'I’ve always had to fight for the attention of my parents' - Phila Madlingozi on relating to his TV character

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Phila Madlingozi plays Ntando Mxenge on Gqeberha: The Empire.
Phila Madlingozi plays Ntando Mxenge on Gqeberha: The Empire.
Photo: Oupa Bopape

He's a star in his own right. As entertainment royalty, it would be easy to just use his family name to get where he wants. 

But he doesn't and works for every role and song. 

Phila Mandlingozi has loved for the entertainment industry from a young age, and over the past decade, the 33-year-old has made a name for himself in the limelight as a talented singer, songwriter and actor.

Born in Johannesburg to music legend Ringo Madlingozi and raised in Gqeberha, Phila has been making a name for himself outside his father’s shadow in his roles in the acclaimed series Intersexions and The Queen.

Phila has also earned a new fanbase with the portrayal of Ntando Mxenge, the spoilt yet multi-layered son of Zimkhitha Mxenge (played by Zandile Msutwana) and Luzuko Mxenge (played by Mbulelo Grootboom) on Gqeberha: The Empire.

READ MORE | Zandile Msutwana breaks the villain mould as Zimkhitha Mxenge in Gqeberha: The Empire

Phila talks to TRUELOVE about Ntando and what he hopes to achieve with his character and the future of creative talent emerging from the Eastern Cape.

“Ntando Mxenge is a cheese boy, he’s very educated but he’s very kasi, and in fact what Ntando is going to bring to Gqeberha for the people is, there’s a type of guy that grew up in the ‘burbs but has a life in the kasi. And they’re not really known in the hood because in the hood in Gqeberha if you’re not a gangster, if you’re not a phara, you’re known as cheese boy. But Ntando brings back those who did eventually make it back to the hood,” he explains.

Speaking on being able to shoot from his hometown, Phila says “everyone that is an artist that is from the Eastern Cape would love to work from home, but we were raised to know that we have to take a bus or a plane to Joburg if you want to make it in the entertainment industry, now we can do it from home. So, it was a blessing to us, to me too”.

Phila also goes on to talk about how he has been able to draw parallels with his life and with Ntando’s character, divulging some of the emotional struggles he’s gone through in his past.

He says, “[Ntando] goes through a lot. He’s a very troubled soul but he has good intentions. It’s very relatable for someone who just wants to be seen, you know. Ntando just wants to be seen.”

Phila took the opportunity of playing Ntando to show people a different side of himself.

“I’m the first-born of eight kids and our parents, of course, won’t have time for all of us all the time. So, I’ve always had to fight for the attention of my parents, my grandparents, my teachers, my coaches, so I know what it’s like to be in Ntando’s situation. So, I’m really enjoying making sure that other people who go through what Ntando goes through actually feel normal,” he says.

Phila has managed to forge his own path in his life, but he has also been candid about the mental health struggles he’s faced when trying to break away from his father’s shadow.

In a sit down with Somizi and Bongani Fassie on 1Magic’s Downtime with Somizi in May 2022, Phila shared his story on his battle with depression and feelings of inadequacy.

“The world thinks I have everything but I have nothing that I want,” he laments.

Translated from isiXhosa, Phila went on to say “I’m forever under a microscope. I can’t afford to make a mistake. For instance, school had a lot of triggers. Just because my father is famous, I had to achieve 80 percent to 100 percent in my studies. I couldn’t date. Everything boiled down to ‘What would your father say?’”

Phila has been using his journey in the music and entertainment industry to tell his story the way he wants it to be told through his personal campaign called “Free Phila”.

He explains that “it’s me freeing myself from the pressures of being the son of the legendary Ringo Madlingozi, because I’ve always been known as that and a lot of people look at me and they see him, so this me just redefining myself and letting people know that there is Ringo Madlingozi 2.0 now. This is the second coming of the legend”.

New episodes of Gqeberha: The Empire air on Mzansi Magic every Monday at 21:00.

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