Lorcia Cooper Kumalo on playing her detective character truthfully in ‘Red Ink’

Lorcia Cooper Kumalo plays Detective Morapedi in ‘Red Ink’. Supplied image.

Lorcia Cooper Kumalo plays Detective Morapedi in ‘Red Ink’. Supplied image.

Published Apr 3, 2024


Award-winning actress Lorcia Cooper Kumalo has had viewers on the edge of their seats in the nail-biting local crime drama, “Red Ink”.

In the Showmax Original series, which was adapted from Angela Makholwa-Moabelo’s best-selling 2007 debut novel of the same name, she plays the tenacious Detective Morapedi.

The series centres on Lucy Khambule (Nqobile Nunu Khumalo), a formidable journalist-turned-PR spin doctor, who is asked to tell the life story of Napoleon Dingiswayo (Bonko Khoza), an imprisoned serial killer.

During the eight-part thriller, Cooper Kumalo’s character encounters Napoleon, aka “The Butcher.”

Having won a Safta Award in 2019 for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama series for her role as Tyson in the series, “Lockdown”, the actress is now earning widespread praise for her portrayal of the feisty and courageous detective.

Lorcia Cooper Kumalo plays Detective Morapedi in ‘Red Ink.’ Supplied image.

Showmax’s Zibuyile Dladla spoke to the actress to find out more about her role on the gripping series:

Why did you decide to work on this project?

Starting in this industry, I was particular about what kind of artist I wanted to be. The answer always came back to me: wanting to be an artist that would have an impact.

As a dancer, I always wanted my work to touch someone. That was my bottom line all the time and the same applied when I started becoming an actress.

I always ask myself if this storyline will invoke some type of emotion and if the storyline makes the audience think beyond what they know.

“Red Ink”, for me, ticked all those boxes. This is why, when I do take on roles, I am specific – I don’t commit 99%, I go all in because somewhere out there, there is someone who really is a Detective Morapedi and so, I’d like to be earnest about that and about how I tell that story.

Did you ever find yourself delving mentally into a dark place to understand or tap into why a character like Napoleon is the way he is?

I had to figure out how to find the balance between finding my calm and figuring out why a character like Napoleon was so dark.

It’s about finding that synergy because if you then buy into why a character is so dark, your empathy leans too much towards the perpetrator and you start buying into their narrative and their story.

We all have a story in our lives, and how we either respond or react to that story ultimately determines whether we stand on moral or immoral ground.

Yes, I wanted to know what this person's (Napoleon) back story is but cannot buy into it so much that I end up having empathy for them because at the end of the day, there is a victim involved.

I had to look at the facts about this character and who am I protecting, which is the victim.

What were your thoughts when you first read the “Red Ink” script?

I’d like to first mention that South African writers are so phenomenal; not only how they write but also with the kind of stories they write.

This story could really sit anywhere in the world and I appreciated that the author was ingenious in doing that.

“Red Ink” is a story that can appeal to a global market and the fact that it is written by a South African excited me even more, because here’s a book that’s already great and I get to be a part of it, giving it legs from a film perspective.

I love that and I also love that the storyline was so layered that you’re not quite sure how the story will play out.

Even when I was reading the script, I kept wanting to get to the end because I wanted to know how everything was going to end.

Bonko Khoza Napoleon ‘The Butcher’ Dingiswayo on ‘Red Ink.’ Supplied image.

What’s the one thing you’ve come to appreciate about your character in “Red Ink”?

I appreciate how my character has so much composure. Even when she loses it, it’s strategic.

Detective Morapedi is not careless or clumsy with her emotions or how she reacts to something; she is constantly plotting and planning. And because she stands for justice, she always wants to find what the answer is.

I also appreciate how she’s solution-driven; she doesn’t cower when there is a problem because she believes that with a problem there is ultimately a solution.

What material did you either watch or read to prepare for the role?

I’m careful about what kind of material I watch before prepping for a role because you can cross the line between being inspired and mimicking, and I don’t condone mimicking.

But I did start watching specific crime shows just to understand how the mind of a serial killer works.

I did research on serial killers and, from a detective’s point of view, I did some research on how detectives can coerce a suspect to eventually tell the truth.

∎ “Red Ink” is streaming on Showmax.