'Zakhele was a treat to do' - Bonko Khoza on his new character on 13 Weeks to Find Mr Right

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Actor Bonko Khoza on his new role on SABC 1.
Actor Bonko Khoza on his new role on SABC 1.

One episode they love him and the next they hate him. South Africans have fallen for actor Bonko Khoza on The Wife, where he portrays the complicated Mqhele Zulu.

Now they will get see him play one of his favourite characters yet, Zakhele on 13 Weeks to Find Mr. Right, a new show coming to SABC.

“Zakhele was such a treat to do,” the thespian says.

“He is almost like me. Zakhele and I are similar in many ways such as comedy, I have a bit of a funny bone. He lives with a white guy, I used to live with a white guy, my good friend Hendrik. He is a drop out and I also dropped out of varsity when I studied graphic design. Of all the characters I have played, Zakhele is the one who is closest to my likeness. I borrowed him my voice, my quirky sense of humour and I even borrowed him my wardrobe – some of the clothes Zakhele wore are my actual clothes.”

13 Weeks to Find Mr. Right is a 13-part romantic-comedy series starting on Sunday, 6 February 2022.

The story is set in the world of print media and online dating, and will offer an entertaining perspective on personal growth, dating, friendship, and family.

The show stars Kea Zawadi as Nkuli, Bonko Khoza as Zakhele, Mohau Cele as Olwethu, Monnye Kunupi as Phumla, Didintle Khunou plays Lerato and Lerato Mvelase as Elaine.

Bonko speaks to Drum about playing Mqhele, marriage and his relationship with God. Because of his Zulu accent on The Wife, people were shocked that he is a voiceover artist and has corporate gigs. He says he is like an onion, he is very layered.

Read more | 'I know my readers are going to love it' - Hlomu author says as Showmax's The Wife launches

He got the role of Mqhele while he was shooting 13 Weeks. His love interest in 13 Weeks is ironically a journalist, just like Hlomu is also a journalist.

“I had Covid-19 and I was asymptomatic. I had taken a break from shooting 13 Weeks and I sent the self tape for Mqhele. I was one of the last to be cast, I think only Hlomu and Mqhele were remaining and everyone else was sorted. I was one of two or three options and I guess it was just my time.”

The Showmax series The Wife is based on Dudu Busani-Dube's best-selling novel Hlomu the Wife and Bonko says he first read the book years ago when it came out and he was excited to get to play Mqhele. Week in and week out viewers complain that the series does not portray Mqhele the way they know him from the book.

Bonko there are three versions of Mqhele that exist, the one from the book, the one from the series and his interpretation of the character.

“I knew Mqhele from the book as a nice guy before his faults, but I knew there was a dark side to him. Stained Glass has chosen to explore his dark side more. I knew I had to walk a tight rope and I decided to make the audience love him and hate him, just like the victim of an abuser would. She knows that he hurts her, and she hates it, but other times she sees the man that she fell in love with because he still exists. The aim is to make the audience conflicted.

“I knew Stained Glass wanted to do something different because honestly there is not point to just putting the book on screen as is. We are not trying to offend the author or do any disservice to her book, but we cannot please the book readers when there are millions of other South Africans who are ready to receive this version.”

He says at times even he is surprised by Mqhele’s antics.

“This is my first long form project and I love the magic we are creating.”

In real life, he has been with his wife Lesego Khoza for 10 years and they have been married for almost a year now. He says together they get to experience a different side to fame. She is also an actress and while he has had other acting gigs, there was nothing as big as The Wife.

“She is amazing,” he says calmly and there is a change in his voice.

“In the last few months of marriage, we have learnt to stick together, we communicate better, we keep each other’s chin up. We have really learnt to shut out all the outside noise and know to keep our peace above all else.

Read more | Kwenzokuhle Ngcobo on his role on The Wife that has ladies swooning over him

“There are people who say all sorts of things on social media, but it is important to remember that they do not know us, they only know our work which is only a fraction of who we are. Social media cannot make or break us because we do not take everything we read to our heads. As newlyweds we were really thrown into the deep end of fame or being known, not really eased into it," he says. 

“But we now have a better understanding of how social media and its people can be. Sometimes I find it funny because online some people have so much to say, but when I meet people in person, some cannot even talk, they trip over their own words.”

They do not have kids yet and he says they would love to start their own family one day.

He says his marriage is one of the things that really show him that God has wonderful plans for his life.

“Growing up I did not believe in God, and I was all for the universe and the laws of attraction. Then there was a point in my life when God really lifted me up when I did not deserve it. He constantly shows up every day for me. I am not a believer. I am a receiver; I am a testimony to God’s goodness. Nothing I have is mine because of my own doing. If I have it, that is because God exists. I am happy that I can be a reflection of what God is capable of.”

13 Weeks to Find Mr. Right will be broadcast at 19:30.

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