By Mandi ‘Poefficient’ Vundla |
Rolling With Mayuri Naidu Of Durban decent. Naidu is the youngest out of three children. She stems from a supporting family structure that allowed her to ease into her career path as an actress which also includes dubbing Spanish telenovellas into American English.
Her prompt responses to the rescheduling of shoot dates makes her patience admirable. Her undeterred check ins and constant ‘Thank You’ at the end of each text are a little too sweet at first but after exchanging emails and phone calls, I note that she oozes a gentle sweetness and is always soft with gratitude. She is also an affirmation that life can happen for you outside the ‘City of Gold.’ After contacting MLA one of Johannesburg’s most reputable acting agencies a few times, Moonyeen Lee agreed to meet with her, she drove up to Johannesburg for the appointment and years later she is Rolling high.
What has been the process of getting your first big break on High Rollers?
I had auditioned before for season one and when season two came around, the producers remembered me and got in touch with MLA to ask if I could come through for an audition. I lived in Durban at the time and I think I had a few hours to record the audition and send it off. I rushed to get it on disc and we transferred it. I think I made it with moments to spare!
What were you doing before your big break?
I lived in Durban before this so i did a lot of theatre, radio dramas and just before I got High Rollers I was dubbing Spanish telenovellas into American English. Basically I sat in a booth and read from a script to try get the English words to match the spaces of the Spanish sentences. You learn the cadence and the tone very quickly so you are able to figure out how much time you have to say what.I picked up a few Spanish words here and there but I can’t speak the language; would love to learn
Tell us about your upbringing, where are you from; family background school and all?
I am the youngest of three girls; my sisters are 9 and 10 years my senior; both my folks are still in dbn; although I nag them to come visit as often as possible. I have three gorgeous nieces and one too cool for school.I come from a family that loves to be together, to have parties and to travel. They’ve always encouraged me to follow my dreams and never give up. I’m not biased but I do believe they are pretty much the best people in the world 🙂 especially my folks. Without them none of this would have been possible. I’m fully aware that I would not be here without them. Oh and they’re also pretty hip (is hip still a word? I’m not cool at all, I have no idea)
You also have a fiancé, does he endorse your career, is he also in the industry?
I am very blessed to have him, he supports me fully and thankfully he’s not in the industry. I can’t imagine what the stress would do to me!
What inspires you in an actor?
Stories, people’s experiences how we live and love and react to the wonderful stuff and the awful stuff. There’s a need in me to try and experience all of them and put it out there, hopefully show the truth of an emotion or a relationship dynamic and maybe if I’m lucky affect someone else by it. Life and death fascinate me. Why we are here and how we choose to live fascinates me.
What was your experience of acting on Muvhango and how does it differ from being on the High Rollers set?
Muvhango was on a set, built in the SABC building and multicam so it was very much a soapie vibe with the director and everyone in a box, the first A.D giving us directions. We had an enormous amount of scenes to get through in a day as a deadline. When High rollers started out, because we were on only on air three times a week we had time to discuss the characters, the story lines and really feel the scene. We did not shoot multicam and the directors were on set.
Once we moved onto 5 times a week, the pace did increase as did the work load, but we still try to create that which, any actor would love. You would never think it but it also makes a difference that we are in studios that lead out into the sun or the rain. Sometimes it poses a difficulty with shooting but it’s sill wonderful to get some fresh air if you want. But in both places I was very lucky to get on really well with cast and crew, which makes shooting and going to work everyday so much easier. You become a little family in a strange way.
What are the industry differences between JHB and Durban and how did you find transitioning between these two cities?
Dbn is definitely coming up in terms of films and television series, but when I lived there most of us did a lot of theatre and voice work; which was great as it gave you a good foundation. I really loved living in Durban and I thought I would not adjust well at all to JHB; the pace and the TRAFFIC!! But having my sister and her family here and also having High rollers welcome me with such open arms made the transition a lot easier than I expected. I won’t lie, I moved up just as winter was starting so I kept SOME wine to keep me warm 😉
In an interview you advised aspiring actors to keep busy, not depressed. How have you been able to stay true to these words?
With experience comes wisdom and the reason I said that is because; for a while I didn’t stay busy and I was very unhappy. As you grow up you realise that life is about balance and there are other parts of your soul that need feeding. Good food is also a great substitute :D,)
What is most rewarding about playing Danny?
Definitely the transition she is going through at the moment, with David King being her mentor. There are a few wonderful scenes that were a little intense but I had such mindful directors and Antony Coleman is the bomb.
Do you think there are enough challenging roles for Indian actors on screen?
I don’t think we have fully realised the potential in terms of good roles for Indian actors, but I know in Durban so many artists are creating their own work and I respect that and look forward to all the wonderful stories that will come out of these collaborations.
Do you watch yourself on television, if so, how do you critique yourself and what positive feedback do you whisper back?
I used to absolutely abhor watching myself and I still do but I have learnt it can really help you gain perspective on what was good and what can be improved. I think with any of us we all have to learn to be gentle with ourselves as our first thoughts are always what’s wrong or what looks bad. I also try to listen to my family as they are usually very encouraging.
If you could expand the business of acting, particularly on television, what would you add that you currently feel is lacking?
I think the SABC’S decision to add more local content is a fantastic opportunity for us to tell our stories. South Africa is so rich with diversity and we have so much to tell each other and so much we can learn from each other. We need to change the mindset that only international is great or worthy of watching. We have writers, poets, musicians, actors and artists in general who can inspire and entertain us right here, and we need to embrace that.
Where to from here?
If there is one thing this life has taught me: it is to not plan too heavily as it never works out according to that. Work hard, play, pray, love, try to pay it forward as much as you can, speak your truth and hopefully that will be enough for things to work out better than you could ever have imagined.