Music, Acting, Presenting….he does it all in the entertainment industry in South Africa, and he does it well. We chat to Raphael Griffiths about his life, being African and of course Politics. He was such a pleasure to chat to. Read through and enjoy!
Kiki: I’ve known you as an Actor and Presenter, but then I got the shock of my life when I heard that you also sing?
Raphael: Yeah, I do Poetry and Rap. Actually I started rapping when I was 12years old. That’s way before the Acting and the Presenting. I always had aspirations of making it big in the music industry. That’s always been my journey.
Kiki: So when you were growing up you knew you were going to be in the public eye?
Raphael: I definitely knew I was going to be in music. I didn’t know about the Acting and the Presenting but Music I was very sure.
Kiki: How did the Acting and the Presenting come about?
Raphael: It’s a crazy story. It was years back when I saw a Y Mag with Andile Ncube, Sizwe Dhlomo and Lungsta on the cover. I was inspired. That’s the first cover that made me think of TV Presenting. With that said, my dream was to be on MTV Base, I didn’t want to be just any TV Presenter, I wanted to be an MTV Base Presenter.
Kiki: Oh! Why specifically MTV Base?
Raphael: I love music. So I wanted to make sure that all that I do is at least aligned to music. I wanted to be part of a music channel. I felt like MTV Base or Channel O were exactly what I needed. Anyway, one day I saw an advert on SABC 2, and they were looking for Presenters. I remember I was very late for the auditions, and I was number 800 and something.
Kiki: Number 800? And you still went through with the audition?
Raphael: It was packed. I was one of the last people to audition. At that point I just wanted to get it over and done with. I then lost my phone that had the number I had put on the audition sheet. At the back of my mind I wasn’t bothered because I had told myself that they weren’t gonna call. To my surprise, I saw an advert on SABC 2; ‘Have You Seen Raphael?’
Kiki: So they were looking for you through TV? Are you serious?
Raphael: They ran a promo on SABC 2 looking for me. I didn’t have an Agent so there was no other way they could have located me at the time because I had lost my phone. That’s when it started feeling right. I felt like it was meant to be. They could have gone with somebody else when they couldn’t get hold of me, but they did not. They looked for me instead. Jesus had opened the door that no one could close.
Kiki: That’s very true. If something is meant for you it will be yours no matter what. Moving on to the acting side. I am assuming it wasn’t as dramatic as the Presenting?
Raphael: I had auditioned for the role of Spha on Muvhango which Phila Mazibuko was cast for. At that time I was still the Q-Base guy,and loving presenting. I thought acting wasn’t cool, to me it was for old people. Hahahaha back then I was all about doing things that were cool for me. So when I lost the Spha job to Phila, I didn’t care. It didn’t bother me one bit because I was presenting at the time and also had my own show called Music Moves Me. I didn’t need acting.
Kiki: You basically opened up the industry then….Hahahaha
Raphael: Sadly, they decided to make Hectic 99 an hour, which means there was no slot for us continuity presenters. So Q-Base 28 had to end. What genius came up with that idea?, I don’t know, but I think it was a bad idea because a lot of people lost jobs. Not only did I lose Q-Base, I lost the music show too. A whole lot of other productions lost out because that bulk of a budget went to the guys from Hectic 99. In 2012, I started pushing my music and going for auditions but I wasn’t getting anything.
Kiki: How long were you jobless?
Raphael: I’d say the whole of 2012. I was surviving on my savings but the savings started deteriorating. Then in 2013, I got a call from the guys of Muvhango telling me about a role they thought would suit me. I saw the brief and it seemed like a character I could play but I had never thought for acting before. So I went through to the auditions. It was like 10x of back and forth with call backs and at the end I got the part. The next day I started shooting. My first day on the job and I had 12 scenes.
Kiki: What’s the hardest part when it comes to acting? Is it the call times? How much time do you spend on set?
Raphael: If the storyline revolves around you then you are in trouble because you have to be there like 24/7 and be able to shoot 15 scenes. Your emotional continuity has to be on point because sometimes they don’t shoot in sequence. They can shoot the scene where someone dies and then shoot it when they are alive, your emotions change and you have to be able to master that. For someone that was new into acting I didn’t know how to do that.
Kiki: OMG! How did you manage?
Raphael: It was through the help I got from the cast. Sindi Dlathu (the lady that plays my mother) was a great help. I’d also say she’s the one I get along with the most on set.
