Thuli Phongolo thought her acting dreams were being cut short when the “Generations 16” was axed in September 2014, but a higher power had bigger plans for her.
The 27-year-old actor became a household name as Namhla Diale when a revamped Generations: The Legacy premiered in December 2014.
But a few months before producer Mfundi Vundla infamously fired the 16 original cast members – including Sophie Ndaba, Katlego Danke and Winnie Ntshaba – Phongolo was cast to join them.
She reveals that Namhla was originally set to be Jason’s (Zolisa Xaluva) younger sister and she had already started filming with the original cast. But the show went off air on September 30, while her debut was supposed to be on October 2. To say she was devastated would be an understatement.
“My Generations dream was coming true and then they started fighting. I thought ‘this people are ruining my dreams’,” Phongolo remembers before breaking into laughter.
“I wanted to work with the old cast so much and the story was putting me in a place where I was going to be working with all the actors I looked up to.”
Fortunately for Phongolo she was given another chance to audition. She recalls going through a gruelling audition process that saw her try out for the role of Namhla again, and Angela.
The story of how she landed her first acting role of Zama in Tshisa a few years earlier is another miracle tale.
Born and bred in Soweto as the eldest of three children, Phongolo holds a degree in strategic marketing communication. But acting has always been her dream from a young age.
She says that her audition for Tshisa validated that she was on the right career path.
The biggest lesson she has learnt in the decade she has been in showbiz is to mind her own business.
“Don’t fight people’s battle in the industry. I’m not saying be mute to any injustices of the industry, because if you are an actor in the industry those are your battles,” Phongolo says.
“But people’s battles that don’t involve you, stay out of them. When you are young in the industry your heart is so open and you just speak up even when it’s not your place. You wonder why the adults are quiet.”
Phongolo denounces the misconception that she is a diva and difficult to work with.
Since 2018 she’s been heating up the nightclub scene as a sought-after DJ, under her moniker Thuli P. She plans to release her own music.
Fact file: Thuli Phongolo
Favorite actor: Brenda Ngxoli
Favorite movie: I Am Sam
Favorite food: Umngqusho (samp and beans meal)
Favorite musician: Zonke
Favorite emoji: Face with tears of joy
Top three songs on my playlist:
Lo Vas A Olvidar by Rosalía and Billie Eilish; LiYoshona by Kwiish SA (featuring Njelic, Malumnator and De Mthuda); All To Me by Givēon