Wandi or Wandile, a character played by versatile actress Chi Mhende is back bigger and better on Generations: The Legacy following her recent sex change. Last year soapie fans were left in a daze after Mhende’s character transitioned from Wandile (male) to a female version of herself, Wandi.
The talented Zimbabwe-born actress just wrapped up a successful run which dazzled audiences at The Market Theatre as Kat on Chasing Chairs, a two-hander charged with emotion and drama.
Speaking to The New Age about her soapie role, the actress said Wandi, who had been battling a range of emotions for the better part of 2017 after the success of her gender switch, was finally free to blossom and be who she really is.
“Without giving away too much of the upcoming storyline, Wandi is can now move from doing what is in her head to doing what is in her feelings. She is able to blossom and be a little more spicy,” she said.
Reflecting on her recent role on the stage of the Market Theatre, where she played Kat on Chasing Chairs from July 14 to August 6, the born performer said what drew her to the Kat role was the range of emotions and the symbolism it brought to issues of love and relationships.
“Chasing Chairs presented an abstract piece of art, with lots of symbolism imagery and soul stirring music. Also Kat represents the start of a bloodline for future generations as a mother.
“All of these elements put together really excited me to be part of the play,”she said.
Playing complex roles is not new to Mhende, who took South Africans by storm as the first-ever female to play a male character on Generations: The Legacy, to critical acclaim about two years ago. Wandi has since transitioned back to being a female and this has had South Africans hooked on the show that was fading away after the cast overhaul that saw 16 of the original Generations crew fired and replaced with a new cast.
When she was preparing for this iconic role on South African screens, the talented actress studied male mannerisms, and for the Kat role, she says she sat through a four-week workshop with the play’s female director, SuePam Grant.
“It helped that I had a female director who is also a mother to guide me for the role of Kat. Most of the research was spent chatting about the psychology of love and relationships,” she said.
With South Africa celebrating Women’s Month, Mhende said it felt strange that there was only one month to honour and celebrate women, when this should be a daily occurrence.
“It feels strange to me for women to be celebrated over one month when we should be celebrating women and everyone on a daily basis. Men and women should support each other every single day,” Mhende said.
While her recent role as Wandi has been the most prominent one, she has acted in other television productions among them, SABC1 sitcom Stokvel, the Sky 1 black comedy Mad Dogs, the Showtime thriller Homeland, the CBeebies children’s adventure series Jamillah and Aladdin and Syfy’s apocalyptic supernatural action series Dominion.
On stage she has also starred in theatre productions such as K Sello Duiker’s The Quiet Violence of Dreams as the only female character, Mmabatho.
She played the abused and compassionate Zoe in JM Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians and Calf in Howard Barker’s Slowly.