Presley Chweneyagae rides 'The River' in big comeback

Presley Chweneyagae won his second Golden Horn for his role in 'The River'.
Presley Chweneyagae won his second Golden Horn for his role in 'The River'.
Image: Supplied

Comeback kid Presley Chweneyagae is super-chatty, has the perfect comic timing and is extremely polite, but above all he's a nuanced actor.

I like to refer to him as the Jerry Mofokeng Wa Makhetha for the new millennium.

With his new role as Cobra on 1Magic show The River he has successfully started his second act.

He sealed the deal by winning his second Golden Horn at the South African Film and Television Awards (Saftas) in Sun City this past weekend.

It was a big night for the inaugural season of The River, cleaning up across the board to bring its total wins to a staggering 11.

It scooped best telenovela, best actress for ousted cast member Moshidi Motshegwa and best supporting actor for Lawrence Maleka.

The cherry on top is that Chweneyagae and Motshegwa are the only two winners to pocket a R50,000 cash prize.

"We get some money too and that's the best part. As a result my WhatsApp is very busy," Chweneyagae jokingly shares before he collapses into laughter.

"It felt really good, I was really excited. This last year I invested a lot of my time in developing and building this character. It felt good to know that the work has paid off."

The 34-year-old actor won his first Golden Horn at the first Saftas in 2006 for his breakout role in local Oscar-winning film Tsotsi.

Chweneyagae points out that had he been approached with the role of Cobra some five years ago he would have turned it down. He was focused more on travelling the world and doing theatre work - acting, directing and writing for the stage.

"I looked into the thing of having a long-term job because as you grow old the family grows and responsibilities grow," he explains.

"Because of the economic situations that we find ourselves in we don't have much of a choice.

"I was fortunate to get an opportunity like this from the producers of the show.

"It's not easy for one to do a character for this long and keep finding new things that grow the character for so long."

He adds that the most difficult thing about working on The River is balancing his family time and the demanding hours. So much so that last year he fell ill with fatigue.

"I didn't see that one coming and it taught me to take things easy," he recounts.

Chweneyagae and his wife of two years - they have been together for 12 years - are parents to three boys. Since he's from Mahikeng and she's from Swaziland they travel on weekends between these places, which he says can get exhausting.

We speak exactly on the 13th anniversary (March 5) that Tsotsi won Best Foreign Language Film at the 2006 Oscars.

Recalling those days, he says he wishes he could have made informed and effective financial decisions.

"I always talk about the issue of financial literacy. That I wish I understood money better than I do right now.

"That's something that I'd improve if I could go back," he says.

He adds that every year at around this time he starts "hearing some old clips about what we achieved. My hair still stands. It was one of the biggest and most exciting times in my life."

Chweneyagae had his first acting lesson in 1996 and he has never looked back or done any other job.

Other big productions he had starred in include iNumber Number, 90 Plein Street and When We Were Black.

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