Wright Ngubeni has got a string of credits to his name in the entertainment industry.
After making his big break at five years old on the children’s show Kideo and becoming a household name after bagging the role of the young Jonathan Motene as a teenager on Generations and getting a starring role in the Netflix original film Kedibone alongside Natasha Thahane, Wright’s journey in entertainment has seen him take twists and turns into the world of television presenting.
The 34-year-old actor now prides himself on being the host of the first-ever Showmax and Moja Love collaboration show titled KuRuff, airing from 17 April 2023, with new episodes every Tuesday.
KuRuff is a 13-part intervention-style reality show that tackles the burdens of Black tax and being the sole breadwinner of a household.
The show will consist of Wright hearing from both the sole breadwinner and their dependents before staging an intervention to try improving the situation.
TRUELOVE caught up with Wright to find out more about his career trajectory, as well as how the concept of KuRuff came about.
“The concept is [from] Klaaste Media. The MD, Lindi [Klaaste], she had this concept for quite some time… She gave me a call for a catch up, [and] she told me about the concept. Because it is an intervention show, obviously, and I’m very much, you know, within those spaces of enterprising, supply development and within the youth development and, you know, strayed in a few industries including my call which is media and entertainment. So, we kind of gelled there and it hit home.
"It hit home and I saw it as an opportunity, also, for a lot of my followers that have been with me a long time and people that have been seeing my craft and connect with me,” he explains.
Wright is no stranger to presenting on TV, with some of his credits including hosting the popular Mzansi Magic reality show Love Back.
However, the transition from being recognised as a young malleable child star to more serious and in-depth adult roles proved to be a difficult one for Wright.
“There was no social media at that time, you know, nothing was reported like literally instantly, so things died away and, also, I think like as a country too, we were not ready for a few things, you know, that we now see today so the industry was also quite different. There was almost like a one way – a little one street with a few people that could actually get you that opportunity.”
Wright notes how nowadays there are a lot more local channels as well as independent studios and agencies that are available to help actors and entertainers transition into the roles that they are looking for.
“My transition was a little bit tough because … I was getting roles with characters younger than me. A lot of those more than roles my age. So, I would always get those kinds of roles, so it was a limited space,” he says.
Focusing on the art of his performance helped Wright land more in-depth characters such as Thula on Rhythm City.
“I did start getting roles that would kind of give an idea of where I’m at as a performer and not typecast anymore. And that’s where your Rhythm City and all of that came through like Thuli noThulani and it was easier to – it was part of the transition,” he tells us.
Wright explains how important it was for him to hone his craft as an actor and portray whatever roles or TV presenting jobs he received to the high standards he sets himself.
“I feel like I was blessed to get certain roles that would push me to doing more for myself and for the people that really enjoy my craft. I started understanding that, you know, I have in mind the audience as I would be physically onstage doing a theatre piece with an audience there. It’s just that now it’s digital so it’s like everyone is watching me onset as I’m doing that moment, playing that moment. So, that’s how close I bring it,” he says.
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Live TV is a different beast and Wright explains how his passion was always to put his own personality forward, and how much he enjoyed being introduced on live TV as Wright Ngubeni.
“I remember with just my transition from Generations to now … Jonathan became that character and it really did launch the Wright Ngubeni brand locally. When I resigned from Generations, I was young. All I understood was what I wanted, you know, what I wanted to do with myself… I knew that I just wanted to be in a place where I was able to be myself now.
“Being able to be myself and having a little bit of myself and with my name on the strap on the screen. I left Generation for World of Winners Live, which was a 5-minute show initially, and the contract then got approved by SABC 2 on the Tube channel and, you know, it was now a weekly show then it became a live show,” he explains.
Getting the chance sit down as himself and converse about the plights affecting his community and South Africans on shows like KuRuff and Love Back is a path in Wright’s career that he has always been passionate about.
“[I] was really doing it because … it ignited all the best versions of myself, and that is what I’ve always used in terms of dealing with real people, real stories. It’s human stories, I love that. And if I get to be myself around those stories, around that and be part of that and intervene where I can, then definitely. So That’s how I’m able to actually monitor myself too.
"To say I don’t have to act concerned, I’m talking to a real person, and I want people watching to see that they’re part of it, we are all part of it … so the opportunity to do that was just one of the best things that ever happened in my life and I think I used that feeling and I use whatever that technique and it just activates the human in me because I’m about to connect.”
When he’s not onscreen, Wright’s passions lie in youth development. He is an entrepreneur and National Youth Development Agency ambassador with his own creative agency that amplifies young Black people’s voices and gives them a platform to develop their skills.
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“Our movement is called Self Made Cheese, SMC, and we have also an outlet called Content Farm, and that’s where our films – all our shows – are churned out from…it became a no-brainer for me to be in a space where our content is content that speaks to South Africa, that speaks to Africans that can relate just based on our experiences with us being in different countries,” he explains.
Wright realises that his child acting roles were him at his peak in the industry but he shares a profound word of advice to his younger self.
“I would advise him to chase legacy, to chase wealth – generational wealth – against all odds. To look at the past as a canvas, a steppingstone, to what you will never ever ever even fathom you would become.”