It’s 8pm in South Africa and 2pm in New York, where Fikile Mthwalo-Kani is based. She’s on lunch break from her master’s studies at Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and has found time to squeeze in 30 minutes to chat on the phone.

Although in her second year at the university, Fikile has had a few acting gigs in South Africa. In 2014 she debuted on TV as troublemaker Ntombizakhe ‘Zak’ Khumalo on Isidingo. The starlet graduated from the University of Cape Town in 2011 and says she was an all-rounder, a top student who thought she would study business after high school.

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On acting

I’ve never studied acting before, even though I graduated in Film and Video Production. I felt I was cheating my talent by not having studied acting, so I decided to do this, despite already being in the profession. I chose America because it’s the entertainment hub of the world. When I’ve completed my studies I’ll return to South Africa, hopefully as an international actress. But when I’m back home I want to be involved behind the scenes in production as well as in acting. I’m on a full scholarship, which totals R2.6 million. If anyone wants me to join their production, they’d have to top that and no one has done so yet.

On studying in New York

I'm the only black African student in her class of 16. The culture also occasionally makes me feel isolated – I can’t share inside American jokes, for example, which excludes me from the conversation.

On Atandwa

We take our marriage one day at a time, like any other marriage. It isn’t a long distance marriage – we’re apart for the time being. The challenge is that he’s not physically with me all the time, so we have to work at maintaining communication. But there’s always technology for that.

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Talking about Thembisa and Atandwa is difficult, because it’s not my story to tell but his. I never feel awkward about it because my focus is always on my marriage and love for my husband. What bugs me is how the media has portrayed our union negatively, whereas there are so many positives to it. No matter what I say about what happened between them, people would never believe me as they’ve drawn their conclusions, labelling me a homewrecker. As far as I know – and Home Affairs will back me up – I’m his first wife and any child Atandwa will have with me will be his first.

I married him because “he’s the most generous, sexy, lovable and kind person I know. He’s here now visiting me. He met my classmates the other day and gave them an impromptu lecture on Xhosa culture. That’s the person he is, and that’s what I adore most about him.

On her future

My future hopes are to win several Oscars and Emmys, and to build film schools in Lesotho and South Africa to assist aspiring actors. But my main goal is to start a family with Atandwa.