Looking rather sharp and poised and capable of tackling criminals to the ground, Mbuli has a physique that is a considerable departure from some of the lady cops who work for the Metro Police. Former police commissioner Bheki Cele once spoke of the dire need for officers to get themselves fit and mentioned that the crop during his tenure was not up to scratch.
The infamous “stomach in chest out” motivational mantra seems not to have had the desired effect, and now the arts must foot the bill.
Mbuli stars in a new e.tv cop drama series Traffic, with Mbuli’s aggressive cop character recalling, in some ways, a famous video game heroine.
“My character Lungi Mlaba is definitely a far cry from the cops, especially the female ones that we see in Joburg,” laughs Mbuli.
“I have to do a lot of running and chasing and tackling bad guys, which is something that you do not see every day in real life. Lungi is dressed like Lara Croft, and perhaps this role might work out well from a PR perspective in terms of the way the public relates to our cops. American and British police dramas paint their force as a unit that is dedicated and heroic.
“They make sure that the public views them as heroes who are determined to maintain law and order. My character is similar in a way, because she is really determined to maintain peace and order and is so dedicated to her job that it sometimes hampers her personal life. It will be good for the public to see cops like her.”
Traffic deals with the underbelly of Cape Town, particularly drug trafficking and human trafficking. Mbuli and Bongo Mbutuma play detectives Lungi Mlaba and Songezo Sibanda. The pair want to ensure that victims of crime are given the same treatment, regardless of their social standing.
They approach their work in a complimentary manner, with Detective Sibanda as the pragmatist who takes a more objective view to crime and Mlaba the one who, though objective, tends to get her emotions entangled in cases. They both have the responsibility of ensuring that in the course of duty, they do not burn out due to the high demands of policing Cape Town.
According to Mbuli, her character is unlike her in many ways, underlining that she is playful and easygoing offscreen. Mbuli has grown and developed into a respected leading lady in dramas and international films such as Catch A Fire, Invictus and Blinded Angels.
“This show is challenging on many levels, especially the physicality aspect,” Mbuli continues.
“Lungi has had it rough growing up because she’s had to take care of her siblings from a very young age. I have never played a character like this one before so that brought along its own set of challenges. There was no frame of reference for me in terms of productions in this country. Lungi is a very distinct character and her strength is always shining.
“The key thing about my approach was to make sure that her personality beyond being a police officer was always evident. I liked that both her strength and emotional vulnerability are showcased instead of her being one-dimensional.”
Mbuli plays a completely different character in Rockville, where she portrays a spoiled and stylish but ultimately tough lady of leisure. She had to make adjustments when it came to portraying Lungi.