Thabethe is on top

HAPPY MAN: Mandla Thabethe. Pic. Veli Nhlapo. 28/12/06. © Sowetan.
HAPPY MAN: Mandla Thabethe. Pic. Veli Nhlapo. 28/12/06. © Sowetan.

Edward Tsumele

Edward Tsumele

Mandla Thabethe is a happy man these days. It does not matter where you see him - at work or at play, he is clearly a man on top of the situation.

You see, Thabethe has been featured in major television productions but always in minor roles.

That is about to change for the actor from KwaZulu-Natal. He is now a producer on a Zulu TV comedy that is set to hit your TV screens early in the new year.

He says: "The sitcom is called Family Bonds "Ezomndeni" and will be aired on SABC1 from the end of February.

"The 13-part series is about an extended family and the problems that often afflict such a family set-up."

Set in a lower-middle class suburb called Umbilo in Durban, the comedy centres around the affairs of a family of six. Thabethe says his sitcom differs from others in many significant respects.

"For example," he says, " all the six actors except for two are from Durban. Also, the episodes are shot in front of an audience, and everything, including the audience's reaction, is real.

"This is the first time that a TV comedy is shot in front of an audience in South Africa."

Currently shooting the series at Sasani Studios in Balfour Park, north of Johannesburg, Thabethe says they are so busy that at times they shoot two episodes a day.

"Again, as far as I know, nobody has shot two episodes a day and packaged them at the same time," he says.

Many will remember Thabethe from those funny comic fillers that are currently flighted on SABC1. However, most will probably remember him for his roles in major productions such as Generations, Going Up, and Justice for All.

"Although I started acting on TV in 1993, for some reason I always got minor roles in these major productions," he says.

"Then in 2000 I decided to start my own production company, Sosiba Entertainment. Our first work for TV was the comic fillers that you see on SABC1. So this current comedy series is obviously a major production for us."

Thabethe advises up and coming producers to come with fresh angles and unique ways of telling TV stories if they want their productions to have a realistic chance of being accepted by broadcasters.

He should know. He came up with the concept for Family Bonds "Ezomndeni" in 2005, and his proposal was accepted by the SABC.

"Luckily enough the current crop of commissioning editors give a chance to producers who come up with fresh ideas," he says.