Meet the man behind Coach Connie … We chat to Zingi Mtuzula about his JAB-experience

WOW! That’s all I can say. Working on JAB was an amazing experience. A team of professional and wonderful people, both cast and crew. They were so great to work with. They were like my brothers and sisters, my sons and daughters. I just loved and enjoyed working with them. All thanks to JAB.

My character was very close to Co-creator and Director Lucilla Blankenberg’s heart. That alone made it very awkward for me. Why? Because she knew Connie well, both personally and professionally. It wasn’t like someone she read about in a book. So that alone made me nervous and kept me wondering if I was portraying him the way he deserved.

Zingi Matuzula as Conference Johnson
Zingi Matuzula as Conference Johnson

But because she is such an amazing director – calm, sweet and focused – she made me have the strength and courage to portray him. I tried to find Connie’s character by becoming him in real life while we were filming. There were many similarities except of course I don’t own a boxing gym and I have a family to go home to every day after work. As to how I portrayed Connie, I think the best people to answer that would be the audience of course.

They both are the most wonderful directors I’ve ever 12799122_1295389933811176_3171162879254478750_n
worked with, giving you as an actor an opportunity to express your views concerning the story. They listen to you while also guiding you through their views and ideas. That makes me as an actor feel appreciated, as I was given the opportunity to say what I thought and how I understood the story. As I have mentioned before, Lucilla and Laddie (or Makhosi, which is what I would call him), are the most wonderful directors Ep04 - pic 4I’ve ever worked with. I would jump at any opportunity to work with them again.

Lwandile (aka Junior) shares a bit more about himself

Lwandi 2

What was your experience working on JAB?

Working on JAB was great because it taught me a lot about what I need to be doing in order to be at my peak – both in work and in training. I can’t say I had any bad experiences because the JAB team ran the production so smoothly and professionally. It was great working with such a talented cast, old and new school. As a youngster in the industry you pray for a first job to be as great as this.

Tell us about your character, Junior?

Junior is the antagonist of Connie’s Gym. He’s a good kid with a great heart but he doesn’t like sharing the spotlight, especially not with Bee.  She unintentionally makes him feel threatened so he chooses to put her down.

What was it like working with Lucilla and Laddie? IMG_5868

They make a quality team as directors. Cilla helped me paint the picture and kept reminding me I wasn’t really Junior which I needed at times and Laddie is really good at bouncing ideas off of and triggering something different in everyone.

What have you learnt from this experience?
I’ve learnt how tough it is for women to get respected and treated equally, in and outside the gym. Men need to put up a bigger fight against the abuse of womLwandien.

Did you come into the character of Junior with that 6-pack?
I’ve been training and staying fit for as long as I can remember, so Junior and I have that, amongst other things, in common. Boxing training took me to the next level.

You were/are also a rugby player.  (Do you still play rugby?)  How did you go from Rugby to Acting? 

I played a lot of sports at school and represented W.P. at rugby and athletics before spending 2 years with the Blue Bulls after school.  I got into acting when I walked into an agency office by mistake. Besides my role as Santa Clause in a Gr 2 play and then as Eugene the nerd in Grease (Gr 5), I have had no acting experience.IMG_6133


Having said all of that, the JAB team is world class, Paul Ian Johnson, Lucilla Blankenberg and Laddie Bosch … the list is endless, thank you.

More about Mandla … with Mzu Ntantiso

About working on JAB Mzu says …

“It was great working on JAB. It is always interesting how everybody pulls together when working with a limited budget. The cast was amazing and the directors had faith in them, which allowed creative freedom. Working with Lucilla and Laddie was beautiful because of what I mentioned above, they allow creative freedom and take all suggestions into consideration, making it very easy for the performer to apply themselves fully.  I walk away from this experience reassured that all is possible when a team pulls together and has passion for the project.”


Mzu’s Film Experience:

INGOMA  (Upmarket Bar Manager)

Momentum  (Interpol Officer)

Long Walk to Freedom  (Thembi Mandela)

YES WE CAN  (Kogelo Guard #1)

Time of the Snake  (Attacker 1)

Intonga  (Lead:  Siviwe)

Mzu’s TV Experience:

Forced Love 2  (Thami)

Dominion S2  (General 1)

Homeland III  (Marine Sgt)

Black Sails Season II  (The House Attendant)

Chandies  (Cameo)

Montana II  (Vuks)

Final Verdict  (Solly Qabaka)

Heres to Good Times (Lead)

Stokvel IV & VII  (Robber and CJ)

Q&A with Vanessa Ntlapo

Q: What was your experience working on JAB?

A: OUT OF THIS WORLD!! Working with such an amazing & talented cast & production team pushed me to constantly give it my all & as hard working as all of them are, they are just as hilarious! I have never had this much fun on a set. I hardly felt those long hours & I would do it again in a heartbeat!

Q: Tell us about your character?

A: Goodness, where do I start? Bee Sondlo is strong willed, determined, fearless for the most part & she’s loyal. In fact she is loyal to a fault. She does not take no as answer! The thing I love most about her is that she has such great belief in herself & she absolutely adores her family & would do anything for them including fighting their battles for them. She is so young that in her journey of figuring out herself & life, she makes wrong decisions that are fuelled with wanting to help her family & friends & wanting to make a success of her life.

Q: What was it like working with the directors?

A: There is really nothing better than working with directors who want to see you succeed & who are willing to help you transform into your character in order to get that perfect shot! It was inspiring to see them work as a unit & to see how they feed off each other. They are all different & have very different personalities but somehow they manage to bring it home & lead the entire cast to the finish line.

Q: What have you learnt from this experience?

A: Besides learning how to box & actually falling in love with the sport, I have really grown as an artist. I have learned discipline, patience & appreciation for the arts. Most importantly I have learned that there really is nothing that I can’t do. With hard work, dedication & a great team, I can do it! Oh & I discovered that I can actually wake up at 4AM in the morning & totally be okay with it! I love my sleep.

Q: What was your most memorable moment, event or feeling working on JAB?

A: There are just way too many moments to just pick one, from accidently punching my fellow cast members during a take to the conversations we shared during our lunch breaks & of course being surprised on my birthday with cupcakes & gifts & being able to celebrate with everyone there. But the one that I can think of right now is when my on screen family & I were having somewhat of a serious family meeting in the lounge but none of us could keep a straight face. We just couldn’t stop laughing! Good luck to the editor in finding parts that he/she can use for that scene!