Why Lockdown's Lorcia Cooper doesn't need Hollywood

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An accomplished actress, dancer, choreographer, talent-show judge and national treasure in the arts, Lorcia Cooper chats to Linda Mzamane about her career, family and patriotism.

Lorcia Cooper for Mzansi Magic shoot

What sparked your love of dancing?

When I was about nine years old, my dance teacher Debbie Turner used to drive 35km to come and fetch me – just so I could attend dance lessons. It impacted me so greatly because it’s one thing to have talent but it’s another to have someone to support your talent; it made me see something in myself. If she didn’t drive that distance for me, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Debbie runs the Cape Academy of Performing Arts and is a judge on Strictly Come Dancing.

How does dancing make you feel?

Dance is a form of healing. When I struggle to articulate how I am feeling, dance helps me work through it – it’s an escape; some people meditate, but I dance. Dance was my way out and up. I developed a programme called Life Skills Through Dance, which teaches discipline, self-belief, punctuality and going beyond your limits. As a dance teacher, being able to add value to kids is also a form of healing, as it reminds me that I need to be those things myself. I want to give back what dance has given me. I’m not teaching kids so that they can win competitions; I want them to feel whole in every other area of their lives. Dance is a medium to shift thinking and habits.


What about South African dancers makes them most unique?

Africa as a whole is a big part of the history of dance. It forms part of many cultures. Every tribe has their dance tradition; there is an ownership of rhythm and expression. Dance is something that brings us together as a diverse people.

Lorcia Cooper for Mzansi Magic shoot

You’re also a highly accomplished actress. What is your ultimate acting dream?

The typical dream for most actors is to make it to Hollywood and perhaps win an Oscar. I don’t have that aspiration. I act because I love it; I love telling stories that aren’t mine, and honouring the people who the stories belong to. I’ve been typecast as the pretty coloured girl for a long time in the industry so I was very grateful when my role as Tyson on Lockdown came about because I finally got to play something ‘other’ than what I’m used to. I like losing myself in a character. I like going into a role and blowing myself away. I aspire to create my own content to assist in telling stories that represent my people. I am in the process of doing that already. Coloured people are more than just about guns, drugs and alcohol, as is often portrayed on screens.

In what ways do you identify with your character Tyson in the critically acclaimed show Lockdown?

In season one I learned that women do what they have to do to protect the people they love, as Tyson did for her brother. In that [prison] environment, you’re either the puppet or the puppet master. And that’s very much the case in real life too; I had to ask myself which one I am. Tyson acts really tough but is easily breakable. We tend to judge people who look tough, but in reality they are that way to survive. In the second season Tyson was raped, adding another aspect to the story altogether. This hit home to me in real life because this is the reality for so many women. My work is about making an impact and making a difference, and I’d like to believe I am doing that in the role I play in Lockdown.

Lorcia Cooper Lockdown Mzansi Magic
Lorcia Cooper as Tyson in Lockdown  

How do you juggle work and motherhood?

Being a mom is my biggest role. There is no greater part to play. If there were an award for being a mom, I would be gunning for it. That’s the Oscar I want! I have a 13 and an 11 year old. It’s important for me to be able to tune out of my roles at work in order to be a mom when I get home. But it’s got to be a conscious decision. The first thing I do when I get home is shower; it’s my way of physically changing roles.

What do you love the most about South Africa?

I’ve been travelling around SA looking for talent for Showville and what’s beautiful is the warmth of our people no matter where we go. Also, the fact that we can equally express ourselves is an amazing thing. There is openness for different sexualities; there is a celebration and an embrace of difference. South Africa is becoming a global brand; we are working and travelling abroad and making a mark globally. I also love our country’s natural beauty and abundance. If you want mountains, you go there; if you want the sea, you go there. We have everything. South Africa is moving confidently towards knowing that it has something to offer, and I love that.

Catch Lorcia as a judge on Showville weekly on SABC 2 and as Tyson on Lockdown on Mzansi Magic (DStv channel 161).

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