For over a decade, South African actress Nomzamo Mbatha has delivered amazing performances in projects such as Isibaya and Tell Me Something, and in 2021, she was introduced to audiences nationwide with her role as Mirembe in Prime Video’s Coming 2 America. Now, she stars in a new film – and in post-production for another, furthering her lifelong purpose of serving others.
Mbatha spoke to ESSENCE about her upcoming projects, the preparation process, and the importance of contributing to things that are of true importance. The sci-fi thriller Assassin was released this past Friday, and in filming it was definitely something the entertainer didn’t take lightly. “I literally had a big file that I was walking around with,” she says. “I made notes because number one, the character goes through so many different thrones. So I wanted to make sure that I knew where we were in the journey of the character, in the journey of Alexa.”
“It’s just an incredible film that Aaron Wolf and Jesse Atlas wrote, co-wrote together, and directed by Jesse,” Nomzamo adds. “It is mind-boggling. It is mind-bending. It will take you on a thrill ride, and at the center of it, I would probably say it’s a love story, but around it is just this world that’s been created that is here to make people go on a journey.”
For the model, her path to success hasn’t been easy, and all of her accolades were earned through perseverance and hard work. In 2015, she was selected to represent Neutrogena, being the first South African in that role, and six years later, Mbatha launched her SHE MOVES US campaign with the athletic apparel brand, PUMA. The collection named Shandu, was an ode to the tribe into which she was born in KwaMashu, as well as a tribute to her grandmother, Mildred. The second installment of this collection dropped a few months later, and featured a range of elegant yet edgy and, most importantly, comfortable apparel pieces.
Even in collaborating with two of the biggest companies in their respective fields, the actress still maintains a staggering level of humility. In paying homage to her family and ancestral roots, it’s easy to understand that Nomzamo realizes the value of legacy in more ways than one. Throughout her career, she has been involved in several philanthropic efforts such as the UNHCR, the Cotton On Foundation, and the Lighthouse Foundation, which invests in the future of South African youths through various methods of support. She attributes her giving spirit to her upbringing, along with the influence of her grandmother. “She was just like this incredible human being who just always had conversations and always instilled in me the gift of being of service, so I always was of service, even from a young age,” the University of Cape Town graduate tells ESSENCE.
“And of course, it’s just my purpose,” she adds. “I’ve always been a person who just has a sense of purpose when it comes to community. I find no glory in being the only one who makes it out. I find no glory in being the only one who excels in the community, especially because I was born in a township. So I’ve always been a very aware human being, and those are the things that have always informed the kind of life that I want to live, which is to stand for something that is much greater than myself.”
Nomzamo can be seen starring as the lead role of Queen Nandi in the forthcoming South African drama series, Shaka Ilembe, where she also serves as an executive producer. The production has been six years in the making, consulting historians, academics, and family descendants of the iconic African king, Shaku Zulu. According to the actress, a lot of legwork went into this production, and it’s something she can’t wait to unveil to the public. “I think it’s going to be appreciated around the world,” she says of the series. “There’s already been so much interest in it, and I’m very excited about it, and again, I’m very grateful to be able to be putting out two different projects, completely different projects.” As for Assassin, viewers will have so much to look forward to both on and off screen.
“I’m very, very elated that we get to confuse the audience,” the Goodwill Ambassador states. “I always love to do things that are out of the box. I always love to do things that are just kind of, yeah, that are not easy. I love challenging the audience, so I hope everybody gets to experience this incredible film.”
“I’m very proud of Jesse,” she adds. “It’s his first feature film, and also it is the last film for Mr. Bruce Willis, and I get to be a part of that legacy, and I think we’re all just super excited and we’re all honored to be a part of it. So, I think people can definitely, yeah, I hope they’re inspired. I hope they’re inspired by the way of filmmaking, thinking, and how the film comes out.”