Renowned actor Sdumo Mtshali says before taking up any acting job, he first investigates the message the character would be relaying to black people.
HuffPost SA sat down with Msthali, who first rose to fame in 2010 after winning the inaugural reality acting competition, Class Act, to find out what makes him tick.
The 34-year-old's acting journey began as early as primary school where he starred in a play called "Robin Hood: Man in Tights"... he's never looked back since.
He went on to study Drama at the Durban University of Technology.
In recent months, Msthali has been the subject of conversations across the country -- this because three productions he's involved in keep making the trends list week after week.
We asked Mtshali about his roles in "Isibaya", "Is'thunzi" and "iNumber Number", and we're so glad we did:
"I play the role of Sbu Ndlovu in the soapie. The funny thing here is that there was already someone playing the role and he could not continue, that's when I was called in to do it. It has been a great experience of learning and growing especially working with men like Siyabonga Thwala and Bheki Mkhwane (who plays my father) whom I've always looked up to while working with him in theatre in Durban. It's a great experience," Mtshali said.
He added, "Sbu is always questioning what the modern black man is. He is always discovering new things about himself and is often being pushed left and right between culture and what happens in the modern world. He is always going through those journeys."
"For me the film was everything. I had so much to prove with that project acting with the likes of Israel Makoe, Warren Masemola and Hlubi Mboya -- those are artists I have always admired because of their empathy to the craft which not many artists have," Mtshali said.
"My role in this production, Chilli, is in the quest for truth and what it means when one finally gets those materialistic things. He's always up against the wall," he said.
With this production, I was able to take a step back and allow the ladies to shine.
"Mandla, the character that I play, is literally the most emasculated man in South Africa. He is what will happen with men in this country if we're not we're not careful. It's where we're headed. That is why I always look to send a particular message to my brothers out there about what the role of the black man should be especially in light of the social ill that subsequently birthed the #MenAreTrash movement," Mtshali said.
He told HuffPost SA that, while he wanted to highlight what women go through at the hands of men, he did not want people to like the character.
"I wanted to [highlight] what's happening to our sisters and that's why I did not want anyone to ever like the character because I don't feel like violence and taking power from somebody else should be glorified. It's easy for people to glorify villains, which is why I get happy when people say they hate Mandla. At the same time, I don't want people to just hate him, but I want them to hate him with an understanding of what's happening around us and why he is everything that is wrong," Mtshali said.
So how does he transition into all the characters that he plays and potrays so well, especially since he shoots all the shows around the same time?
"It's hard," he said.
But he has a strategy:
Asked about "that" "Is'thunzi" episode aired on September 18 and on September 25, Mtshali said he still has not brought himself to watch it.
He explains why:
"Even today we still discuss the scene and just talk about where we all went because it was not just us, it was also the crew with us there. We all needed time to debrief," he said.
His advice for aspiring actors? "Invest in yourself, spend time working on your craft. When you get to a set, even if you have problems, use those problems to fire up a performance. Be present and just work hard," he said.
Through his online magazine, Actor Spaces, Mtshali said he aims to celebrate actors in the industry and show them off to the world.
"Isibaya" airs from Monday to Friday at 8.30pm, "iNumber Number" airs on Sundays from 8pm while "Is'thunzi" airs on Mondays at 9pm.
All the shows air on Mzansi Magic (channel 161).
We could not let him go without asking him some really random stuff. Watch why he likes to eat pap and prefers burpees at the gym: