Sauve, debonair, confident – Maps Maponyane cuts a fine figure as he settles down next to me in Tashas for a breakfast interview. It’s little wonder he was voted sexiest man in SA by Cosmo in 2013. What strikes me immediately is that he is one of those people with the extraordinary ability to be incredibly present in the moment – engaged and interested – almost like he is casting a spotlight on you. It’s a rare quality these days but one that I’ve observed often over the years in some of our best and most engaging television presenters.
We are here to talk about Maps’ first foray into the realm of reality television – he has been presenting Hangman for the past few months – but I am curious to find out more about his journey to this point in his career.
He tells me his television career started quite by accident during his gap year when he was trying to find a way to make money to pay for Varsity. ”I received an offer to present a schoolboy rugby show and soon I was field reporting and commentating,” recalls Maps.
This gave him a much-needed foot in the door. Soon he was hosting All Access, a lifestyle show on M-Net. This was followed by an offer from a French international show for the diaspora Plus d’Afrique’ on Canal+. Yes that’s right – the very dishy Maps can speak French.
“I learnt French at school, I always wanted to learn and I had a great teacher. It was one of my majors at Wits along with English, Media Studies and International Human Rights.”
Which is how he landed the job as the SA correspondent for the French show.
But most probably know him best as a presenter for one of South Africa’s longest running magazine shows – Top Billing.
“Working in television you get to engage with people and hone skills to work under any condition or situation,” says Maps.
Enter Cell C’s Hangman – a completely new genre for Maps and a fresh challenge.
“Hangman was my first reality show and it’s been an incredible experience. The pressure of shooting and editing a reality show in a week meant that it was a high pressure environment. We were literally working against the clock,” says Maps. But he says he loved the challenge of the deadlines and that the pressure kept him on top of his game.
He says despite his hectic schedule this year he made time to be part of the show because he wanted to be involved and bought into the ethos of the programme.
“I wanted to be a part of it because I am passionate about entrepreneurship and innovation and I felt that this would be a great way of encouraging entrepreneurial spirit. Let’s face it entrepreneurs are a big part of the solution of addressing unemployment – a big step to solving a lot of our issues as a country.”
The show’s backers which included some big names like Bonang Mohale who heads Business Leadership South Africa, billionaire Quinton van der Burgh, businesswoman and entrepreneur Connie Mashaba and respected economist Iraj Abedian did a sterling job of mentoring the contestants in the skills needed to take the next steps in business – enabling them to grow their businesses. Enterprise development expert Pavlo Phitidis also played a pivotal role as a guest backer sharing valuable insights. In everything the show set high standards explains Maps.
“For me, the best thing about Hangman is that everyone on the team has the same goal and focus and that is to produce the best possible show.”
He says he takes his work very seriously and it was incredibly rewarding that the crew and team from Blink Pictures were aligned in their vision not to compromise and to ensure that mediocrity never crept into the production.
“It truly was a privilege to work on a production of this quality and the collective hard work definitely paid off. I was proud to be a part of it.”
This Sunday the winner of the show will be announced in a glittering finale. The winner gets a million rand and the title of South Africa’s gutsiest and greatest innovator.
“The atmosphere on set this week as the backers deliberated the fate of the final three contestants was incredibly tense. The stakes were high.”
Maps isn’t giving away who the big winner is but he promises if there is a season 2, and he hopes there is, he’ll be back for sure.
Catch the finale of Hangman to watch who wins the million at 11h50 on Sunday on ETV or South Africa’s latest entertainment platform, black. The full Hangman series is also available on black for free. South Africans can download the GETblack Android & iOS apps using a tablet or phone. It will also available on a web interface at www.black.co.za.