director, Cooper said it was ironic that the role of a prisoner "brought about my liberation, because I was enslaved".

"[Tyson] was more than just a character for me. I was breaking down boxes that people had been consistently shoving me into,” she said, adding that she was tired of constantly being typecast as "the pretty coloured girl with straight hair and heels and a nice dress".

"Apparently, I have good legs," she laughed.

"I have never been the type of girl to always want to be pretty and look a certain way and fit the stereotype, yet the industry did that to me all the time.

"I wanted this more than any other role that I have played, because it allowed me to perform and tell real stories about people who are really experiencing this."

Cooper felt the role was hers right after the audition. "It was the first time in my life when I walked out of an audition, and knew that this role was mine. I just felt it.

"Every day on set I was determined to deliver because someone believed in me."

'There were some months I couldn't afford electricity'

For Cooper, who has a nine-year-old daughter, the past year was a financial struggle. "There were some months when I could not afford electricity or meet my bond payments. Being a single mom and freelancing is sometimes hard, because you do not receive a regular pay cheque."

The last time she received a steady income from acting was two years ago, when she had a short-lived role on the e.tv soapie, Scandal!.

She took a year off to work behind the scenes, directing and assisting on films, but on returning to acting, she found the profession hard to crack.

"After auditioning for parts without success, I would eventually go to auditions for entertainment – until Lockdown came along."

Cooper said preparing for the role was not too difficult. "My character’s aggressive behaviour was like being in the Cape Flats for me because I grew up with that around me.

"I have grown up with family members who are in prison and who have had this kind of life," she said.

"When you work with people who believe in you, it changes everything. On most shows I felt like a number on a call sheet, but on Lockdown I didn’t feel that way. I felt valued.

"I felt that what I was bringing to the role was being appreciated and acknowledged."

Lockdown's success was a pleasant surprise

The multitalented Ndimande – who is known for his starring role in the SABC1 sitcom City Ses’la, and as part of the urban pop group Gang of Instrumentals – said he was "hugely overwhelmed and taken aback" after Lockdown began trending on Twitter during its first episode, which aired on Monday.

"This is the first drama series that I have directed, and finding out how well received it was by the public was a beautiful moment. The most important thing for me was that it resonated with the people it was intended for," he said.

When he began writing the series two years ago, he was aiming for something different. "I have always seen stories told from a male point of view, especially prison-related stories. Women lead interesting lives, and it is interesting to note that men are usually the reason why they land up in prison," he said.

While researching the project, Ndimande went to female prisons and held workshops with inmates.

"Growing up in Soweto, I was surrounded by these stories. They were there in my head. Lockdown is a series inspired by real stories."

The drama series was shot at Constitution Hill, a site chosen for its "energy and real history".


Lockdown airs on Monday nights at 20:00 on Mzansi Magic.

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