Ama Qamata has made a name for herself as the lead character in Netflix’s first African series to debut a second season, Blood & Water. We spoke to the formidable rising star just off the back of her birthday about how she’s handling fame and what it means for her to be the face of a series on a platform that reaches over 208 million paid memberships in over 190 countries.
In the series, Ama (23) stars alongside seasoned actors Sello Maake kaNcube, Xolile Tshabalala, Patrick Mofokeng, Getmore Sithole and Gail Mabalane. Her character, Puleng, as well as those of her co-stars introduced us to fresh faces to the South African acting landscape. The likes of Khosi Ngema (Fikile) and Dillon Windvogel (Wade) are fast making a name for themselves in the industry.
The 6-episode first season was released on Netflix in May 2020 and was renewed for a second season the following month. The series won Best TV Drama at the 2021 South African Film and Television Awards as well as awards for cinematography and sound design.
This time around, Ama is more at ease in her role and she is owning her talent.
Describes herself as a passionate and driven 23-year-old who loves her craft, with passions in the arts, acting and everything that involves the arts (she recently started painting as a hobby), Ama giggles when asked this question to describe herself because even though she has rehearsed the answer a number of times, it is still a somewhat difficult question.
Her September 2nd birthday was celebrated with family and friends. Asked how she spent her day, she said:
“I got to spend time with my family in Joburg and then I went down to Cape Town with my friends. Khosi joined and we just had a really good time celebrating life and just thanking God for keeping me in the journey thus far.”
Ama is centred in family. Her support structure grounds her. She shares:
“My family is my foundation. I am someone who loves my family, my work and God. My parents worked hard to make sure my siblings and I had as many opportunities as possible growing up. I was having a conversation with my uncle recently and he was talking about how God sometimes blesses people through their children.”
Ama is the first grandchild on her mother’s side of the family and there are 12 other grandchildren that follow her. Responsibility has always come naturally to her and she took the lead easily in her family.
“I’ve always been that child who was responsible. My parents gave us the opportunities to go to good schools, travel and give me as much as possible so I had options. From as young as I can remember, I have always loved acting. In primary school I landed the role as Snow White in a show and it was such a big thing at school. People didn’t understand why Snow White was being played by a black girl but my drama teacher, Mr Simpson, believed in me and I realised I can actually take this as a career.”
Her character, Puleng Khumalo, is the main protagonist on the series. Developed by Gambit Films, the series follows Khumalo as she transfers to an elite school when she suspects one of the students may be her sister, who was abducted as a baby.
Ama’s chance to audition for the role came by chance, after she ran into Kutlwano Ditsele, Executive Producer of Mzansi Magic’s award-winning telenovela Gomora at a Global Citizen concert.
“He was the casting director for Blood & Water and I had done an internship for Bomb before to see how the industry was, that’s when I first met him.”
Ditsele realised Ama could be perfect for the role of Puleng. She went for the audition, got a call back to Joburg while she was still studying at UCT, flew in for the day and the rest is history.
“It’s really dope how the universe aligned for this. The response to my character has been humbling. It’s my first big role. I didn’t know I could carry a show, I’ve never done anything this big and for it to come so early on in my career is quite special.”
While Ama was quite intimidated in the beginning, the support she had on set made it a lot easier for her to settle into her role.
“The way people embraced me was heart-warming. As actors we sometimes suffer from imposter syndrome and believe we don’t deserve to be where we are, often asking ourselves if we are doing the right thing.”
It was easy for Ama to connect to her character as she enjoyed playing Puleng.
“It was not uncomfortable; I could find her and relate to her. People hadn’t seen dark skin girls being represented as a lead on a Netflix show. So, to be a young girl who aspires to be an actor because of representation and to see me, it’s dope to be part of that.”
Everything that Puleng is, is more extreme than Ama’s personality. Where Ama is more reserved, Puleng is a little bit more adventurous. There were certain elements where Ama had to do some research to understand – having a missing sister and the effects and trauma she goes through with her family.
This season, Puleng’s passion to uncover the truth lands her in a number of compromising and dangerous positions, but, Ama says, the end justifies the means.
“She is loyal to her family and would do anything for them. Fans of the show will be annoyed with her but this is a life and death situation. There’s a bigger purpose and people will get hurt but she will try by all means to get the truth. That’s what makes her an antihero – you feel for her but also get angry at her.”
As her popularity grows, Ama has learnt to quiet the noise and remind herself daily that she qualifies for all she does.
“I’ve gotten better at doing this. It’s a genuine passion of mine and it fulfills me. When God says yes, no one can say no.”
Blood & Water Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.