‘Empini’ star Nambitha Ben-Mazwi on pouring her pain into her leading role

Multi-award winning actress Nambitha Ben-Mazwi stars as Ndoni Themba in 'Empini'. Picture: Supplied.

Multi-award winning actress Nambitha Ben-Mazwi stars as Ndoni Themba in 'Empini'. Picture: Supplied.

Published May 15, 2024


Nambitha Ben-Mazwi believes that being an actress is so much more than just enjoying the glitz and glamour of the entertainment industry.

The 35-year-old explained to Independent Media Lifestyle that the purpose of her craft is to make an impact in the lives of all those who consume her content.

“I put so much of purpose into what I do and I see my calling as an actress as being a servant to the people and for me, if I'm not capturing the audience, if what I am doing is not changing lives, if the content is not acting as a mirror to people and if they don’t see themselves in my character, then I haven't achieved my purpose of showcasing truth in the storytelling,” she said.

“For me, these are always the big things that make me pour everything into every single role, every time.”

Ben-Mazwi is set to star in the upcoming Showmax action-drama series, “Empini” later this month.

In the 52-episode series which is set in the dangerous world of private security, she plays Ndoni Themba, a deeply troubled private security bodyguard who is in search of answers.

The local production features a star-studded cast and Ben-Mazwi will share the screen with the likes of Siyabonga Thwala, Nqobile Sipamla, Owen Sejake and Charmaine Mtinta.

“We all put our blood, sweat and tears into this show,” she said. “We all share the same vision, we want this show to be a success, and it was so heartwarming for me to see everyone being so invested in this story.”

While this is Ben-Mazwi’s first leading role in an action series, she is renowned for her performances in TV shows like “The Queen”, “The Estate”, Netflix’s “Savage Beauty” and “How to Ruin Christmas” as well as movies like “Happiness Ever After” and “Black Mirror.”

Although she enjoyed her time on all her projects, starring in “Empini” is something she believes she “manifested”.

“I’ve been praying for an action role and I really wanted to get into a completely different genre which I haven't done yet and I was hungry for this so I believe that timing is everything,” she said.

“I still have to grow in my craft, establish myself as a leading lady and I want to showcase my range as an actress with every role I play.”

Ben-Mazwi was also thrilled about being cast in Empini because it allowed her to showcase her skill as a Muay Thai fighter, doing something she has been doing for two years. This is a Thai martial art and full-contact combat sport.

And while this would enable her to perform many of her own stunts on the local series, she suffered a serious injury during the early stages of filming which prevented her from really getting into the action.

“It was a mentally, emotionally and physically challenging experience and I was in quite a tremendous amount of pain, but I managed to use this pain for the portrayal of this character.”

“I have never been through something like this before and it really has challenged me in terms of showing up every single day and fighting through the pain, but I tried to take it as a blessing.”

“I tried to see how I could pour it into Ndoni and make her more vulnerable as well as how I could tap into other parts of myself as an actor during this time.”

Multi-award winning actress Nambitha Ben-Mazwi stars as Ndoni Themba in 'Empini'. File picture.

The injury also brought Ben-Mazwi closer to her character, who she described as “multi-faceted, fascinating.”

“There is so much to explore in her, you meet her 15 years later after a deeply traumatic event in her life, you see a very broken young woman and she's very relatable, but she's also very inspiring because she is killing it in a male-dominated industry.”

“She might be tiny, but she’s leading the pack, even though she’s surrounded by these big bodyguards.”

The actress is excited for South Africans to watch “Empini” because she believes it is truly a unique story.

“We haven't really had a high-action packed, drama telenovela like this before, especially for a female lead to be in such a predominantly male environment, which is the VIP security service.”

“Viewers will really be able to resonate with ‘Empini’ because it's so multi-faceted. It showcases the reality of this industry and its underworld.”

Ben-Mazwi explained that the dark side of the VIP security service includes corruption, assassinations and the underhand workings of the elite clientele they protect, including politicians, billionaires and celebrities.

“Then we also have the comedy aspect of the show, which I absolutely enjoyed.”

She added that another central element of “Empini’s” storyline was its focus on the current state of the country.

“It’s going to be very interesting, particularly because we are in our election year right now and this year is 30 years since South Africa became a democracy.”

“’Empini’ is going to be looking at very controversial talking points with regards to politics and will spark a lot of conversations that need to be had. It’s going to make us look at ourselves as a country and the current state of affairs, so it's very relatable,” she said.

∎ “Empini” will stream on Showmax from May 23.