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Former Zone 14 actors have a close relationship both on and off screen

By Faeza
26 January 2017

EVERY time you think of them, you always get the image of them wearing black suits. Kere Nyawo and Thulani Didi (49) are well-known for their captivating characters as Popeye and Spinach on the SABC1 drama series, Zone 14. They were everyone’s favourite characters on the show and still go by Popeye and Spinach even today.

THE BEGINNING OF IT ALL

Popeye (Kere) was born in Phiri, Soweto in the 1960s and says he was born to be an entertainer. “I became popular way before I played Popeye on Zone 14. I used to entertain people by speaking bad English and they would pay me,” says Popeye. Spinach (Thulani), who was born in Umlazi, KwaZulu-Natal, says he has been involved in the arts since high school. “Before matric, I was into acting, dancing and music. I used to compose songs for gospel artists. In 1988, playwright Mbongeni Ngema spotted me and I became part of Sarafina,” he says. Popeye says back in high school, he used to dramatise literature books. “I read a lot and used to convert stories from the books into dramas. That’s where I started writing films,” he says. The two met in 1990 and were brought together by their love of the arts. “I met Thulani while I was doing one of my short films and we have been working together since. We’ve done many things together and we are planning to do more,” says Popeye. The actors have taught and groomed many actors, who are now well-known stars in the industry. The likes of Tsotsi actress Terry Pheto, Ronnie Nyakale, who plays Cosmo on Generations – The Legacy and kwaito musician and actor, Zola, have been groomed by

the two. Spinach says they did this out of the goodness of their hearts and not for money.

THEY ARE PARTNERS IN EVERTHING

With over 27 years in the industry, Popeye, who holds a diploma in business studies,

describes their friendship as more than what it appears to be. “We were once friends but not anymore. We are brothers. Spinach is my younger brother. Our children know that too,” says the father of three. Spinach, who has been married for 11 years with seven children, says he is grateful to have Popeye as his elder brother. “We do everything together. We even raise our children together, we share everything. No one will ever separate us,” he says. Popeye shares with Move! that apart from acting, he is also a writer and researcher for a Japanese news platform called Mainichi News and is also into farming. On the other hand, Spinach is a part-time tutor at Wits University, where he tutors upcoming actors. “We have a non-profit organisation called Positive Arts Society, where we train and develop local talent. We are doing it out of love and not to shine in the media or impress people.” Together they own a production company called Pop and Spin Entertainment. “Our aim is to educate and entertain. We don’t regard ourselves as celebrities, but as artists,” says Spinach.