Adulting Season 2 has just launched on Showmax, with new episodes arriving every Monday until 26 February 2023. The boys are back, including Hunk of The Year Feather Award winner Thembinkosi Mthembu (Outlaws, Shaka iLembe, The River) as Bonga, Nhlanhla Kunene (The River, Lavish) as fan-favourite Eric, Thabiso Rammusi (The Suit) as Mpho, and Luthando BU Mthembu (Big Brother Mzansi) as Vuyani, named GQ’s Best Dressed On Screen Personality earlier this year.
Xabiso Ngqabe caught up with Nhlanhla to find out more about his experiences on the 18LSDVN Showmax Original, which set a new record in Season 1 for the most first-day views on Showmax of any drama series – well ahead of Emmy nominees like The Last Of Us, Succession and The White Lotus.
Eric was without doubt the breakout character in Adulting Season 1. Were you surprised at the amount of love your character received?
I was shocked. I initially thought the attention would be on Bonga because Thembinkosi is an amazing actor and the typical preference in South African storytelling is for characters with money and glamorous lives. So I was shocked when people started embracing Eric, and that even women found him appealing, despite his rough, ghetto background. I didn’t expect it at all.
You mentioned that you spent most of your character research time in the hood studying people like Eric. What has the response to Season 1 been like from the people you were studying?
They feel very proud because I’ve somewhat become their voice. Society has crippled us as men, making us believe that we can’t openly speak about how we feel because we constantly have to be strong. It’s been amazing because there’s lots of people who come to me and say ‘what you’re portraying is exactly what I’m going through’. When I meet people, they tell me about how they relate to his story. It’s an honour for me and I really appreciate the fact that I’m able to heal a lot of people through this character.
Your father-daughter relationship with Ncumisa is part of that appeal. How did you make that chemistry authentic?
I think it’s because when I see her, I see my sister’s kid. My sister has a kid but she’s a bit younger than Ncumisa. That’s why it was naturally easy for me.
How would you describe Eric as a father in Season 2?
Season 2 is quite a journey! The stage Ncumisa is in right now, going through her teenage years, contributes to it. Eric is entering uncharted territory as a father. He finds himself unsure of how to navigate fatherhood while raising a teenage girl. It’s an intense emotional journey that places Eric in a situation where he truly needs to show up as a father. You can be a gangster in the streets and do all sorts of things, but then you go home and you are required to be a father. Having to find a balance between the two posed a challenge but it was beautiful.
Eric does a lot of parenting this season. What did that part of the story teach you about fatherhood?
It taught me that fatherhood is not easy – especially when the mother is not around. Now you’re a single father to a girl child and there are things you find it hard to talk about. It also taught me there’s no formula to parenting.
What are you most excited about for this season?
It’s a lot!
More than anything, I’m looking forward to seeing the relationship with the gents. This season promises a lot of banter, and the exciting things we get up to as the gents. It’s going to be so beautiful to see it on screen.
I’m also excited to see how the people are going to view Eric’s bond with his daughter and their reaction to the fact that he now has a girlfriend.
In Podcast and Chill with Mac G you mentioned that you believe in soul ties, especially when it comes to intimacy. In Adulting, there are a lot of sex scenes. How do you stay true to your values and spirituality while working on a project like this?
I believe that when you work with someone and you start seeing her as a girlfriend, it can be a problem. Your co-star may have a boyfriend or a husband, so before anything – whether performing a scene or stepping onto set – you must channel your mind and say, “I’m here to work.” Once you establish that, you’ll then understand that whatever we’re doing is storytelling. It’s also important to be respectful, so you don’t end up compromising the story.
Looking at Eric, what are some of the things you’ve learnt from his story as a man?
Playing Eric has taught me that when you want something, do it for yourself. Don’t send other people. Whatever you want, own up and be a man.
That’s one of the lines Eric said on Season 1, right?
“I’m a man!” Yes, when you’re a man you stand up for yourself. You have to deal with challenges head on.
Your character is so complex and dark. After the first season ended, how did you shed Eric to tap back into uNhlanhla?
De-rolling is hard and important to do because you pick up traits from your character. A lot of people ask me if I smoke, because people see me doing something that is so believable on screen. Before I engage with the story, I sit down and remind myself that I am Nhlanhla from Emnambithi and I speak and portray Eric from Tembisa. Every day when I walk off set, I don’t carry the spirit of the character with me. The danger is that I might end up doing the things that the character does. Acting is psychological and very spiritual.
Where’s Eric’s state of mind as the season begins?
His mindset right now is more in healing the loss of his baby mama and finding the way forward. How he does it is through a woman, and a toxic woman. But deep down he’s not there. That’s all I can say for now.
Why should people watch this season?
Why wouldn’t they watch? (Laughing.) Besides the entertainment and the banter, there’s real stories. When the gents are together it’s banter, but when they get to be alone that’s where the real issues come. Adulting tackles issues that a lot of people are going through right now. People will get to watch and learn not to go through the same mistakes the guys do. Watching it will be healing and a reflection for a lot of peop