‘Oh, Bonga is living soft!’ – Thembinkosi Mthembu on his latest role on Showmax 18SN-rated Adulting

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Thembinkosi Mthembu plays Bonga on Adulting, coming soon to Showmax.
Thembinkosi Mthembu plays Bonga on Adulting, coming soon to Showmax.

If he dies, he prays that God brings him back as Bonga.

That is actor Thembinkosi Mthembu's wish, as he chats to us about his latest character, Bonga, on Showmax series Adulting, which premiered last night.

“Oh, Bonga is living soft. He is living such a soft life,” Thembinkosi says with a smile, flashing his dimple. 

It’s for the grown and sexy. Adulting is an eight-part drama that follows the lives of four friends as they navigate their lives and it is 18SN rated.

Speaking to Drum from his car outside his Johannesburg home, Thembinkosi says he's busy reading his script and learning his lines for his next project which he cannot get into.

He is sitting in the car because "it is easy to fall asleep in the house".

Read more | Meet the new Shaka Zulu, talented actor ‘taking over Henry Cele’, and Nomzamo Mbatha, as Queen Nandi

“Playing Bonga was awesome. He has a great bond with his long-time friends and he is a family man. Being a family man is probably the only thing I can relate to him about because he is living so soft.

“Some viewers will love him, and others will hate him. But one thing is for sure, viewers are going to see a different side to me. They are going to see a more fun side to me.”

His previous character on the Emmy nominated Mzansi Magic show, The River, was a very burdened man. Mabutho was just a man trying to stay out of trouble, do the right thing and be able to provide for his family.

Just as soon as things would be looking up for him, where fans and viewers would be rooting for him, tragedy would strike and he would lose it all.

Remember when Mabutho was living his best pretentious life as Sizwe Hadebe courting Nomonde, played by Linda Mthoba, by taking her on fancy dates and booking hotels? Well, Thembinkosi describes Bonga as a cooler, younger and more free and fun version of Sizwe.

Thembinkosi grew up in KwaZulu-Natal, in a township called KwaNdengezi in Pinetown as one of three siblings. Unfortunately, his older sister died in 2017.

He was raised in a home where his parents were very supportive, and they did not judge them for their choices.

“Yes, they wanted me to study something else, like teaching, but I wanted to do drama. Even though they did not quite understand my choice, they still supported me.”

He studied drama at Durban University of Technology.

“My family is wonderful, and we are very close knit. I would not say I grew up in a strict household, but they are straight forward, and they will give you a reality check. Basically, they will map out what the implications of your decision will be and if it is a mistake, my parents will let you make it for yourself so you can learn.”

His Timer and Mamizo, as he affectionately refers to his parents, are both retired and have been a great support system for him.

“After I arrived in Joburg in 2018, things were not looking good for over a year. I wanted to go home but my mom insisted that I stay in Joburg and continue pushing. Then they helped with my daughter, and they paid for my rent and food until I got my next gig a year and a half later.” 

That gig was The Republic where he played Junior.

Read more | The River's Thembinkosi Mthembu has always wanted to play a villain – this is how he does it so well

He's a traditional Zulu man.

“I follow my traditions and customs. I have a daughter who is turning five years old this year, and I know what I have to do for her when she turns 16 or when she turns 21. I also know what I need to do.

“We need to remember that our elders are not going to live forever, and we must know our history and traditions.”

On the topic of history, Thembinkosi is extremely proud of being on the cast of Shaka Ilembe. He plays King Dingiswayo in the production coming to the small screen later this year.

“I first heard about it when I was still in varsity and I knew because I was student, I did not stand any chance. Then years later, while I was already here in Joburg, I heard of auditions and I decided to try it out.

“For me this is a dream come true. I cannot even put into words how excited I am to be part of this production. It is about our history, umlando wethu, and it is as honour.

“Though I am ‘umZulu phaqa’, I also learnt a lot of new Zulu things while shooting Shaka. IsiZulu is different depending on the dialect and the region you come from. This is definitely the highlight of my career and I feel like ngiyibekile induku ebandla (I have made a valuable contribution).”

He does not have deadlines set for himself to achieve certain things because he takes each day as it comes.

“Yes, I have dreams and aspirations, but I am in no rush to try and achieve anything. I do not put myself in any kind of rush for things. When I am meant to achieve something, that will happen.”

He may be one of the country’s most eligible bachelors, but he is not available. He is in a long term relationship with his daughter’s mother.

“We have been in a committed relationship for six years now. I would like to get married one day, I truly believe in the institution of marriage. I think it is such a beautiful thing and I cannot wait to get married too.”

He says she is not bothered by women who throw themselves at him because he is a heartthrob.

“We started dating when we were varsity, so she knew the kind of work I was going to get into. I will be honest though, it was awkward at first. But we have since found a way to get used to it. She does not even mind taking photos of me and female fans, as long as they are respectful.”

But how does he get that chiseled bod?

He is at the gym for an hour and a half six days a week.

“If you gym in the morning, you will have the whole day to rest. I am only able to do that when I am not shooting long hours.”

He once said he has a crush on Natasha Thahane, but now that is a thing of the past.

“I did have a crush on her then, but she is now in a committed relationship and out of respect, I cannot still have a crush on her.”

Thembinkosi (28) has acted alongside some of the best in country and he is grateful, but there are people he would still like to work with.

“Yho, yho, yho, Zolisa Xaluva! Do you know Zolisa Xaluva?! That guy is brilliant. I would like to be his right-hand man in a mafia kind of show. Then there is the great Masasa Mbangeni, I would like to be a villain who is her rival. She has range. When you work with actors like that, you are bound to grow and improve as a performer. Then obviously Warren Masemola and Thuso Mbedu would be great to work with too.”

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