'I wanted to connect with him' — Yonda Thomas on playing the young Madiba
PHOTO: Supplied to DRUM
South African actor Yonda Thomas is mainly known for his role as Mvelo Nobela on hit drama series Fallen.
But he is no one-hit wonder, the 31-year-old star also graced our small screens on Saints and Sinners, End Game and hit soapie Isidingo too.
But now, Yonda admits, he’s taken on his toughest role yet – playing the legendary Nelson Mandela in Discovery channel’s six-part series, Madiba.
“I was extremely happy when I received the news that I will be playing the role of Nelson Mandela when he was young,” he says of the role.
Yonda admits he’s always dreamt of playing one South Africa’s struggle icons. And even after receiving the role of the young Nelson Mandela, he still dreams of playing Steve Biko someday.
Preparing for the role was no easy task, but he was up for the challenge. He changed his voice to suit that of Madiba’s, he says, and started reading up more on Tata’s life as a child.
“I read the book [The Long Walk to Freedom] and tried to find Ubuntu because I wanted to connect with him.
He was a young man that was born and raised in Qunu in the Eastern Cape, so from there [on] I decided not to play Utata or the image that we know of him, but rather play the young man from the Eastern Cape,” he says.
The miniseries includes international actors such as Laurence Fishburne who plays Madiba and David Harewood who plays Walter Sisulu.
When asked about the challenges faced on set, Thomas mentioned the pressure he experienced when he first met Laurence, but it quickly subsided when Laurence told him to pitch the character of Madiba on any level then he will take it from there.
“This gave me confidence because it showed me that even Fishburne trusts my acting,” Thomas says.
“It s amazing to be part of the growth of the South African television industry, but what I would like to see grow more is our film industry,” he concludes.