Kiki: Now you are all in. Music, Presenting, Acting…How did your parents feel about your choice to be in the entertainment industry?
Raphael: My mum has always trusted my judgement. Initially I wanted to do Politics Philosophy and Economics. During school days I was a Head Boy and I was part of all the other things/events that made me see myself in politics. It was my dream to join a party and work in government. Hehehehe, the Entertainment industry just took over and my mum understood because she knew I had always loved music. She saw it coming.
Kiki: Was there ever a time when you wanted to just give up and go find a 9-5 instead?
Raphael: It was when I started acting. Those first scenes put me through a lot. I was never an actor, so I had to learn, and I learnt in front of 7 million people every day. And they can be brutal. I dealt with a lot;
- How did he get that job……?
- He’s such a bad Actor……..
- Just because he’s a yellow bone…..
- They need to fire him…….
Kiki: Oh Lord! Was the negativity that bad?
Raphael: I almost quit. It was just too much. I went through hell for almost 2 years. I’m sure till today there are some people that are still holding on to it. I made a decision not to defend myself because I knew that I wasn’t Denzel Washington. Instead, I chose to focus on improving. I started attending acting workshops, I had to learn Venda….and that was all me. I put that on myself. I was attending different acting classes and had different coaches just to better myself. So if today someone can say to me that I am a bad actor and I haven’t improved from when I started then they’ll be lying. I have improved a lot and I am still learning. Leonardo DiCaprio still goes to acting classes, so who are we?
Kiki: Damn, you’ve been through a lot. Let’s switch gears a bit. What do you think of the Entertainment industry in South Africa?
Raphael: I’d say there is the glamorous side of it, and then there is the facade side of it, where it’s make believe. The glamorous side of it is basically the people that have made it to the top. People like Cassper Nyovest, Bonang Matheba, Sizwe Dhlomo…those are people that get all the endorsement deals, and sponsorships, nice cars and nice money. Then we have people in the middle, who are just there. They are still getting their money, still living well, and they are OK. And then you have those people that are at the bottom, who are just living a façade. They are not at the level of Bonang, they would like to be, but they act like they are. Yet they are not earning half of what Bonang is earning. I mean we can’t all be Somizi right now. He’s buying houses for R6million, some of us don’t even have R600 000 in our bank accounts.
Kiki: You are preaching right now. I love it! Speaking of money. You are considered as a sex symbol by the girls. Now tell me, how do you handle Fame, Women and Money?
Raphael: Gosh! I wish there was a handbook for every black child that gets into the world of fame. Even our sports stars need that book. It gets tricky to be honest. I think I have managed to handle it because I am from a Christian family. And also finding stable relationships in your life helps a lot. That’s the only way you can handle that. I’ve been through it, I’ve made a few mistakes. The one thing that’s not nice, is going for an HIV test. It’s scary and you tell yourself you messed up once, you learn from it and you never wanna go through that again. Some people learn when it’s too late. I am blessed that I learnt early.
Kiki: And the money? Is it there?
Raphael: The money is there but it’s never enough for the lifestyle that we want to live, especially if you are working for someone. One needs to be clever. You can’t expect to live 365 days a year while you’re being paid 12x a year. That’s impossible.
Kiki: Let’s leave the Entertainment industry and focus on our Africanism. I heard that you have Zambian blood? Can you tell us more about that? Our publication is mainly about Africa and its people. So you are a perfect subject.
Raphael: Yes, I am half Zambian. My dad is Zambian. He is from Kitwe. Some of my family is still there in Zambia. Some have married guys from Botswana, some are married to Namibians, and some are married to Zimbabweans, others to Malawians.
Kiki: You are not just South African or Zambian, you are an African child.
Raphael: My great grandma from my father side, was originally Portuguese. She had a bit of Angolan descent. They moved to Zambia, and that’s how my grandma came about. She married a Zambian man, and that’s how my Dad came about. My Dad married a Zulu woman and that’s how I came about. I am an African. It’s a nice mix.
Kiki: With that said, what do you think us Africans have in common besides being African?
Raphael: I would have said we have the spirit of brotherhood, but then half of me comes from the most xenophobic country in Africa. Maybe if we say what we as Africans have in common excluding South Africa – we have brotherhood.
Kiki: You had to take it there? Oh Lawd!
