Chit Chat – Thapelo Mokoena

2012-01-20 08:15

There isn’t much that actor and producer Thapelo Mokoena hasn’t done in his 29 years. Mokgadi Seabi chats to him about the journey that led to him starring in Wild at Heart, one of Britain ITV channel’s biggest family drama series.

When did you join the cast of Wild at Heart?
I joined the series in 2007 as a character called Cedric Fatani. The series is about a Bristol-based vet and his family who immigrate to South Africa to start a game park.

Fatani is one of the lead characters, a role I was very excited about because it’s a very popular series in the UK. I get to work with respected actors like Stephen Tompkinson, Dawn Steele, Hayley Mills, Deon Stewardson and even worked with Amanda Holden, who was a judge on Britain’s Got Talent. Every June to December, we film at a country lodge called Glen Afric near Hartbeespoort Dam.

Does that mean you have to come into contact with wild animals?

Well, every storyline has an animal involved. I like nature and animals so it’s not really difficult for me to work with them. I’ve been in scenes with tigers, lions, black leopards and was even licked by a giraffe in my first year on the series. You’d be surprised how popular these animals become overseas. When the giraffe that licked me was struck by lightning and died two years ago, it made headlines in the UK.

You film in Hartebeespoort; so how come people don’t know about this series?
Well, to be honest I doubt many people know what I do. I even get people asking me if I still act. It’s weird to me that we have this series that is very popular in another country, but it is not even known in the place where it is being filmed.

Besides Wild at Heart, what else have you been busy with recently?
I try not to limit my abilities by sticking to one role because of commercials, voice-overs and film productions.

But how would sticking to a role limit your acting ability?

You become comfortable with what you do and pay cheque you get. You also get comfortable with the publicity that comes with it, but what many people don’t realise is that you end up being type-cast. Film producers don’t consider you when casting for their work.

Is that what you believe a role in, say, a soapie would have done for your career?
Yes. As much as I appreciate how my role as Gabriel on Generations established me as a performer to the South African audience, I didn’t want to to stay longer than a year because I didn’t want to get too comfortable.

Ha! Wasn’t Generations where you kissed Connie Ferguson?
Yes and to be honest, I was nervous as hell. It was my first on-screen kiss, let alone with an older woman. I went to her dressing room to talk to her about it only to find out she was a bit nervous too.

To this day, I can’t tell you what was going through my head when it was happening – plus we had to do four takes before we got the shot. I think it went well, but I wouldn’t want to see it again.

Weren’t you a little bit star-struck when you got your role on Generations?
Not at all. I might have just graduated from film school but while studying, I got a role on the movie Drum that featured Taye Diggs, Gabriel Mann, Moshidi Motshegwa, Jason Flemyng, Fezile Mpela and Tumisho Masha.

It was a big deal for me because that’s when I realised I had a talent that I had to nurture, especially after working with good actors like that cast. And it was cool that I hung out with Taye and even took him to some parties around town.

Okay, so you weren’t star-struck. However, you didn’t look too comfortable on Fear Factor though?

With Fear Factor, I never really got the opportunity to get into the role of the host. I joined after Colin Moss left and was only there for one season before I left to do Wild at Heart. Even with that, though, I had fun travelling around and watching people conquer their own fears.

So far you sound like you’ve had an eventful career already.

There’s still more to be done. I’m planning to travel to the UK because I keep getting requests from some of the people who watch the show there asking me to visit the country. I’ve never been and it’ll be interesting to personally see the impact the show has over there.

» Wild at Heart is on Universal Channel

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