Mastering Versatility: Interview With Actress Diana Masters

Versatility is a talent honed by very few- and that list has Zimbabwean-born actress Diana Masters on it.

Masters has starred in numerous theatre and film work and manages to stun all the time. In theatre, she starred in Jenny Kandenge’s Ominous, The Nuthouse by Lloyd Winini, For Colored Girls written by Ntozake Shange and directed by Jenny Kandenge and Three Sisters by Bret Kamwi, including various UNAM productions. In film, Masters guest-starred in Untiled: The Web Series and most recently she featured in Lloyd Winini’s thrilling short film, Sacred Place.

Masters was born and raised in Zimbabwe and came to Namibia in 2014 for tertiary education, enrolled into university at the age of 16 and majored in Media Studies and Drama at the University of Namibia (UNAM).

Before acting, Masters was mostly into modelling and competed in a few pageants after being scouted at the age of 11. As modelling was not her biggest passion and she focused on acting.

Apart from showbiz, Masters has an interest in sports. She was selected to be in the Zimbabwe Juniors Volleyball team however, she left Zimbabwe before she got a chance to represent the country in any competitions.

Namib Insider! talks to Masters on her acting career.

When did you fall in love with acting?
I don’t believe there is a specific time when I fell in love with it. I have always been passionate about acting and I was in the drama and theatre clubs in primary school and high school, however, studying drama in university did intensify my love for acting because I got to know all the ins and outs of acting and I realized there was more to acting than what people think.

Which do you like more, film acting or stage acting?
This is a difficult one because I love both. The reason I say this is because both forms of acting have elements that I prefer and elements that are challenging. When it comes to characterization, I would say I prefer stage acting more because with stage acting, once you are on stage, you are that character from the time you start your performance to the time the curtain closes, whereas with film acting, its easy to break character because of the many cuts, takes and breaks. However, this can also be an advantage because if you forget your line, you have a chance to redo it, whereas, with stage acting, there are no do-overs, you have one shot to impress and captivate the audience. Either way, I get to do what I love and I get to bring a script and character to life and that is more than enough for me.

As a young female actor yourself, what would you say is the biggest illusion you would shatter for young female actors starting today, especially in the local industry?
A lot of people starting or those who aren’t really in the industry think it’s easy to get jobs, when in fact it’s not. So, no matter how good you think you are, it’s not easy to get a gig, especially in Namibia where the industry is small, you will always compete with someone, it could be a veteran actor or a newbie who has something directors haven’t seen before. So never relax and think that you are automatically guaranteed a job because you think you are great, you constantly have to work hard to prove yourself. Also, in this industry, everyone is replaceable, so always give all you got to every gig you get.

I have seen you in three productions, Ominous, For Coloured Girls, Three Sisters and now most recently in Lloyd’s Sacred Places and I loved all those performances. How do you prepare for a role, do you have any pre-performance rituals or are you just that good?
Thank you! Well, when it comes to preparing for a role, I put my all into it. So, the preparation itself is a whole process. First of all, I have to study the character that I am portraying, which means coming up with a back story for the character (if one is not given), analyzing the 5 levels of characterisation, studying the script to figure out my character’s motivation for each scene and then studying the feelings of my character in each scene as this also helps in remembering my lines. Before each performance, I always make sure to meditate to get into the right headspace and to become my character and then I say a quick prayer.

What have you learned from the directors that you have worked with throughout your career?
That understanding your character is key to you nailing your performance. You need to know your character as you know yourself. If you dig deep into your character, you can portray things that are not written in the script because a director can not do everything for you. You have to do the work as an actor and meet your director halfway. Don’t let the director do all the work for you because you will not enjoy the process.

What’s challenging about bringing a script to life?
­For me, understanding the character is quite challenging, because the way you portray a character determines whether or not the audience understands what you were trying to put across, as characters are easily misinterpreted.

What are your weak points when it comes to acting? How do you try to improve them?
Crying on cue. This is my weakest point, especially when it comes to film acting due to the several takes and cuts. I am however learning to be more vulnerable and using some of the pain that I, as Diana have felt to tap more into that emotional side.

Who are your current Influences?
Danai Gurira, a Zimbabwean woman who, not only managed to make a name for herself in Hollywood but also represents Zimbabwe and Southern Africa. Her role in Black Panther is truly inspiring and proves that hard work pays indeed as one can also accomplish amazing things.

What was the one movie you saw that made you want to go into acting?
As crazy as it may seem, it has to be High School Musical. After I watched the first High School Musical movie, I was convinced I could nail the character of Sharpay Evans because she was the mean girl, which I never was in high school, so I wanted to play the mean girl, just to see how it would feel.

What part of acting do you geek out about the most?
The performance, there is just something exciting about bringing a character and a script to life and the reactions from the audience.

What TV show character would it be the most fun to change places with for a week?
Theresa Mendoza from Queen of the South. I have always wanted to play this intense, kick-ass role of a powerful female who doesn’t take s**t from anyone. And also, the idea of playing a female drug lord excites me.

If you were given a PhD degree but had no more knowledge of the subject of the degree besides what you have now, what degree would you want to be given to you?
PhD in Theatre and Dramatic Arts, mostly because of my passion for everything Drama and Theatre related, and also because it would be fun to see people reacting to the fact that I have a PhD in Drama. Besides, if someone was to question me on drama and theatre-related topics, I would be able to answer them since I studied Drama at university.

(Images: Provided)