Raphael: I am serious. People used to criticise my mum for having a child with a foreign man. There was too much talking and unnecessary criticism. We are very xenophobic here. With the latest anti Nigerian marches, we don’t have jobs marches, and they blame it all on foreigners. Really?? A Malawian tailor doesn’t own land here. The people that own land here are the Afrikaans people, so you guys are channeling your anger wrongly.
Kiki: That is actually true.
Raphael: If someone from Somalia can pass all these countries, come to your neighbourhood and still open a Spaza Shop, what was stopping you from doing it? Then you loot the Spaza Shop, take all the stuff, and then you don’t open a new one? I don’t get the mentality behind that at all. Even the new Home Affairs Minister said something like; our immigration laws are going to be tightened even though South Africa is deemed anti African. If mentality like that is coming from our high officials then nothing will change.
Kiki: I read a lot of publications from other African countries and most of the times there is a lot of negativity about South Africa and I believe it’s all because of the Xenophobia. That is where all the anger and hate comes from.
Raphael: I don’t blame them to be honest. Even when I was growing up, I was scared to tell people that I’m half Zambian. I’d ask myself; ‘If I told these people I’m half Zambian, would you love me the same way you love me now? Or would you think this Kwerekwere is here taking our jobs? Or would you put a burning tyre on my neck too?’ I don’t know. That’s why I couldn’t say anything. Even though I was born here and my whole life is here, I still felt uncomfortable. I think what a lot of South Africans need to do is travel to other countries. SA people don’t travel to other provinces let alone other countries. Travelling opens your mind. When you see how people receive you in their countries, then you’ll be able to receive other people in your country. South Africa has ‘separated’ itself, it’s like we are the New York of Africa. I’d say out of over 50 countries in Africa, only 4 of them are Xenophobic.
Kiki: I know Egypt is bad.
Raphael: I’d say South Africa, Egypt, Morocco and Algeria.
Kiki: Algeria?? I didn’t know. You see why I said you are a good subject here? I am learning more and more about Africa from you.
Raphael: Those guys are up there at the top. To get a visa to go to Morocco is like trying to get a visa to go the USA. It’s a nightmare.
Kiki: This is another thing that I don’t understand. Why do we need visas to enter other African countries? Can’t we just be one happy family like those Schengen countries?
Raphael: You guys killed Gaddafi when he was saying we need to make Africa great. He wanted Africa to be one and to have one currency that was going to be gold driven.
Kiki: Eish, I remember his mission to accomplish The United States of Africa plan.
Raphael: Yes….then they killed him and Africans celebrated. We had a new AU President that took over and I thought she was going to take over from what Gaddafi did, but she did nothing. She was silent as a church mouse. Let me stop, I am getting political.
Kiki: I am not complaining trust me. I am enjoying this conversation because it shows the other side of you. You’re not just a ‘pretty boy’, you are very smart and intelligent. The world needs to know that. If one day they see you running for President they shouldn’t ask; ‘How did he get there?’ Hahahaha.
Raphael: I can’t get political right now because I won’t stop.
Kiki: Ok going back to travelling, of all the African countries you’ve been to, which one would you say was the best? SA and Zambia aside.
Raphael: I’d say Botswana. I went to visit my Aunt in Gaborone and I had an amazing time. The people there were very friendly to me, very welcoming and the girls….OMG!! Very hot girls.
Kiki: You’re a typical guy. You had to talk about the girls. It’s a known fact, Batswana women are very beautiful. Now tell me about your local and international crush?
Raphael: (laughs) There are a lot of Instagram girls these days. Damn! Ok, internationally let me say Justine Skye. Locally, I say it with all due respect because she’s now married and has a child, it’s Nandi Madida. Eish, I hope I don’t get into trouble.
Kiki: Nah, you are allowed to crush. It’s natural. I’ve kept you here for far too long so let’s wrap. My last question to you is; The day God decides to call you home, what would like to be remembered as? What would you like to leave behind?
Raphael: I would like people to think of me as a humble soul.
Kiki: Ncooooooo!! Are you a humble soul though?
Raphael: I’d like to believe so. However, I do have my arrogant days. But then again life happens. Something happened to me recently and it just humbled me. It made me realise that what you have can be taken away from you, but what you are can never be taken away from you. I could lose this job, I could lose these clothes, I could lose all the money, but I’ll still be Raphael.
That’s a mouthful right there. Thank you so much for the great chat Raphael. You are such a fun person, very open minded, very smart and yes, you are Humble.