Veteran actress Pamela Nomvete is back – this time as Thabazimbi prison governor Deborah Banda on Mzansi Magic’s prison drama Lockdown, season 2.
“She is a no-nonsense, very complex woman. Not a person you would want around you for too long,” she says of her new character. It seems to emphasise her attraction to villain or superwoman roles.
She is best known for her fearless and manipulative role as Ntsiki Lukhele on SABC1 soapie Generations.
Nomvete, who was born in Ethiopia to South African parents, left South Africa for a few years to act in the UK. She did work for the Royal National Theatre, the Royal Court Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company. She was in Coronation Street, the longest-running soap opera on British television.
Nomvete’s return to our TV screens follows a long break to work on international productions and to write a book. Released in 2014, Dancing to the Beat of the Drum, is her reflection on how her Zimbabwean former husband drained her financially, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
“My marriage was a nightmare. It was terrible and I lost the sense of self, and lost Pamela’s voice. I didn’t know who I was any more. I did not want my life any more because, when I got home, I was not appreciated. I had the desire to end my life, but did not have the guts to do so. Every day, I prayed for something horrible to happen to me,” she wrote.
With that tragic episode behind her, she moved on to direct a play. She even had a small role playing Leah Tutu to Forest Whitaker’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu in The Archbishop and the Antichrist. It will premier at the British Film Institute next month.
“I also won the best actress award at the African Oscars in Los Angeles two years ago for a role in a film called Kingmakers,” she says.
In October, not only will she grace our small screens, but she will also direct a new film.
“You’ll know about it soon,” she giggles.
Reneilwe Sema, Mzansi Magic director of local entertainment channels, says Lockdown season 1 explored the difficulties faced by women behind bars. The season concluded with a shocking finale, in which warden Sharon Zulu was hauled off to jail and governor Beauty was demoted.
Season 2, which is scheduled to start on October 9, will “show prison in its layer upon layer of secrets, hopes and pain – all shared by those confined behind bars”.
Speaking to City Press this week, the talented Nomvete credited fellow actress Lorcia Cooper, who plays Tyson on the show, for recommending to the directors that she be considered for a role in season 2.
“If it wasn’t for Lorcia passing me on to the director, you wouldn’t see me on your screens. Quite a few production companies knew I was back,” she adds.
Nomvete reveals she has been quietly mentoring young actors. Since 2014, she has been working on a programme she developed to help empower them.
Asked whether she feels the acting industry has given her sufficient recognition, she says that, looking at her peers in other countries who have her experience, she would have to say no.
“It’s not just me either – many well-established South African actors are not recognised enough and given the rewards they deserve.”
In addition, in South Africa, many actors aren’t getting the salaries they deserve.
“The business community is not engaging with the arts enough to ensure that the earning power of the actors is increased,” she explains.
However, she is happy to be joining the Lockdown family, simply because production company Black Brain Pictures and its team got her excited about the future of the industry.
“More Black Brain-type production companies need to exist.
“There are few production houses that are as bold, creative and skilful,” she says.