Villain roles nourish Mothusi Magano’s talent

‘I’ve never had another job besides acting’

Masego Seemela Online journalist
Renowned actor Mothusi Magano.
Renowned actor Mothusi Magano.
Image: Supplied.

It was in his very first advert in 2001 when he was required to take all his clothes off that renowned actor Mothusi Magano realised showbiz was the place for him.

Having first stepped into the limelight in 2006, Mothusi is renowned for numerous roles like when he was Charles "Mingus" Khathi in SABC3 drama series The Lab, Kabelo on Intersexions, Kutloano on Muvhango and the infamous role as a mysterious assassin called “The Dustbin Man” on soapie Scandal!.

He is now the leading actor on Netflix’s crime drama Wild is The Wind, which reflects racial tensions and corruption in the South African judicial system. The movie depicts the dodgy dealings of the system through the investigation of the murder of an Afrikaner girl by two corrupt policemen – played by Magano and Frank Rautenbach as John Smit.  

“I remember securing a gig to feature in a witty advert where I’d be left with nothing but my underwear on after going on a date with a girl. He (his character) clearly misread the whole situation as the girl wanted him to come in for nothing but a cup of coffee. I found my time shooting that ad very exciting considering how much I wanted to be on television,” Magano recalls.

“It was with no hesitation that acting has always been what I wanted to do. I’ve never had another job besides acting. I started getting paid as an actor a lot later after appearing in school plays, and some theatre productions.

“My mother did the best she could to support what her son wanted to do, which is acting.”

Image: Supplied.

Magano was born in the small village of Phokeng on the outskirts of Rustenburg, North West. At the age of five, his family moved to Mafikeng where, at the Mmabana Cultural Centre, he got his first taste of performance when he performed in a pantomime called A Dragon For Dinner.

In 1998, Magano enrolled at the Wits School of Dramatic Art. In his first year he auditioned for all plays at varsity and got into two: Death and the Maiden, where he played Gerardo Escobar and Little Shop of horrors, in which he played Audrey Two.

“When I first started television acting, I remember being so insecure about my acting ability although nothing much has changed as I am a little bit more comfortable with my insecurity. I really don’t know where my insecurity stems from but it probably helps me to humble myself in my craft,” he adds.

In 2003, a friend asked Magano to be Harry Lime in his production of The Third Man, he was shortly signed to an agent and filmed his first film: Gums and Noses, followed by Hotel Rwanda and Tsotsi (Oscar award winner for Best Foreign Film), as well as bank commercials.

“My very first profession on-screen role was playing Kutloano, which I think unskilled me as an actor. I was so nervous when I was preparing for the role… I tend to over-rehearse because I tend to picture how a certain dialogue is supposed to go and I would then get on set and all of that will be thrown out of the window. So, I’ve learnt to pace myself as an actor.”

Magano is known for playing the villain in most television productions, although the characters are make-believe, the 43-year-old actor claims that he relates to some of the roles because of how marginalised society forgets that it's behaviour stems from childhood traumas.


Favourite food: Hotdogs

Favourite actor: Too many

Favourite TV show: Seinfeld

Favourite musician: None

My favourite song: Sleep Walk by Santo and Johnny Farina

Favourite emoji:  😜

“To be honest, I wasn’t a popular kid growing up hence I sort of relate to the villain-like characters. I somehow know how to add a bit of spectacle because of some of the emotions I know they sort of feel,” says the seasoned actor.      

“The role that resonates with me the most is Charles Mingus because it’s more like me. I was able to live in the role of Charles for three years and I learnt a great deal about myself through playing him.      

“My role as The Dustbin Man is what I think catapulted my skills as an actor. Playing the weird and mysterious character showed a different side to me because I had to pull off a convincing act with the use of guns and knives, and I think I did a pretty good job judging from how much hate The Dustbin Man received.”

Recently, Magano has been hard at work featuring on a Netflix production, The Brave Ones, and Showmax’s Blood Psalms. He credits the likes of Fana Mokoena and Sello Maake KaNcube, who have been an inspiration to him through his journey.

“Playing the role of a mystical creature was hard because I know how much that African history means to black people. So, I had to make sure I pull off a convincing act on The Brave Ones.

“With my current role as Vusi, I am the good, yet bad guy, cop, who is angry at the world after his big dreams got shattered. He had to resort to being a policeman just to feed his family. Somewhere along the line, he gets himself in a dodgy situation that triggers certain consequences for him and his partner.”

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