By Godwin Muzari
At the turn of the millennium, local soap “Studio 263” occupied a special place in most people’s television viewing priorities.
Celebrated as Zimbabwe’s first soap opera, the production popularised many faces that were not known in the film industry and took famous actors to new levels.
Names that were associated with the early days of “Studio 263” include Anne Nhira who played Vimbai Jari, Tatenda Mavetera (Tendai Jari), Joe Pike (Jacob Huni), Wilson Dylan Max (Kenge), Nevernay Chinyanga (Muvengwa), Tinopona Katsande (Joyce Huni), Denzel Burutsa (Jabu Jari) and Kizito Mawoko (Dread Welly).
The list is so long. A mere mention of characters like Wakanaka, Mai Huni, Shereni, Beverly, Tom Mbambo, Eve and Mudhara Danger still evokes interesting memories of the soap.
All members of the cast got their admirers and haters for the various ways in which they portrayed the characters on the screen.
One character who got viewers talking was Mai Madziva (played by Charity Dlodlo) who was a seasoned rumour monger. She was an architect of gossip and many women on the screen loved and believed her stories.
Her interactions with Mai Jari and Mai Huni always brought some anxious moments to viewers as she undressed other members of the “Studio 263” family.
Dlodlo played the character so well and faced the obvious danger of being labelled a gossiper in real life.
As she went down memory lane yesterday, the actress said she faced various challenges in her early days of acting on “Studio 263”, as some people failed to separate Mai Madziva from Charity Dlodlo.
She also spoke about how she landed the role in the soap without any previous acting experience, while others that had featured in previous productions failed auditions.
“Joining ‘Studio 263’ was like an accident to me. It happened unexpectedly and it had so much impact in my life. I am what I am today because of my role in Studio 263,” she said.
“It was only a challenge in the first days when people that realised me because of the role failed to differentiate between acting and real life. I often had to face comments like ‘mai vemakuhwa avo’ as people referred to me. It was annoying at first, but I later got used to it and people also seemed to discover that the person on the screen is different from me.”
It was in 2006 when she joined the soap after her cousin told her about auditions at “Studio 263”, which was the most popular production on local television that time.
“I was working at a school in Braeside as a swimming coach when my cousin told me about the auditions. ‘Studio 263’ was very popular and many people wanted to be associated with it. I had no acting background. I had not even done acting at school, but my cousin saw something in me. She encouraged me to go for the auditions and I did.”
When she got to the auditions in Mt Pleasant, she met popular faces of the soap like Pretty Xaba and Joe Pike. Her excitement went a level higher.
“These were people I watched on television and talking to them in real life brought so much excitement. Pretty was so good to me and she gave me confidence. We were given scripts and I mastered my lines within a few minutes. That is my advantage in life. I am good at grasping things in a short time. When we started the auditions others had scripts in their hands, but I had mastered the lines already. Even people who were conducting the auditions were surprised. I did the lines smoothly, but I was not sure if I had done the right thing. I felt I had done things the wrong way because everyone else was reading from the script. I went home dejected.”
She did not know that her confidence and capability to master the script had won her many points. The following day she went to work as usual and decided to forget about the auditions.
“I was busy with one of my best swimming classes when I received a call from Joe Pike. My heart jumped when he said I had been successful. They asked me to come for shooting immediately. I could not miss such a chance. I had to lie to the authorities at work that I was not feeling well and I went straight for shooting.”
That was how her three-year journey with “Studio 263” began and she relishes her time at the soap.
“We were like a family. I got along with many people in the cast. Sometimes the writers told us to come up with ideas for our episodes and that is how my experience in acting grew. I remember there was an episode when I visited Mai Huni and requested that she makes me some tea. When she went to the kitchen, I went through items in her lounge just to get some information to gossip about with other people. That was how Mai Madziva was hungry for gossip. It is a memorable scene because we put it together without the writer’s assistance.”
Dlodlo said some challenging moments came when characters changed. “There was a time when Mai Jari was replaced. I had developed a good screen relationship with the original actor and it was not easy to jell with the new face. Even the viewers noticed that something was not falling into its place, but we had to keep going until we got used to each other.
“Most of the time it was all fun at the soap until things began going bad due to various changes in administration and sponsorship. However, it was a great experience and it opened so many opportunities. I miss the days and every time I meet someone from the ‘Studio 263’ cast, we talk and laugh about the good days.”
After displaying her capacity on screen, Dlolo got roles in other productions that include “Legacies”, “The Zimbabwe I know”, “Lobola”, “Dirty Necklace” and “Revelation”.
She also did stage plays like “Sinners” and “365” while she has been involved in many short films.
Currently she features in ZTV production “Pedyo Kure” as Mai Chipanera. She is expected to work on other new productions soon.
Dlolo was born Charity Chinduta in Bulawayo on February 12, 1977. She is originally from Mtoko but she grew up in Bulawayo where her father was working.
She attended good schools including Victoria High and initially pursued creative professions like painting and designing before getting a job as a swimming coach. She left the job to pursue full time acting. She also does arts consultancy periodically.
She was married to Temba Dlodlo for 10 years before they separated. They have three children together and she says she has continued to use her ex-husband’s surname with his blessings. The Herald