Siv Ngesi is one of two South Africans to land a role in the international film, “The Woman King”.
He was also among the cast who graced the red carpet at the film’s world premiere at the 47th Toronto International Film Festival on September 8.
IOL Entertainment got to talk to the star ahead of the South African premiere on September 30.
Ngesi plays The Migan, the leader of the male army.
Ngesi, who recently lost his mother Zanele Jaqueline Ngesi, said the film depicts the life of his mom, in a way.
“This film came out around about the same time I lost my mother in August. The incredible link of it is that my mother has always been the strongest woman I have ever known, an incredible beast.
“She had no swords or weapons but she was definitely the strongest person. She never got to see the film. For me, this is the perfect epitome of her because my mother was always in spaces where she was dominating men and telling people what to do and people listened to her.
“I honour my mother in this film, the quintessential woman king and the queen of my life. I’m honoured to call myself the son of Zanele Jaqueline Ngesi. Every time I watch the film, it’s going to remind me of my mother.”
Ngesi describes his role, unpacking his excitement at acting alongside the iconic Viola Davis.
Ngesi shared: “I have done other international films but nothing was as big as this one. It’s the first time I actually did a film and (did) not care how well I did but more about watching the ladies and being in awe of Viola Davis and watching what she is doing.
“It’s a dream come true to be a part of one of its firsts in the world, having four dark-skinned women leads – two of African descent, one from the Caribbean and one of American descent.
“I have the honour of playing The Migan. He is the leader of the man-army and Viola Davis is the leader of the women-army and we work together, we fight. It’s an incredible part and The Migan is an ally, like I play in my life, an ally to the women.
“But he knows his place, like allies need to know their place. An ally can’t be louder than the people he’s allying for but he needs to be able to support and back the people he is allying for.”
Ngesi said he knew first-hand about being an ally since growing up surrounded by females in his home.
“I spent so many years trying to be an ally toward women and people in the community. In this particular film, I am an ally so I feel this role was made for me,” he said.
“It resonates with me because I was raised in a household of just women and you need to know your place in a household of just women so you grow up knowing that men are not superior to women.
“I did the dishes like my sisters, I got the same smack as my sisters and that’s the world I lived in.”
A proud Ngesi said directors were impressed with his audition from day one and being the overachiever that he is, he also did his own stunts.
“Ironically, when I auditioned I was four weeks away from doing a bodybuilding competition. When I got in the room I asked them if I can take off my shirt. I took it off and they were impressed, they booked me on the spot,” he said.
“The director said she booked me because I was the only guy who was a badass and played it vulnerably.
“We started shooting last year in November but we trained for months, we did stunt work and gyming for up to eight hours a day.
“We would do an hour-and-a-half of training to keep fit for the roles.
“It’s great to be part of American productions because they take the time to let you train and do stunts. I did all my own stunts in the production, every fall, punch and swipe I did myself.”
The film was recorded in various locations in and around Cape Town and KwaZulu-Natal during November last year but filming was cut short due to the pandemic. The crew returned later to continue filming as Covid-19 levels eased.
“It’s a great honour to be part of this production. I want every boy and girl to go see this film. I have to pinch myself every time just to think that I am part of this production, just to be able to be at the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) and see how people received it with standing ovations, screaming and shouting,” he admitted.
Ngesi joked that men might not be ready for this film.
“It was interesting to see the stories told of women-armies; they were all over the world, the stories of women kicking men’s asses,” he revealed.
“Are men ready to see women kick men’s asses? I think in cinemas there will be a scream and a cheer from the men but they might just not be ready for this.”
In all his glee and cheer ahead of the premiere, Ngesi couldn’t help but get emotional as he came to grips with the fact his mother won’t be present for his big moment.
“My mom was excited for the upcoming premier, she was preparing to wear African gear, like ‘Black Panther’ themed.
“It’s the biggest film I’ve done so this was huge for her and now not having her around is quite difficult to imagine.
“It’s hard to explain being in a world which she is not in.
“It’s been difficult to celebrate this film without her. I’m man enough to say I am broken, to say I’m walking around like the walking dead, directionless. I’m angry.
“I wouldn’t be what I am without her. I feel like a sail boat in the middle of the ocean without the winds to push it. Day by day I will learn to cope with the pain.
“My ‘Women King’ is not here.”