“I can take whatever you give me – big or small – and make magic out of it,” says Nambitha Ben-Mazwi
How did you get your role on The Queen?
At first, I didn’t want to do a soapie long term, mainly because I didn’t want to be trapped and still be playing the same role 10 years later and that’s all I’m known for. I’m now comfortable and open to it because of the type of CV I’ve built for myself and my accolades.
I received the script around 5 pm and had to audition first thing in the morning. I was thrown in the deep end and had to rely on what I know, make it my own and add a bit of ‘Lady Nam’ to it. The day after my audition, I got a call to say that I got the role. We negotiated from then onwards and here I am.
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How did you feel?
To be honest, my main concern was the negotiation part. As soon as that was out of the way, I was relieved and ready to do my absolute best. I assessed the longevity of the storyline and if there’s room for my character to grow because I always want to leave a mark. I know that I can take whatever you give me – big or small – and make magic out of it. So I was happy, but I’ll get excited when I get an international lead role and win an Oscar or Emmy. That’s where I’m at in my career – I’m fully aware of my capabilities and talent. I know that bigger things await me.
How are you sustaining that brilliant American accent?
Mastering the accent is very difficult but what helps is that Shaqueesha is from Brooklyn, New York, and I’ve spent six months there, so I know and understand my character. I obviously didn’t know at the time that I’d get this role but as an actress, you’re always taking in your environment and watching people.
As soon as I get on set, I immediately switch to my American accent so that it’s not an on-and-off thing because it’s easy to slip when you do that. I remain consistent. Once I’m on set, I become Shaqueesha. My colleagues have never heard me speak in anything but my American accent.
How has it been portraying Shaqueesha?
This character has pushed me to do my absolute best. I know that it’s going to unlock a lot more in me because I stretch and surprise myself every time. Portraying Shaqueesha is hectic; she has a mental condition, so I had to go to very dark places to do the role justice.
I received a lot of support from the team who constantly checked up on my emotional and mental wellbeing. I also had to find new ways of coping because de-roling is important, especially when you’re playing a dark character that you could get stuck in.
What keeps you going?
My faith and God-given purpose. It’s my mission to let people see God’s glory in me.
If there’s one thing you could change about the industry, what would it be? Acting needs to be regulated and not be seen just as a hobby. People think you’re signing up for poverty as soon as you decide to take the acting route. It shouldn’t be that way. I would love to see actors being protected. We also need to set the tone with quality productions.
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What are your hopes for 2020 and what can we expect from you?
Breakthrough. I’m planning on showcasing all my other talents by going back to presenting, radio and hosting. I’m also hoping to release a production.