SAFTA -winning actress Linda Sebezo (53) chats to us about the secret to her staying power in a career that spans over 38 years.
By: Kwanele Mathebula
I was born and bred in Rockville, Soweto. I was a bubbly and confident child and was not afraid to speak my mind. My father used to take me to watch movies and theatre plays and I used to act out what I would saw on the screen and on stage. As a child, I wanted to be a nurse because most of my family members were nurses, and back then there were a limited number of professions that black people could work in. During Apartheid there were no formal institutions where one could study acting or music.
A chance encounter with the late legendary playwright and composer Gibson Kente changed my life. I met him coincidentally in 1979 while my friends and I were hitchhiking and he gave us a lift. I recognised him, told him that I wanted to act and he invited me to his studio in Dube, Soweto. I arrived at the studio to his students dancing, singing and acting. Legendary musician Brenda Fassie was also one of his students and after watching her perform, I knew that I wanted to be a performer. Though I had never auditioned before, I knew that I could sing and gave the audition my best which impressed him and I joined his production. I became Brenda’s understudy for a play called Hungry Spoon which began touring in 1980. Gibson would often alternate the actors in order to give everyone in the production a chance to perform and I always made sure to give it my all whenever it was my chance to get on stage. That was the beginning of everything for me. I went on to act on a variety of shows and movies such as Generations, ‘Sgudi ‘Snaysi, Hlala Kwabafileyo, Kwakhala Nyonini, Ashifa Shaba, Gaz’lam, Muvhango, Soul Buddyz, Isidingo, Backstage, Rhythm City, Stokvel and Intersexions.
Getting recognition after 36 years in the industry was bittersweet. When I won a Best Supporting award at the 2016 SAFTAs I was lost for words because I felt like it was long overdue. I reflected on my long journey to get to where I was and remembered how I persevered through the difficult times. There were times when I was not working for extended periods of time but I remained committed to my journey because I knew that I was in this industry out of love and passion. It was also very difficult for me as a parent to witness some of the things that were happening in the industry, seeing young people compromising themselves to get a foot in. Back in the day, talent and discipline got you in the door and kept you in the room but that is not the case anymore. As people who have been in the industry for a long time, we have the knowledge and skills that university doesn’t teach but can’t pass it down because of some of the practices that are happening in the industry.
My discipline and respect are the reason I have been in this industry this long. I began working when I was 15 years old and didn’t understand that I needed to nurture my talent. I took my talent for granted and wouldn’t show up for rehearsals if I didn’t feel like it. Fortunately, I had mentors who guided me and shielded me from a lot of the things that were happening in the industry. Theatre also taught me a lot of discipline and still keeps me on my toes and keeps my mind sharp. It allows me to constantly improve my acting as it challenges me with the longer and more animated dialogues. This is why I do two or three theatre productions a year, depending on my schedule, to make sure I stay on top of my game.