Gabisile Tshabalala on why the TV industry needs to treat their actors & crew better
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When you hear the name “Housewives” in reference to a TV show, you immediately think of the reality series.
And it’s perfectly understandable as “Real Housewives” is an immensely popular franchise.
But this time around, it’s got nothing to do with the unscripted drama offering.
In fact, “Housewives” is a 26-part home-grown drama series that recently launched on the new streaming platform, eVOD.
The series follows three women, who, after their husbands are killed by a drug cartel boss, face financial ruin.
As such, they decide to risk it all and open a syndicate of their own and, in doing so, pull a fast one on the cartel head.
Of course, while the gangster life isn’t without challenges or danger, these women are resourceful and fearless.
The leads in the series are Akhona (Sive Mabuya), Summer (Angela Lieveaux) and Lawrencia aka Lolo (Gabisile Tshabalala).
The other actors in the series include Renate Stuurman, Ilse Klink, Vignette Ebrahim, Loyiso Macdonald, Marah Louw and Lebo the Funny Chef.
While reading the premise, I couldn’t help drawing parallels with the Hollywood flick, “The Kitchen”, which centred on the wives of three Irish mob bosses taking over the family business after they are arrested.
Imitation is the best form of flattery, I suppose if that is the case. Either way, the eKasi feel of the series is bound to resonate with viewers.
Despite her busy schedule, Tshabalala sparred a few minutes during her lunch break to discuss the show.
Now the 30-something actress is still establishing herself in the industry but her roles on “Intersexions”, “Kota Life Crisis”, “Single Guys” and “Scandal” have certainly put her on the casting radar.
Of course, big breaks aren’t without learning curves and a few observations.
And Thabalala pointed out that “production companies can do better, especially in taking care of the actors”.
She explained: “The hours that we work are insane. The work that we have to put in, with the time we are given. We shot 26 episodes in three months. That was emotionally draining, I don’t want to lie. It was taxing.
“Another thing that I picked up, I really don’t appreciate extras and the crew being treated less on set because we are all there to do the same thing. And the crew is also there to deliver whatever it is they are supposed to deliver.
“The treatment that they get, I don’t like it. This is an overall assessment of the productions I have worked for. How they treat the crews and actors, it’s just not on.”
In an industry as small as ours, such comments will probably not sit well with some big wigs.
But to better contextualise her gripe with the insane shooting schedule, I went back to my interview with David Lim from the international drama series S.W.A.T. and, in our chat, he pointed out that they shot an episode a week.
To him, that was a hectic schedule.
But as flawed as the SA industry may be in some instances, work is work.
And she counts her blessing in that regard. Also, this role is unlike anything she’s done to date.
She added: “Initially, the role was supposed to be played by an albino actor. I didn’t even know it was one of the leads. When I found out, I was really excited.”
Shedding light on her character’s background, she explained: “Lolo grew up without parents. Her mother was murdered by the community because of all the stigma around a person with albinism.
“During the process of the house being burnt, Lolo was rescued by her father who took her to church and left her there for over 30 years.”
There are deep emotional scars but Lolo has learned to grow a thick skin and brave the hard knocks of life.
“Lolo is strong. That’s what I love about her. She’s been through a lot from growing up until now. I can relate to that as well. I think I have a 60-year-olds experience of life,” the actress smiled.
With this being a female-centric drama, Tshabalala unpacked the dynamics with her co-stars.
She shared: “The first person I met was Sive. I knew her but we were not close. Working with them is so amazing.
“When I’m at work, I don’t take anything personally. I want to make everyone feel comfortable so that when we deliver, we deliver the truth. I don’t like having beef.
“And I know most of the time, when you work with ladies, there is a lot of beef. But the one thing about us, we had so much sisterhood, especially with myself, Angela and Sive.
“We had most of the scenes together. We would help each other out with the script. We would help each other out with personal things outside of work.”
As SA writers pen meatier roles for actresses, which is indicative in offerings like “Isono”, which is spectacularly helmed by Nthathi Moshesh, and “Queen Sono”, “Housewives” is a testament to this change.
The actress admitted to noticing the shift and confirmed she used her childhood in the township as a reference point.
She added: “Growing up around gangsters, you see how they act.”
Another first for Tshabalala is presenting eReality channel’s “Stena Redemption” show.
She added: “It’s very exciting. It’s all about love about and cheating on one another. It’s taught me a lot about real-life where you cannot really plan how things will work out. You have to think on your feet.”
Amid conquering new heights in the industry, the mother of five (she has two kids and three stepchildren) takes things in her stride.
And her approach to the industry is refreshing and bold. Not many up and coming actresses are as outspoken about things that don’t sit well with them. Good on her!