Inside the world of Muvhango and fame with Zonke Mchunu

Written by TVSA Team from the blog Interviews on 23 Feb 2024
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It's been months since we saw Imani in the action on Muvhango and then suddenly, on Valentine's Day, there she was.

Zonke Mchunu stepped into her shoes again after playing her for eight and a half years.

We know this detail well because we interviewed Zonke in 2015 when she first debuted on the show so thought it would be nostalgic cool to catch-up with her now.

Take a step onto the Muvhango set: 

TVSA: It's good to see Imani back - we've been looking out for her. Have you been busy with Umkhokha? What's been going on? Where have you been that you haven't been on Muvhango?

So I had taken a little break, just to unwind and work on my craft a little bit more and then, after that, I got another gig on Umkhokha so I've been doing that - it's been fun.

TVSA: How long will Imani be back for?

For now we're not sure but this whole season she's going to be around, still being the old Imani so we're waiting to see what she comes up with.

Given the way she left, she's coming back with a bang - she is even more confident than before.

TVSA: In terms of Umkhokha - have you replaced Vuyiseka Cawe as Khombisile? What's happening with that?

Zonke: I believe so, I wasn't really sure what the story was behind all of that. I got an audition post and I went there and got the job and I'm happy to have the job - I'm not really sure what happened with the previous Khombisile and how it happened.

TVSA: The two shows are filmed in different provinces so where are you living? How do you manage this all?

Zonke: I'm still in Joburg right now - I'm back at Muvhango fulltime and then part time at Umkhokha. 

Umkhokha is based in Durban so it's kinda like flying in and out - if I'm supposed to be that side and then quickly have to come back here to shoot at Muvhango.
TVSA: When you go to Durban do you stay with family or in a hotel? What’s your life like there?

Zonke: I'm born and raised in KZN, I do have a few relations in Durban so sometimes I'll be with my relatives, depending on how much time and work I have that side.

So I stay with them, and sometimes I book myself in a hotel if I have a lot of work to do 'cos you know, sometimes being around family, it's so much fun and you forget you have to work.

TVSA: We last spoke to you in 2015, shortly after your Muvhango debut. At the time, you were completing your drama studies at the Durban University of Technology, your mom was working as a cleaner at your former high school and you were single. What's happened between then and now?

Zonke: *Laughs* Oh my God, that was how many years agooooo? From then, eish, most of my time I've been working at Muvhango, my mom doesn't work as a cleaner anymore, she’s retired now, and I have a seven year old boy who's my joy, my world. 

TVSA: That's a lot to have changed. Are you still single?

Zonke: *Laughs* Yes I'm still single.

TVSA: Does your mom stay in Durban or does she live with you?

Zonke: I'm most of the time on the road so my mom is still home in the rural areas of KwaMaphumulo - that's where she's based with my other siblings and nieces and nephews. I see them maybe once or twice a month if it's a good month. 

TVSA: Did you manage to finish your drama studies? At the time it was challenging. 

Zonke: Ja, it was a bit challenging because of work. Now, as we're speaking, I still haven't gone back to do my last subjects that I was supposed to do but that's a story for another day.

TVSA: At the time you said you weren't able to go to classes, people were taking notes for you and that kind of thing

Zonke: Ja, I haven't been able to go back. I've been thinking about it, but now, the thing is, I think I've found another love - I want to go back to my first ever love which is civil engineering, which is what I did before drama.

TVSA: Yes, what happened with that? Tell us more.

Zonke: Well, I didn't finish that also *laughs* so now I'm still thinking about it.

It's still an idea I'm cooking in my head of going back and seeing, you know, spread my wings and seeing what else can I do in this world, 'cos, with acting, even though I'm not where I want to be particularly in acting, I also want to see what other things I'm able to do.

TVSA: Have you changed in the past eight and a half years and if so, how?

Zonke: Changed, I'm not sure, but grown, yes, I've grown so much - in my work, personally, as a person.

I've learnt so much over these years, being a mom, being a sister, all of that. I've grown so much. 

TVSA: What's been your biggest realisation or lesson?

Zonke: It's not necessarily one thing I can pinpoint, it's just when you grow, there are certain things that you leave behind. Maybe like the way you dress - it's not the same as I used to dress eight and a half years ago.

TVSA: How is it different?

