Lorcia Cooper joins the judging panel on ‘Stand Up SA’
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The last time I interviewed Lorcia Cooper, she was getting her feet wet as Charmaine Jacobs, on e.tv’s pioneering youth drama, “Backstage” – circa the 2000s.
Two decades later, I am on the phone, calling the award-winning actress to chat about her latest project on SABC2.
I can’t believe it’s taken me this long to interview her, but I was glad to finally be doing so.
Of the 30-minute chat that we had, half of it was spent shooting the breeze.
We discussed Covid-19, family, work, and the recent heat she got on social media – after an old video of her lamenting the challenges of getting work in an industry that, to be fair, is notorious for pigeon-holing actors into typecast parts.
That part of the conversation was off the record and, as a mother and wife wanting to protect her family from negativity, her decision was perfectly understandable.
Before delving into her joining Kurt Darren and Kelly Khumalo on the judging panel of “Stand Up SA”, a new reality show presented by Dineo Langa, she caught me up on what’s been keeping her busy.
“It’s going really great. I’m on ‘The Estate’ on SABC3 (S3) at the moment. I play a cop. It’s great to be on free-to-air TV. And I’m grateful for the opportunity,” she said.
Of course, her role as Tyson on Mzansi Magic’s critically-acclaimed prison drama, Lockdown, has surprised many people. In 2019, she walked away with a Golden Horn at the Saftas, for her performance in season 2.
When I asked her if she viewed this part as a benchmark in her career, she paused before responding.
“That’s an interesting question,” she noted.
“I think it is a different stepping stone for me in my career. I definitely feel that playing Tyson was a turning point in my career.
“I think Charmaine on ‘Backstage’ was incredible because it opened up this whole new world for me, when I first started on television 21 years ago.
“With Tyson, I feel like people went, ‘Oh this girl can act’. But I’ve been doing this for so long.”
“How else would I have been able to pay my bills for over 20 years,” she laughed.
Last year, she also got noticed for her performance in M-Net’s compelling original drama series, “Still Breathing”.
Come to think of it, she’s been on an upward trajectory in her career with “Housekeepers” under her belt, too.
She pointed out, with unmistakable pride: “I got a nomination for a Safta for that, too, which was very cool.
“On that show, I really enjoyed the writing. I felt the concept was such a smart one. Every season of ‘Housekeepers’ brings a new family, a new set of circumstances. I love clever writing.”
She continued: “I love that I got to play Mkhonto.
“I’m a coloured woman and my name was that of a black woman. I found that so beautiful.
“Again, it wasn’t about casting for a certain race. It was casting for the role. I will always have such gratitude for that.”
If, like me, you thought “Stand Up SA” was about comedians, think again.
Cooper first took me through how the opportunity presented itself.
“I basically got a call saying: ‘Would you like to be a part of this show?’ I had done Showville on SABC2, which is a show that goes around to smaller communities, that don’t necessarily have the resources or the infrastructure to audition for shows like ’Idols’, because they audition for big cities.
“Outside of the big cities, there are small communities that cannot really access that kind of opportunity. ‘Showville’ travelled around the country, auditioned people and, in the end, there was a winner,” said Cooper.
She was also a mentor and choreographer on M-Net’s reality show, “High School Musical: Spotlight South Africa”, and a judge on kykNET’s “Dans! Dans! Dans!”
Cooper pointed out: “Going into a show like ‘Stand up SA’ felt like a natural transition. Second, it will surprise people, as I’m not known as a singer.
“I think it is more about choosing a voice, choosing people who have stage presence and chemistry.
“I think that’s the element I bring, where I’m looking at how this can be packaged as a beautiful act and something that will blow people away.”
Where this format stands out from other singing reality shows, it’s about singing duos, who are family. And the audience has the power to outvote the judges, too.
This is the first time she’s working with the legendary Darren and Khumalo, who dropped her “The Voice of Africa” album last year.
“They are undeniable within both their genres. So I was working with two giants in the music industry,” she added.
“They are superstars. Just to see the passion they bring to their craft was so incredible. I enjoyed my time with them so, so much. Their feedback is fair and concise,” said Cooper.
In summing up why viewers should tune in, Cooper said: “I think coming out of Covid-19, we realise we’ve had to spend a lot of time at home with our families, with loved ones or friends.
“We spent a lot of time indoors. A show like ‘Stand up SA’ shows what, we, as a family, can achieve and do together.”
Aside from her current small screen commitments, she’s also studying again, but she didn’t want to reveal more until she has that certificate in hand.
Cooper’s passion for her craft is unmistakable. And rather than get embroiled in pointless debates on social media, she prefers to have her work settle such disputes.
“Stand Up SA” airs on SABC2, on Sundays at 6.30pm.