Youngins lead actress Ayakha Ntunja on her new role

Ayakha Ntunja’s breakthrough began in 2023, when she played the role of Thembi in Season 3 of MTV Shuga Down South. Fast-forward to 2024 and the 20-year-old joins the cast of teen drama series Youngins.

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The rising star plays the role of Amo Mosweu, a sweet, determined girl from a rural town in KwaZulu-Natal. Amo is smart, beautiful and seems to know exactly what she wants out of life. That is, until she gets to Olifantsfontein High School, where an unexpected experience gains her new friends and a different perspective on life.

Here’s what Ayakha had to say about her role and experience in Youngins S1.

What attracted you to this project? 

What I would say attracted me to the show would be the fact that I wanted to work on a project that is youth based and that all of us wanted to work. We all wanted to put our all into it and we gave our best. I feel like that’s exactly why I got into Youngins and I couldn’t be happier. I fell in love with the different storytelling, something I haven’t seen on screen. I like the fact that we were going to give a whole new perspective to high school life, opening the industry and giving chances to unknown talent. For instance, I’ve never led a story before and I hope people can resonate with that..

What was the most difficult part of filming?  

The most difficult part of filming was the long hours on set and just balancing my life around that. But that helped me stay on top of my game and to be prepared for anything. Working on this project has been a beautiful experience. I’ve been enjoying it so far and there haven’t been any significant difficulties, just continuous learning processes.

Tell us one thing you did for the first time when it comes to filming this project? 

I think this was the first project where I really needed to learn how to de-role from my character. With Amo I had to immerse myself so much into her world, so I then had to understand the dynamics between Amo and Aya. While I’ve always known how to step into other characters and give my all, I never learned how to truly separate myself from them. With Amo I had to learn how to separate myself from her because I found myself constantly thinking about everything else that happened throughout the day, but I could tell that it wasn’t me.

When I was able to de-role properly, I learned to perceive Amo as an individual, inviting her in when getting into character and then disconnecting from her identity, story and experiences when I got home. This process not only helped me understand Amo but also provided a lot of clarity about myself as well. It allowed for balance and to view Amo’s story from various perspectives, questioning her emotions and actions at different moments.

What kept you excited about this season?

The storyline! Everytime I received a new script, I was shocked and intrigued and kept wondering “What are we doing now?” 

Playing this role took me out of my comfort zone, and I believe it does the same for Amo. I am learning alongside her, making this season both exciting and endearing. Trust me when I say we do not know what’s happening next; it continues to shock us. I’m genuinely excited about the unpredictability of the storyline.

Do you think you have anything in common with your character and what are the big differences?

Amo is very different from me right now but very similar to me back when I was in high school. I think I was someone who really had my goals intact and really knew what I wanted in life but just didn’t have the grit and the confidence in myself to achieve those things. So a lot of the times when you see Amo falling into some situations, I was like that too and you only learn afterwards that some things could have been handled differently. But she has a bigger fight on her hands and I think that’s the big thing with Amo. Her story might be different but her little personas and ways of handling situations was a bit similar to me but she’s different to me because now I know where I am in life and have a bit of a confident streak.

Why should audiences watch?  

I believe that this show will entice you from every angle. It gives an exciting storyline, incredible actors, and moments where you’re drawn into the characters which allows you to understand where they’re coming from. 

I feel like we’ve put in a lot of hard work to create a beautiful story, aiming to convey that we’re having fun, we’re young, and there’s excitement in the air. However, I also believe that we are educating our audience along the way. There are some deeply profound storylines that will resonate with certain viewers, storylines we have handled with care. It’s a testament to our commitment to continue fighting for people. I am excited to watch the show and I genuinely hope everyone else is too. I think you should tune in because – why not? It’s been a while since I’ve seen a show like this on our screens, and it’s great to experience how it feels, what it looks like, and the filming experience has been amazing too. It will undoubtedly look incredible.

What makes this project special and unique?

I would say it’s because this is my first lead role, and it has truly been a journey of learning and experience. The pressure is intense, but I’m having fun with it, and I’m thrilled to finally give my all. What’s unique about this project is how we have come together to create magic. We are committed to producing something that people can watch years down the line, something they can watch over and over again because it’s that good. I am excited to see it all come together.

What was your favourite thing about the locations the scenes were filmed at?

I loved the scenes at Amo’s home. It provided valuable insights and background into where she came from, physically showing her home and where she grew up. When I returned from shooting those scenes, it made sense for me to incorporate that understanding into my actions or keep it in the back of my mind. Knowing Amo’s roots helped me comprehend why she does the things she does. The various locations have been amazing and fun. We also love the school setting; it’s an incredible school. Overall, we’ve had a lot of fun at the different locations.

When did you know you wanted to become an actor/actress?

I actually fell into acting, theatre to be specific, by mistake. A friend of mine dragged me into an audition and said listen, we just need to fill a role. From there I fell in love with the space, the environment and by the time I knew, I was convincing my dad I want to go to NSA and I was like, this is what I want to do, I want to create art, I want to create movies and want people to watch me, even if it’s just one person. It might sound cliche but I feel like it was a moment when I started knowing that this can change people’s perspectives on a lot of things.

Catch Ayakha Ntunja in her lead role as Amo in YounginsS1, now streaming on Showmax with three new episodes streaming every Thursday.

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