Zonke: I was young then *laughs* I used to dress like however. I didn't care much, but now, I've grown and I've learnt my body type and how I should dress to show whatever I have, the small curves nyana, back to the gym - just took care of myself more. 

TVSA: Raising a child in the TV industry - what's been the biggest challenge for you with that?

Zonke: Yoh, that one has been the most challenging because I try not to put him out a lot. 

We live in this phase now of social media and most kids have all these social media pages and yes, I did open a page for my son but I realised that me putting him out there, it's like showing him off to the whole world. 

It's like showing "Yes, this is my son", and wherever he goes people are going to know and, not harass, but these fans who are going to come up to him and say "Who's your mum? Your mummy's on TV,".

I don't let him watch a lot of TV so he just knows that "My mum works in TV," and he gets that a lot outside so I try so much to protect him when it comes to that.

Him being at school - the questions his friends will ask him, or maybe, even my fans come up to him and say "Hey wena, who's your mum? Come take a picture with me," so ja, - I really don't like that, I don't like it at all. 

I just want him to be a child, just like every other child out there and for him to grow normally, just like every other kid.

TVSA: We noticed on your Instagram and Facebook profile you specifically state that you're not on Twitter and wondered why that is?

Zonke: I'm not on Twitter, I'm not on Facebook - all these pages on Facebook are not run by me - I don't even know who runs them. I'm only on Instagram and TikTok a little bit. 

I just figured that one or two is enough. You don't have to be all over the place. I'm very... what's the word? I won't say private 'cos already I do have Instagram and stuff but there's a part of me which doesn't like being out there. 

Just for the fact that I do acting and people already know me, I feel like that's enough.

TVSA: If you were to rate your level of fame on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being tons of people recognise you and come up to you and 1 being nobody recognises you. Where would you place yourself?

Zonke: Oh lord, I don't know, yeeey *laughs*, this is a hard one, I'm not sure. 

Um... I'd say maybe 4-ish. I know people know me, I know people watch my shows but I feel like there's people who are more famous than me. *laughs*
I would say a 4.

TVSA: Could you share a fan experience that you've had, whether it be good, bad or crazy.

I have a lot of good ones, I mean I love my fans. They'll come up to me, say "Hello, can I have a picture?" and I'll be like "Sure, cool," and then you get the kind of fans who don't talk to you. 

They see you but they wouldn't say anything straightforward to you but you'll hear them asking themselves and then they expect me to say something, even though they weren't talking to me. 

I don't like that at all 'cos if you see someone that you admire or would like to have a conversation with, just straight-up talk to them, say "Hi, how are you?" rather than expecting them to just go around saying "Yes, it's me, it's me the actress, take a picture." No, nooo.

TVSA: Where does that happen most? Do you go shopping to the Spar?

Ja, there, shopping at supermarkets, if I'm shopping for clothes, it happens a lot. *laughs*

TVSA: Please can you share something from behind-the-scenes on Muvhango that we don't know? - that we don't see on TV.

We're actually more close than people think. As fellow actors and actresses around the set, we do play these characters that hate each other, they don't like each other, fight with each other, but we're actually very close as actors and actresses on the set so it's very much fun behind-the-scenes.

TVSA: What do you do in between scenes?

We'll probably be preparing or rehearsing for the next scene or we just chilling, doing whatever.

TVSA: What do you talk about?

*Laughs* We talk about woooooork, we talk about personal stuff, personal issues, actually, there's a lot that we talk about like almost every single topic there is out there we are able to talk about as colleagues. It's nice.

TVSA: In this eight and a half years of playing Imani, what's your fave scene of all time?  

Zonke: Maybe not fave scene, but a storyline that I really, really enjoyed shooting. 

There was a storyline with Sechaba a few years ago... Imani lost her husband who was Sechaba at that time. 

Shooting that storyline really connected me to those emotions that women go through, those women who've lost their spouse, their husbands, go through, which is also my mom.

I needed to understand all of those emotions. I had to research and talk to people, talk to my mom.

Although it was draining and hard, it was really fun for me as someone who telling that story. It's still one of the highlights of playing the role of Imani.


With thanks to Muvhango publicist Ndumi Zungu for snapping the on-set pics for us.


Shows in this post: Muvhango

Channels in this post: SABC2


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