Viewers can’t help but love him. He’s a man who loves thoroughly and a great provider. And no matter how much the love of his life breaks his heart, he always finds a way to rise up.
Playing Bongani on Mzansi Magic’s Gomora has been a pleasure for actor Thulani Mtsweni.
Thulani is no stranger to having viewers eating out of his hand. When he got his breakout role on Isidingo, where he played Shadrack Bhekiziswe Sibiya, a miner who always got himself in trouble, fans couldn’t stop raving about him.
His characters on TV might have different life goals, but what they do have in common is the love of relationships and culture. Now he’s dealing with his very complicated love story with Zodwa on Gomora.
Playing Bongani has been a blessing to him because he gets to show his softer side through his character.
“Playing alongside Sannah has made Bongani’s role easier. She’s a free spirit and it’s lovely working with her. Bongani wama grocery is a great example of the good people in the world. He doesn’t bother anyone even though sometimes he has to show other side to him. I am shy person naturally around people I don’t know but Bongani’s character has shaped me into being more open.
“All the characters that I have played I have somewhat witnessed in the township and when I rehearse, I fantasize about those characters and that’s what makes it possible for me to bring characters to life. Although I have never gone to an accredited school for acting, I attended workshops that have made me who I am today.”
Thulani grew up in Tsakane on the east side of Ekurhuleni. He was raised by a single dad after losing his mother when he was nine. His father also passed on when Thulani was still a young teenager. He was then raised by his siblings.
“Half of my life I was raised by my father who loved boxing very much, but he never got the opportunity to play the sport professionally. He died when I was a teenager and my brothers raised me after his death.”
He developed a passion for the arts and acting at a young age and it kept him motivated over the years.
“I grew up listening to stories on Khozi FM, it was still Radio Zulu at the time. I would picture everything and try to re-enact it and when I would visit friends house, we would watch television shows such as Sgudi Snaysi and I saw myself in the characters especially in Emzini Wezintsizwa.”
Thulani recalls a time when he was still in high school. He tried to join a drama group, but he and his friends were not selected and as a way to still perform, they created their own group. That’s when he met a woman, Refiloe Ledwaba, who was the founder of an art group called Tsakane Kids and he joined it and attended workshops.
The rest, as they say, is history.
He’s got a number of acting credits. He’s graced shows such as Isibaya, iNumber Number as well as Moja Love’s drama Haibo Mnakwethu.
He says his life has changed drastically after he got the role on Isidingo and he has been able to change his quality of life together with the lives of his family.
“I can’t begin to describe the change. At one point in my life I only had two pairs of pants and people would call me names. We were a lot growing up and my dad was unemployed at some point. When I got Isidingo, life changed. Before that, it was a struggle. I am living proof of how great God is. People could see by looking at our yard that we were a poor family but because of hard work and support from my brothers I am fortunate that I get to make a living using my talent. I grew up in a shack, I didn’t know how to use a shower until my acting jobs took us to hotels.”
He says that he is grateful that he and his siblings are now living successful lives where their children don’t have to go through hard times like they did growing up.
“My father died without a license nor a car and today my siblings and I drive cars.”
Thulani has a motivational corner on his Instagram called ‘Mondays are for thugs’ where he shares inspirational quotes about life, love and work. There he’s often pictured with a porcelain dog on every picture as he shares a quote to help his followers start each week on a high note.
“Where I grew up, we would see township thugs chilling with beautiful ladies, drinking alcohol and they would drink expensive drinks on a Monday. I decided to make it a more positive thing and not the usual negative thing that we saw growing up.”
The actor is also a father to a nine-year-old boy that he is co-parenting with the mother and the two of them have a close relationship.
“Mthokozisi is a younger version of me and I see myself in him. The only sad thing is that sometimes when I look at him I remember that at the age of nine, I didn’t have a mother. I am happy that he is such a smart young man, he currently wants to be a firefighter and I think that he’ll grow up and want to be something else. I wish my son would have big dreams and take big risks.”
Thulani’s age is always a talking point on social media. Fans often throw around numbers and want to know just how old he is. He prefers it that way, he says. He doesn’t want to reveal his real age. But he does have a word or two of motivation.
“Never question time, keep doing what you love, be patient it will work out in the end.”