‘Walking away from acting made her realize how much she loved it.’ Masasa Mbangeni is happy to be back in the fold. She is now with a hot storyline at Mzansi Magic.
She was known as Thembeka in a local soapie ‘Scandal,’ Masasa Mbangeni, who plays the character, Bridget, is ready to take viewers for a ride, down through her nasty love triangle amid a boiling political flare.
Bridget is determined to dump Thabang played by (Warren Masemola) after getting the wind that he has sired a child with the former first family’s daughter.
This leaves Masasa a happy person as the mounting anger towards politicians resonates well with real-life experiences currently unfolding in South Africa.
“The writers have their fingers on the pulse of what’s happening in South Africa.
“They wrote this ages ago but it’s so relevant. It’s like they could sense where we were going as a country. The people have had enough, and their tension has reached its highest point,” she said.
The actress compared Bridget with other characters she has played in the past and found little or no similarities at all. “She’s passionate and good at her job. She’s vulnerable, well-read, well-educated and deals with the pain of being a mom who’s distant from her child because of work. She served Thabang with divorce papers because she felt incredibly betrayed,” she added.
For Masasa; Bridget, is not a copy and paste, she is totally different, and she responds to betrayal differently compared to the ‘Scandal’ character that sends her to stardom.
“On Scandal! Thembeka was very conniving,” Masasa said. “But I realized over the years of playing Thembeka, she wasn’t really conniving – she was desperate for love.”
She left Scandal in 2016, amid rumours that she did so unceremoniously, however, according to her she did quit because she wanted the room to venture into new territories.
“There was no beef with Scandal!,” Masasa said. “I left because I wanted to see other things.”
Her debut acting session happened at the age of eight and she gained her first TV role as a femme fatale in Scandal!.
“I still have a deep love and empathy for Thembeka. She was in love with a narcissist and co-dependent.
“When you’re that way, you do whatever it takes to get a person to love you,” she said.
She loved the cast at the e.tv show and getting paid for what she enjoys doing could not be overemphasized for her. Scandal! Was her home away from home.
“I’d never been a freelance actor before and didn’t know the struggles that came with it because I was cast as Thembeka immediately after varsity,” she recalled.
After five years on the show, it was time to discover other possibilities. She got slots in productions such as Nongongo and The Suitcase alongside Siyabonga Thwala and Desmond Dube. “We toured the UK for one month and South Africa for another month with The Suitcase,” she went on.
However re-discovering herself and other possibilities was not flawless, she felt out of place.
“Out of nowhere, I started feeling isolated and confused. It was really weird because I was at the top of my game. I can’t say that I was miserable about anything specific, but something within me wasn’t sitting right.
“I have always been in control of my life and had it all figured out. Then out of nowhere I just became unhappy, to a point where I didn’t want to talk. I literally wanted to close my mouth, so I got braces. But they were just a symbol of where I was,” she said.
She did not, however, regret much as she took the time to reflect on her experiences as she planned a way forward.
“I needed to align my teeth, align my life, align with God, align everything. This journey has been about breaking [down] to fix,” she said.
The prayerful actress used the break to reunite with her maker through prayer. “My spirituality is very important. It’s the well from which I draw inspiration. It was through prayer that I realized I wanted to teach, which she could do thanks to an acting degree from Wits.
“For a full year, I taught textual analysis to first-year students at a private university to help them think critically. Teaching was one of the most difficult experiences of my life. I wanted God to remind me why I love [acting].
“I wasn’t teaching for the money. Nurses and teachers in this country don’t earn what they should. I did it because something in me needed to be replenished,” she explained.
Masasa’s students challenged her in her game. “The biggest lesson I learned is that I love what I do. The joy of seeing a student get it and knowing I nudged them in the right direction was enough,” she proudly admitted.
She retraced her footsteps back to the screen, after Gwydion Beynon and Phathu Makwarela invited her to join The River. She was happy to be back to where she belonged. “I went with so much joy. Walking away made me realize how much I love it,” she said.
“I spent most of my 20s asking who I am. When 30 hit me I was like, I don’t care now, I know myself,” Masasa said; “There’s nothing more wonderful than knowing yourself. From here onwards I’m going abroad.”
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