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Published: Nondumiso Tembe talks Miss Mya with Us

Miss Mya the Queen Bee

Nondumiso Tembe (Pic: Ricardo Marcus K)
Buhle Mbonambi chats to Durban-born and LA-based Generations star Nondumiso Tembe

The champagne-guzzling, cocaine-sniffing and stripper pole-clinging Miss Mya has shaken up Generations. Her party animal antics have either made viewers switch off or tune back in. 
Miss Mya is Nondumiso Tembe’s first role in a local TV series. Being cast in the show has always been a dream for Nondumiso – who has appeared on True Blood, NCIS and NCIS: LA  – and she’s taken to the role with gusto. There’s something dark and intriguing about Miss Mya and Nondumiso is doing justice to the character. 

Joining the cast of Generations is a big deal in SA. It’s a launch pad to stardom for many local actors. Is it the same for you, even with your success in LA?
Like most South Africans, I grew up watching Generations. The show has a very special place in my heart, so Yes! It s A big deal to me to be a part of it!
What attracted you to the role?
As an artist, you have to be careful not to allow yourself to get too 'comfortable.' Once people see that you can do something really well, you end up playing the same role or 'quality' over and over throughout your career and you don't really grow. I am very much out of my comfort zone in this character. She is much more wild and overtly sexy and dark than I am. I admit, I found it intimidating at first, but then I realized that this was a great opportunity for me to stretch and challenge myself as an actor and grow and deepen my craft. And that is exactly what has happened!
Miss Mya is a layered and complex character- she must be exhausting to portray?
Yoh! That's an understatement! She does require a lot of energy! But what has been a nice challenge is finding her underbelly; understanding and trying to portray the humanity and pain underneath the exuberant, seemingly carefree, 'I got it all under control, ' party-girl image she presents to the world.
But what’s the actual deal with her? Miss Mya looks like someone who’s running away from her problems and is putting up a happy fa├žade- is she hiding something?
I don't want to reveal too much or I'll ruin things for the viewers, but she has some very dark, painful secrets from her past that she tries to escape from through her party lifestyle and by burying herself in her work. I think it will be great to see her true story unravel and viewers will get to understand why she is the way she is. Everyone copes with life's hardships in different ways. Unfortunately, some people, like Phumelele, end up turning to self-destructive things.
Can you tell us about her background?
She is a successful, well educated, world-travelled fashion executive who grew up in New York, but is originally from KZN
Her family? Senzo mentioned something about her family and she quickly told him to never mention her family ever again. Does the problem lie with her family?
I'm afraid I can't mention too much, but you are right. She has a very dark, dysfunctional family history.
And Senzo- does she plan on just using him as leverage, maybe against his family?
Believe it or not, Phumelele genuinely cares about Senzo and cherishes their friendship. Their connection is very real and honest. It's true that she can be a very selfish, manipulative person, but Senzo is the one person she really lets in.
This is your first role on a local TV show. How has the experience been?
It's been such a revelation for me! I have learned so much, grown so much professionally, in terms of my craft, and have made some very special friendships along the way. I am very grateful for this opportunity and experience.
How different it is from the US?
Very different. Not exactly something I could articulate in words, we are just very distinctly South African. We have our own way of working and relating to each other, which is very unique and different from the American way. It is no better or worse - just different.
Generations is a multi camera TV show and you’ve done mostly single camera TV shows. How has the transition been like?
Working in a multi-cam medium is very different from working on a single-cam drama or on stage. I have learnt so much, just technically speaking. It helps if you think of yourself as a work in progress. I watch all my dailies (daily footage) very closely and examine my performance to try and see how I can be better the next day, see what works, what doesn't work. I watch the way the other actors work with and relate to the cameras. I ask lots of questions. It's like juggling several balls in the air at the same time. You have to be really present and self-aware, but still be as naturalistic as possible. 
As a LA based actress, what has been your main difficulty in getting roles?
The amount of competition in Hollywood - there are immeasurably more actors than there are roles available. Racism in the industry. The economy. There are a number of factors that pose a challenge to our industry, but thankfully, God has blessed me and I work pretty consistently.
The issue of race is being addressed by all the major black actors. What will it take for black actors to finally get roles that move them away from the stereotype?
Us taking ownership of our own storytelling. Having more people of colour in decision-making positions in Hollywood. I don't think the actors are the problem. I think the Hollywood system is the problem.
Shonda Rhimes is one of the few black showrunners in Hollywood, with successful shows Grey’s Anatomy, The Fixer and Private Practice. Do you ever plan in going behind the scenes and producing TV shows?
I have produced a little, low scale - it is really a Herculean feat. It is a huge responsibility but you feel so proud when your project finally takes off! I think producing and directing are definitely in my future, but right now I am focused on building my career as an artist. I think I will evolve into these roles organically.
Besides Generations, what are you currently working on?
I've just been cast in a really exciting international television project, which I will start filming in a few months. I am deeply grateful to be starting 2014 off with a bang! I know I will be sad to leave Generations next month (her last appearance on the show is in May) but I will cherish this experience forever and am really proud to be a part of the Generations Family!
So we should expect some major drama with Miss Mya?
Lots of drama, buddy!
Catch Nondumiso on Generations, weekdays at 8pm on SABC 1 (SABC 2 during the CHAN 2014 tournament)

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