Dudu-Busani Dube's cult favourite book series, Hlomu the Wife, was made to be a telenovela. The story of a young woman who falls in love with a taxi driver who is secretly the wealthy owner of a taxi empire, it started on Showmax today, marking the streaming service's foray into the genre.
Opening with a romanticised shot of downtown Joburg, the show is a delicious exploration of love in the times of taxi rivalry, heists and violence. We meet the Zulu brothers at the taxi rank, boisterous and flashy, leading to a confrontation. Tracksuits, garish shirts and gold chains have never looked sexier.
The Wife boasts a cast of fresh and familiar faces, all simmering with talent and matching the intensity designed for their characters. Of course, Hlomu (played by Mbalenhle Mavimbela) is breathtakingly beautiful, which is to be expected for our very own Helen of Troy. (The face that will cause men to go to war with knobkierries and pangas at Bree taxi rank!)
When asked how he prepared for the intensity and magnitude of Mqhele, the villain he plays, Bonko Khoza expressed how method acting was imperative in embodying character.
"When it came to Mqhele, I flipped the mirror towards myself and confronted my own demons to assist in the portrayal. As a method actor, in preparation of the role I bought myself a bunch of tracksuits, I bought a gun and learnt how to play the guitar. I lived as a character. Then Bonko re-emerges and packs it up in sort of a toolbox that I use on stage," he says.
This method of preparation is easily dangerous and requires management in order for one not to lose themselves in it. To decompress from this, Khoza relies on his partner, who is also an actor, and assists him in coming back to himself.
Reflecting on the pressure of playing Mqhele, Khoza shares that he chose not to be intimidated by the character but to go about it with honesty.
"I took it on as another character I would play. Now that I am in it, I will say that it was a real honour and it makes me want to go deeper and to go HAM. I don't want to pay attention to external noise."
Khoza also shares that the book readers are in for some delicious surprises as the show exposes more of what happens in the periphery or in the dark.
"In the book, uMqhele disappears and nobody knows where he goes. In the series much more of that is exposed and you will see the activities that he hides from Hlomu. The book shows you the result whereas the world of Hlomu in the series is much more expansive, fuller, colourful and more than a singular perspective."
With the commitment of living as a so-called uMageza and the intentional preparation for this, it's clear that the show is brimming with talent. I have a feeling that once you've seen it, they will be the source of your salacious daydreaming.
On a more serious note, The Wife is expected to be real and reflective of stories which occur in a South African society. Highlighting the violence of the taxi industry and how masculinities struggle with vulnerability when their survival is dependent on being ruthless, it might tear down those fantasies of wanting to be a mob wife while ushering in some chuckles in between.
However, if the first episode is anything to go by, people die here and it is not for the fainthearted.
Additionally, the Zulu brothers all seem to have scabrous interiors, battling with some trauma or another and projecting that violence on the world while trying to love through it all. With the heaviness of the themes in this telenovela, viewers will witness a series that is deeper than just guns, red flags and sex.
- The first three episodes of The Wife are available to stream on Showmax