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Up close and personal with 'Mofokeng'

By Faeza
30 June 2016

ACTOR Jerry Phele’s (60) perfectionism has gained him not only the

admiration of his fans, but respect in the entertainment industry. With pants that were always tied up with no belt but with a tie, Jerry became popular through his role as the unemployed, SeSotho-speaking, spontaneous gambler and ladies man Mofokeng on SABC1 sitcom Emzini Wezinsizwa.

WHERE IT ALL STARTED

Jerry’s acting career started in Boikie Motlhamme’s production, Mahlomola, in 1977. But becoming an actor was not his ambition. “Honestly, acting was the last thing on my mind. Back in the day, the most obvious career choices was to be a teacher, clerk or even a policeman,” he says. “When I went into acting I was doing it to keep myself busy and to

raise money to pay for my university fees. So I was told that I am a good actor and since then I have not looked back.”

TURNING POINT

Jerry admits that as much as becoming an actor was never his dream, he has grown to love it. “Within four to five months of being part of Boikie Motlhamme’s production, I was the production manager. That was when I grew fonder of acting.” The veteran actor has also featured in an international movie called Who Am I with the famous Jacky Chan. Jerry says that the role that he played as Mofokeng on Emzini Wezinsizwa was the highlight of his acting career. “Wow, Emzini Wezinsizwa was the turning point in my life. I remember

when I went to audition for the role of Mofokeng in 1994; I believed and knew that the role was going to be mine. From hundreds of people who auditioned, we were cut down to four. Unfortunately, I could not make it to the final auditions because I was shooting another

movie,” he says. Jerry tells Move! that he received a call from the producers after the first

shoot of the sitcom asking him to come to join the cast. “The guy who was chosen did not

do a very good job so I got the role,” he says. “I became part of the character and the character was part of me. From 1994 to 2004, Mofokeng and I were one unit, halala,” giggles the actor.

THE BIG FIVE

The past couple of years have not been easy for the actor as he lost his fellow cast members. They are Roland Mqwebu who played Mkhize, Bafana Mlangeni who played Sibeko and Shadrack Ngema who played Magubane. “Losing my fellow brothers has

truly left a big void in my life. Their passing has left me in pain,” he says. “We were hoping to release another season of Emzini Wezinsizwa when we receive the news about Bab’uMqwebu’s passing. Our hope was blown away as we needed everyone to be here and we cannot replace so many people. We were the big five and without the other

cast members, Emzini Wezinsizwa was not going to be the same,” he says with a trembling voice. He adds that he is still in touch with Vusi Thanda who played Tshawe and Jabulani Nkosi who played Chirwali.

JERRY THE FATHER

Jerry was born and raised in Parys, Free State and is the father of two – a son (21) and a daughter (14). “Even though I have separated with their mother, I still get to spend time with my children,” he says. “My happiest times are with them. We have fun and laugh a lot when we are together.”

HE STILL HAS A LOT TO GIVE

The star says it is a great honour for him to be part of SABC2 sitcom Skwizas. However, he had worries at first about how it would be as he was the only male around the cast. “Being part of Skwizas with all those beautiful women is what I enjoy about my job. I am surrounded by brown-bones, yellow-bones and chocolate-bones. It is fun and challenging at the same time but we all get along. We are one happy family,” he laughs. He joined the second season of Skwizas as Morena, a man who is from Lesotho who works in Skwizas’ complex as a caretaker, handyman, and a friend to the Skwizas. Now featured on a new film Mrs Right Guy, Jerry praises the talent in South Africa. “We have great talent in our country. I did not understand the term yellow-bone until I got the role on Mrs Right Guy,” he says “I was not sure if it was a compliment or an insult but the director explained to me that it describes a person who is light in complexion. I believe I am a very

good actor and as much as I have made a name for myself as a sitcom actor, I can also play other roles."