Meet the man behind Uzalo's Gxabhashe

Written by TVSA Team from the blog Interviews on 17 Aug 2015
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He went down in a blaze of bullets, we've been through his funeral and now he's back from the dead. Muzi "Gxabhashe" Xulu lives!

To mark the occasion I caught up with Mpumelelo Bhulose who plays him so convincingly:

Tashi: You're the No. 1 character on the show No. 1 show in the country. How has it impacted on your life?
Mpumelelo: Ja, I think it's a matter of realising that my life is no longer my own and that it belongs to the public. Everywhere one goes you're identified as the Gxabhashe character. It's been overwhelming, it's been beautiful and I'm hoping that our audiences keep at what they're doing because we're definitely going to keep doing what we're doing.

Mpumelelo stopped acting for about 10 years.

Tashi: How did you get the role?
Mpumelelo: Just when I thought I was done with television, here came an opportunity. I bumped into Duma Ndlovu at a gala dinner in Midlands, KZN and he said to me: "Look, we're doing something new and I've been looking for you." I was like, "What can I do for you?" and he said: "Trust me, I think this character is You."

I didn't take him seriously but he took my numbers and then on Monday I got a call, I jetted back to Johannesburg and did an audition with him - which wasn't the nicest audition if I may be honest with you.

Oh no - I always ask them, "Guys, how did you give me this job??" because I sucked at the audition and they always laugh and say, "Ah, we don't know too." But it all worked out for the best. Believe you me, it's been absolute magic.

Tashi: What's the biggest difference between Gxabhashe and yourself?
Mpumelelo: Well, he's a thug and I'm not, clearly. *laughs* You know, I grew up in the township - I grew up seeing a lot of Gxabhashes. Some of them were older than me, some of them were the same age, growing into an industry that was so dangerous.

Being a young person you love the thrill of seeing these things happening and when you grow up you look back and think: "How the hell did I survive all of that?"

The most beautiful thing that has happened to me - I said this when I picked up the award at the Simon “Mabhunu” Sabela Awards - the greatest thing God ever did was allow my parents to play and make me and the second greatest thing was for him to let them raise me in KwaMashu because it prepped me for this.

I would never have won the award if it wasn't for the grooming KwaMashu gave me. When I looked at the scripts that were sent to me, I just fell in love with it because it just spoke the world that I thought I'd left 23 years ago when I left Durban to go to Johannesburg. 23 years later, at age 43, it comes back and says: "Here I am, you're going to portray me the right way."

I'd seen people like Gxabhashe growing up. Some of them died, some are still my friends, some are in prison. Some of the guys who were smarter have grown up to be decent business people today. This is where it all comes in for me because I've almost got an encyclopaedia that I can refer to. In everything I've done, in my whole entire life, I think this has been the best thing.

Tashi: What's the most difficult thing about playing him?
Mpumelelo: Being evil man! That dude is evil, the dude is hard-core, he's ugly to the core and I kind of understand why he's ugly but... you know, I think one of the biggest challenges I've had in conveying all of this is that people have this preconceived idea that gangsters don't cry.

I know for a fact that they do because I've seen some of my friends who are bigtime gangsters and you see them around their women and you go: "You seem so strong out there but she smacks you around!" *laughs* These hard-core guys are controlled by their women. This is why in the story, the only person who really tames me is my wife - but to a certain extent as well.

Where she overplays her boundaries, I've got to put her back into check and say: "Listen, I can do this to you if I need to - don't push me to that. I love you so you need to be back in my corner or else we have a misunderstanding."

The hardest thing for me is showing the emotional side of him. Not the hard-core side of him but the more tame, soft, loving, part of him where he looks at what he's done to his family and the things that he's even done to his brother.

On the street the hardest thing is for people to understand that Mpumelelo and Gxabhashe, they're two different people.

Tashi: Are people confusing you?
Mpumelelo: Oh people think I'm that bastard, they think I'm that dog everywhere I walk. This morning I was leaving the place I'm staying and these two ladies, domestics, were cleaning up and I can hear them talking from a distance and one says: "Should we greet him?"

The other one says: "Hai! I don't know - he looks very scary."

The other one says: "Yoh! I've never seen him smile."

So I turned and I smiled and you should have seen them go: "Oh my word - he smiled!" So it's been that kind of thing and I don't want audiences to ever confuse Gxabhashe and Mpumelelo. Mpumelelo is anti-crime, he's a warm loving guy, business-orientated and driven by the industry that he loves so much.

With his on-screen wife Dawn Thandeka King.
Tashi: Are you married? Is there someone special in your life?
Mpumelelo: No, I'm not married and I... no, I keep that too close to my heart.

Tashi: Could you tell us something about yourself that nobody else knows?
I think people tend to think that I'm arrogant.

Tashi: Why?
I think because I've got a strong persona. I keep my head high, no matter what the situation is. I could have 10 cents in my pocket but I'll still hold my head high and more often people take that and read it wrong - but I'm probably the kindest person you'll ever come across.

This is one of the reasons it's been an absolute challenge for me to bring anybody close because I don't have space for a world of hurt. I only have space for love and for caring and making sure that the people around me who I care about are equally as happy with me as I am with them. That's the most important thing to me.

Tashi: If a movie were to be made of you, who would play you?
Mpumelelo: Me. *laughs* Me and nobody else. If I'm still alive, me.

Tashi: Now that Gxabhashe's back - what sort of things can we expect from him?
Mpumelelo: People will be expecting that I come back with guns blazing but I guess, like every dog that has been wounded, you always want to do your calculations before you get back into the realm of things.

You know the mistakes you've made are the mistakes that have wounded you so that's going to be a journey on its own just to rediscover himself again and rebuild himself.

Obviously once somebody beats you in a fight and you go back, you're not going back with the same kind of strategy. In the streets its always a mind game so how this is going to be transferred from Mpumelelo to Gxabhashe is something else.

Tashi: From the sounds it he's going to be fundamentally changed by the experience?
Mpumelelo: Yes, however I would be disappointed if they keep him like that. I would like to see him get back into it harder. You can never take away the streets from a dog who knows the streets. You can wound them - you get hurt and you get wounded but you always get up and dust yourself off. There are two types of thugs: those who are brave and those who are smart.

If you can find one who's brave and smart then it's easier to get into the thick of things and say: "You know what? You're not taking my territory from me." Some gangsters, even in real life, when they get wounded they go into a corner and say: "That's it. I've just come face to face with God and I don't want to see that again."

Tashi: But not him.
Mpumelelo: Not him. In television language - not him - I mean come on! *laughs*

Actors in this post: Mpumelelo Bhulose

Shows in this post: Uzalo

Channels in this post: SABC1


18 Aug 2015 11:59

Ooh kodwa Gxabhashe. I am happy u will still be present in my TV room.

18 Aug 2015 12:47

m also happy@ floh

18 Aug 2015 18:07

awe mr xulu

19 Aug 2015 10:19

Im happy Gxabhashe is back, but i think they did quick turn around on his character, he was inittially dead and they saw the viewers comments and they ruened around which i think its great and cant to see whats gonna be cooking. *excited*

19 Aug 2015 11:18

This is great news, I didn't like the way that revelation about the boys being switched at birth was left hanging after his death.

19 Aug 2015 14:35

I cant wait "oh my gosh"

lazy sam
04 Oct 2015 23:27

team #Gxabhashe

05 Oct 2015 04:05

Wow exciting news #Xabhashe we missed u. ..ohh power couple Mr &Mrs Xulu I can't wait to see the reunion

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