The doleful mood on Friday afternoon was inescapable. Shona Ferguson, 47, was no more.
At first, many prayed that the news on social media was fake. But, as time passed, the painful reality that it was true sunk in.
According to the spokesperson for Ferguson Films, Shona passed away from Covid-19-related complications at noon on Friday, July 30, 2021.
And social media has since been flooded with tributes from industry colleagues, friends and fans.
Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture Nathi Mthethwa said: “Shona was a creative gem and a visionary.
“He was a media mogul, an innovator and a pioneer who possessed an irrefutable ambition.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with Connie and the family during this time.
”Furthermore, we extend our sympathies to the industry at large. May his soul rest in peace.”
Whether you knew him personally, through his craft or through a chance meeting, it would have been memorable in some way.
Shona had a statuesque presence with his muscular physique, trademark tattoos and short, boxed beard. His gregarious personality made him endearing to everyone around him.
When it came to work, he had a good head on his shoulders. He owned Ferguson Films with his wife of 19 years, Connie.
They launched the production company in 2010 and have been on an upward trajectory since.
Mzansi celebrated them as a power couple. And they truly embodied that label.
They worked together and played together. It’s the kind of equilibrium that’s hard to maintain, yet they pulled it off with such ease.
Their shared love of family and for making great TV, exercising and travelling was clear to anyone who followed them on social media.
Shona has a daughter, Alicia Angel, with his wife, as well as stepdaughter Lesedi and step-grandson, Ronewa.
The couple head one of SA’s leading production houses, having given us critically acclaimed offerings like “The Queen”, “The Throne”, “Igazi”, “Rockvillle”, “The Impostor”, “The Gift”, “Unmarried” and “Kings of Joburg”. They also launched the careers of many promising actors.
Of course, the couple were not immune to controversies and weathered their fair share of storms. But Shona and Connie took it in their stride and handled it with commendable professionalism.
Over the years, I’ve interviewed Shona several times, and it dates back to when he was earning his stripes as an actor. As such, those chats evolved into friendly catchups.
He started his career on Mfundi Vundla’s hit SABC1 soapie, “Generations”; here Connie became a household name as Karabo Moroka. He was cast as Ace.
In April 2006, he then crossed the soapie floor to Duma Ndlovu’s Venda offering, “Muvhango”, on SABC2. He slipped into the skin of Dr Leabua and viewers loved him.
He also played Tyson on SABC3’s “Isidingo: The Need” and Alex in e.tv’s “Scandal”.
Since establishing Ferguson Films, he also starred in several of the shows.
As an actor, he took his craft seriously. He would meticulously map out the execution of his character.
He wanted each part to be unique. He wanted it to resonate with viewers. And, more importantly, he refused to get stuck in a pigeon-hole with his roles.
Of course, whenever I would request an interview for a new project, I would get a solid “Yes”, from him. Despite his crazy schedule - he was hands-on with any project - he set aside time for a chat.
Our last interview was in December 2020 for “Kings of Jo’burg” on Netflix. With lockdown and social distancing being our new reality, the chat was over a Zoom call.
I can still remember it as if it was yesterday.
And how he warmed my heart when he said, “You know I was telling Connie, you are probably the only journalist out there that says I want an interview and I go, ‘Okay’.”
Aside from being chuffed to be debuting on the streaming platform, he was proud to be flipping the script, so to speak, by making “Kings of Jo’burg”, a testosterone-charged series.
He said: “We had done, as a company, so much female-centric kind of shows and, well since the beginning of Ferguson Films, most of our shows have been predominantly female-centric. Even a show like ‘Rockville’, which had a lot of males in the cast.
“We felt like the wave in SA television has everyone going the female-centric kind of way. We starting thinking in the next year or two, we must make something that’s pretty much a male-dominated kind of show. That was how the initial idea started.
“Fast forward a couple of years later, and immediately I knew that the show was going to be called ‘Kings of Joburg’, there was no question.”
“Kings of Jo’burg” ushered in a new era for Ferguson Films.
He added: “We, as a company, this is our first 100%-owned show. It is the first show we own. None of the shows on TV belongs to us. In all honesty, I don’t think any platform could have given us this.
“It almost feels like the first time of getting into production.”
In a way, “Kings of Jo’burg” was also a metaphor for Shona’s meteoric rise in the industry.
This industry titan has gone far too soon. Now those wings that he spread are in heaven.
He will be sorely missed, but I’m sure Connie will keep his legacy alive. Heartfelt condolences go out to his family.