“Mthunzi and I are complete opposites”- Bongile Mantsai on his villainous role on Scandal
The Langa family thought they got rid of him when they gave him R10 million to skip town. But the sneaky Mthunzi Mayisa, played by Bongile Mantsai (38), is back and in hiding, renting an office and a flat and planning to take down the Langas. When Bongile joined Scandal! many viewers complained about his character and questioned why he never gets caught for his vicious crimes.
But when the writers gave him a two-month break, fans began to miss his wicked ways.
THE BAD GUY
Although he now loves playing the baddie, when Bongile was first cast for Scandal! he wasn’t keen to play a villain. “Mthunzi and I are complete opposites,” he says. “When I got the part, I was extremely nervous about how people would perceive me.”
But the opportunity came at the right time – he was called to audition for the soap a month after he’d fled Cape Town for Joburg after receiving death threats due to his role as a gay man, Vija, in the award-winning film Inxeba (The Wound).
“I wasn’t running away per se, but I needed to be safe,” he says. “I was getting death threats on social media and SMS and even people I knew were calling me a sell-out. I needed time away from all the attention.”
“It was one of the hardest times of my life,” Bongile adds. “I went through serious depression. I missed my family and my life. I was in a really dark space and feeling almost suicidal. “I cried a lot, I wasn’t eating, I lost weight, I started getting panic attacks. And I was afraid of crowds. To this day big crowds make me anxious.”
He was forced to temporarily leave his job of 10 years at Cape Town’s Baxter Theatre, where he was an artistic director working on community-based projects. “I couldn’t go to the townships toteach anymore because my life was in danger.” He thought people would understand that he was narrating a story. “All I did was tell a story of two lovers without undermining tradition. And I still stand by that – I’m an actor and my role is to tell stories.”
LIFE IN TWO CITIES
In the midst of the sadness, Bongile got a call from Jakes Mhlaba to try out for the Mthunzi role and got the part. Initially he was supposed to work on Scandal! for two months before resuming his work at the Baxter. “But the Mthunzi character kept growing and has become a household name that people love to hate.” Bongile now balances his time between the Baxter and Scandal! and is okay with working between two cities. “I’m passionate about the work I do at the Baxter and I try to be in Cape Town every month.”
Shortly after getting cast in Scandal! Bongile got a role in a boxing film, Knuckle City. But more tough times were to come. “My dad, Chithibhunga Mantsai, was diagnosed with cancer of the oesophagus while I was shooting Knuckle City,” he says. “I went home to see him. He told me he was proud of my work.” Bongile says it has been tough adjusting to fame. “I hope to get used to it soon because acting is my first love.”