Local actress, funny master and a woman with a heart of gold, Maeshni Naicker, is progressively building her path to stardom. She is well-known for playing ‘Shanti Naidoo’ in the popular and locally produced movie, ‘Keeping up with the Kandasamys, and will soon hit your screens in The Kandasamys – The Wedding. Tabloid Newspapers sat with the phenomenal Naicker, who shared some insight into her busy life.

Tabloid Newspapers (TN):
Who is Maeshni Naicker, outside of acting?

Maeshni Naicker (MN):
I am Maeshni Naicker, a woman with a passion for theatre and production. It is hard to say, because theatre has always been a part of me since the age of 8-years-old, overall I am a down to earth individual who loves and appreciates the simple things in life.

TN: What are your fondest childhood memories?
MN: For me, I would definitely say the time I spent with my dad. Losing him was a huge loss for our family. He was the one who took me to drama school and enrolled me and four months later, he passed away. For the eight years that I knew my dad there were such wonderful memories. The tragic loss of my dad led me to abandoning my drama classes for a year until I was able to cope with his loss. My mum became our pillar of strength for my younger brother and sister and she single handedly grew us up into the individuals who we are today. After the year of abandoning classes, I got back into it and never looked back.

TN: How do you balance theatre/the film industry and family life?
MN: You know, in any career balancing both personal and professional life is so important. Being in this industry it is extremely stressful and sometimes you don’t have time for family. When I start shooting for The Kandasamys – The Wedding, I won’t see my family for five weeks because the shoots run for long hours. I am so grateful that I have an amazing support structure who understand my career and are ever-willing to check on how I am. Most of all, my mother is my biggest fan and my pillar of strength.

TN: Did you always have a love for production and how did you enter the film industry?
MN: As I started developing in drama and participating in skits in school and community programmes I became more involved and my love for theatre grew deeper and deeper. During my years at university, we had to do productions as part of our modules in order for us to pass. That is when I started to shape my acting career.

TN: What are some of the highlights of your career?
MN: There are quite a few highlights in my career. Getting the lead in Keeping up with the Kandasamys was definitely one of them. The audition process was really intense. I had to go through three phases of interviews and I went up against such talented individuals. When I received the call that I was chosen as the lead in the movie it was truly a thrilling experience for me. I must say the crowning moment for me would definitely be winning the Simon Mabhunu Sibela Award for best actress last month, it was a humbling yet exceptionally proud moment, all wrapped in one. The awards, which started in 2013, with the aim of promoting talent in KZN, is one night were stars from all categories come together to be honoured for their hard work and dedication to this industry.

TN: The film industry is extremely tough, what are the limitations you faced as an actress compared to an actor – and how have you overcome those challenges?
MN: You know, when you audition for whatever role in that category, one of the greatest challenges you face is that you come up against the very best in the industry and you always, always have to be in top form, and give off your very best. Males have more opportunities because I think it is easier for them to get any role. I went through so much in my life, that I always look to improve myself, to be a better person. With lots of time and patience you need to continue to build yourself to be better than before.

TN: What are some of the social ills in society that you are concerned about and are you involved in any projects?
MN: I currently own my own drama school, and for me that is building a child’s confidence, which I believe is so important in any child’s life. We are constantly reminding others to build their confidence and become comfortable in their own individuality. I feel that through drama they can achieve anything that they want, just through building their confidence. I work with the youth in that way, my aim is for a child who is a complete introvert to be able to say, ‘Hey, my name is Maeshni, and I study drama at UKZN’. They come to the drama classes shy and reserved and by the end of the year they are completely outspoken and bold. In terms of charity work, I contribute to any function, wherever and whenever I am able to do so. I don’t see religion, race, colour or anything of that sort. If someone comes up to me and needs my help, I am there, all hands in, ready to assist. Just recently I pampered the lovely ladies at the ABH homes for Women’s Day, so for me I’m a all-rounder. I help all cultural or age groups whatever the case maybe.

TN: Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years?
MN: I would absolutely love to see myself in a Hollywood movie. One of the woman who I admire is none other than Charlize Theron. She is a South African by heart who made it onto the world stage and worked with the very best stars in Hollywood. Hopefully, in the next 10 years I am one of those ladies who make it up there, alongside her.

TN: How do you think the film industry can change the mindsets of women in society?
MN: I played all sorts of roles throughout my career, all of which portrayed women in society who are go-getters, leaders, mothers, wives and so on. In doing so, I hope it shows that women are able to do anything and everything that they set their minds to. Most recently, my role in The Kandasamys as Shanti Naidoo, is your typical everyday woman, who is a supportive mother and wife, balancing her career takes on challenges that no one knows about but she does it all.

TN: Formal or casual?
MN: Casual

TN: Heels or sneakers?
MN: Sneakers

TN: Coffee or tea?
MN: Coffee

TN: What would you do if you were the only survivor in a plane crash?
MN: Firstly, I would say a prayer for all the families who lost their loved ones in the plane crash. Then obviously try and get some sort of help to get home.

TN: How would you sell hot cocoa in Florida?
MN: Oh my word, that is a tough one and I’m put on the spot, but I would say that I will sit on the beach – looking cute – and try my best not to break a sweat by sipping on hot cocoa and saying, ‘This is the most refreshing drink you will ever drink, don’t you want to try some?’.

TN: What is the best advice that you can offer to others?
MN: I would say, never give up. Keep persevering and know that good things come to those who work hard.