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Being in any prison is just about the most dangerous situation to be in and it’s worse if it is a lawless South African prison. The guards and wardens have tasers and batons and shields to maintain order in Lockdown (stream all four seasons on Showmax, and look out for new episodes landing every week, fresh from Mzansi Magic), but the truth is that the prisoners could overthrow them in the blink of an eye at the Thabazimbi Women’s Correctional Facility.
“There’s no difference between male prisoners and female prisoners,” explains Lorcia Cooper-Khumalo, who won the Best Supporting Actress this year for her role as inmate Megan aka Tyson.
“These women are not weak. They are murderers and drug dealers and violent criminals, just like men.” But while they’re rough and tough and covered in scars on the outside from their crimes, even someone as hardened as Tyson is still human.
She started as the queen bee
Seasons 1 and 2 establish Tyson as a schoolyard bully in the prison (the show is filmed at the former prison at Johannesburg’s Constitution Hill). She doesn’t take lip from anyone and even a glance in her direction from another prisoner could set her off.
“Tyson and I are so different,” explains the actress. “Every time that I wear her prison uniform, I leave every piece of myself behind so that I can play this character in an authentic way. I am a loving mother when I’m at home…”
“As a masculine lesbian, Tyson was ashamed of the incident [being raped]. It stripped her of her identity that she’d built in prison.”
That psychological breakdown only fuels Tyson’s fire though when she’s done feeling sorry for herself, explains the actress.
“Instead of taking her parole, she sees an opportunity for revenge and stabs her attacker to death in the Season 3 finale. She’s back in prison again, problem solved. There’s no way that she’s going to let this man get away with what he did or be allowed to go out into the world and live his life like nothing happened.”
Home sweet home
But while prison is home sweet home to Tyson, she won’t be a mother behind bars. Not that she has any maternal bond to the baby.
“She has to give her daughter away. She isn’t motherly. The child wasn’t conceived by love. She sees it as proof, a reminder, that she has been savagely violated,” says Lorcia. “She vows never to let anyone do that to her again. Tyson is back.”
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