By the time that we spoke to Fezile Makhanya for this interview, the multi-skilled entertainer had already wrapped up his final scenes for Uzalo. Regardless, he was still keen on playing a key role in our week-long takeover and that’s largely because of the impact that the fans of the show left upon him.
Beaming about the experience of playing Mpume, Fezile expressed his thoughts and emotions on the reaction that greeted his brief role on the soapie.
An Ode To The Viewers: With Fezile Makhanya
Moziak Magazine: It almost feels like we missed the boat because Mpume is no longer on Uzalo! Do you miss the Uzalo set?
FM: There’s no more Mpume but I won’t lie, it was such a good show. I’ve been so fortunate to work with some amazing production houses in my life and I had always wanted to experience life on the set of Uzalo, so when Stained Glass came knocking, I simply couldn’t say no to a story that I knew was going to challenge me. It was great and yes I definitely do miss the set!
MM: What are some considerations to make as a straight man taking on the role of an openly gay character?
FM: As a straight guy playing a gay character, it’s very important not to come across as if you are overcompensating being gay – you know what I mean? It was important for us to continue feeding this narrative that not all gay people fit a specific stereotype or idea. uMpume is not flamboyant or colourful, but that takes nothing away from his sexuality. So it was good to have an opportunity to teach this lesson through him.
MM: South Africa is still pretty conservative, but we’re making good progress. Do you feel like uMpume is helping change stereotypes?
FM: I’ve never shared what I’m about to say with anyone – I didn’t know how the public would react hey. Especially in KZN, where I am from. I was scared of a backlash. However, I was so surprised and happily surprised that people were so accepting, of his sexuality and who he is attracted to.
MM: How is it that you always end up playing roles that force us to have tough discussions about our society? Your GBV storyline on The Queen was ugly to watch – but this is actually happening daily in South Africa.
FM: I’ll be honest, in the beginning it wasn’t deliberate, it just happened actually. I would audition, and I would be cast in roles that challenged me in different ways. Even before Tebogo (On The Queen), I played Sandile and he turned out to be the catalyst. I played a good guy who just wanted to be a typical good guy, wanted to have the wife and kids perfect picture life – only to find out that the woman he married is not only a stripper, but has sexual ties to a bigger and more hardcore guy.
MM: You see what I’m talking about with these roles?
FM: Even Unmarried, also a Ferguson films production. I think it started from there, the seed was planted back then. I played a guy who was married for 11 years, and then we catch him marrying his high school sweetheart. And then came Tebogo.
That was totally out of my comfort zone and I appreciate the Fergusons for pushing me towards that. While we were speaking, I asked them to give me something tough and Shona asked me directly, ‘Fez, are you sure?’”.
MM: Having transitioned to acting from presenting, do these complex roles convince your doubters?
FM: It’s crazy, I think these characters have really convinced some of the people who were on the fence that “Okay, wow, Fezile can act”. And t really gave it a lot of thought with every scene I did. It showed that I can be a vessel for whatever the story needs me to become.
MM: Which do you think will be your next challenging role?
FM: I can’t say just yet, but I can assure you and my fans that I will be pushing the envelope with every opportunity!