YOUNG BLACK AND SUCCESSFUL
South African celebrity, Mmatli Mohapelo describes himself as a simple ghetto boy.
When the famous actor who has featured in popular dramas and soapies like Scandal and Rhythm City was in Botswana recently, Voice reporter, Daniel Kenosi had a chat with him to find out what makes him tick.
Q. Welcome to Botswana, please introduce yourself to our readers.
My name is Mmatli Tebatso Mohapelo. I’m a 29 -year- old young man.
I was born on the 2nd of April so I was almost an April fool’s baby.
I was born in the Eastern Cape, South Africa where my mother comes from but I am from Lesotho because that’s where my father comes from.
They say you are from where your father comes from so I am Sotho.
Q. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in both places but spent most of the time in the Eastern Cape.
Q. Were you one of the spoilt neighbourhood kids?
I had a very happy childhood.
I grew up in a family of four and I am the last born. We were not a rich family but my parents always provided for us so my childhood was simply happy.
Q. How did you become an actor?
Most people always get shocked when I tell them that I wasn’t sure if I wanted to do this in the first place.
I tried a lot of careers before.
My father is an architect so naturally when you are young you look up to your father and want to follow in his footsteps.
After my grade 6 I started technical drawing but I quit early because it was tough. After high school I opted for acting.
Q. Do you still remember your first auditions and what were they for?
My audition came when I was at school. I had so much confidence because I was at an arts school.
I was in my second year at film school then and the judges were very impressed.
Q. How was the reaction back at home when you got your first television break?
It was really crazy. My first TV appearance was in a drama called “When we were black” and that is when a lot of people started having confidence in me. It was a drama about 1976 youth uprising. It was very big.
I acted alongside Motlatsi Mafatshe who now plays Sechaba in Isidingo.
That was the show that launched our careers.
Q. So you were an instant celebrity?
Yes! That was my big moment. We knew it was all going to be big because it was a sensitive drama as it talked about June 16 so even elders watched it.
I remember after the 1st episode started airing I decided to go home to Maseru and when I got to the boarder I was given a star treatment. There was no hating.
Q. Which actor or actress did you grow up looking up to?
I used to look up to Will Smith and I still love him.
I used to watch a lot of his movies and always wanted to be like him.
I used to sell pirated DVD’s so I watched a lot of movies during my school gap year and decided this was my career path.
Q. Did your parents just easily approve of you taking up acting as a career?
My friend is the one who told me about the acting school and I got the forms and applied.
I had no idea of what to tell my parents.
I remember one evening when I broke the news to them and funny enough they gave me their blessings.
Q. Please take our readers into a day to day life of an actor.
At the end of the day you get your next day schedule of episodes you’ll be shooting.
When you get home you have to learn your lines.
It doesn’t matter how big or small your role is, you have to learn those lines.
Q. Isn’t there any part where you are allowed to be off-line and improvise?
You own the lines as long as you communicate what the directors want, you are fine.
You can change lines to suite you. Most importantly you need to know when to stop and allow your co-actor to come in.
Q. Has it ever happened that you forgot your lines whilst on set?
It has happened a lot especially on soapies.
I must say I am better when it comes to forgetting my lines though compared to some big names in the industry.
We sometimes spend the whole day cutting and starting over and over again because of them.
Q. On which soapie did you make a lot of errors?
That would be Scandal but it wasn’t that much. Eish! My co-actor was very terrible.
The guy who played Daniel was the worst.
That’s Sello Maake Ka-Ncube.
That guy was worse but he is such a brilliant actor that when he finally gets his lines it comes out great.
Q. There is that moment when you throw in your native language.
Is that also part of the script?
Not really. In most cases we just move to our native languages to feel comfortable.
Some shows are very strict though and you stick right to what’s on the script all the way.
7ven Deelan which is of apartheid mentality for example is one such show where they stick to one language. Rhythm City is flexible.
Yes! Like any other job when you start you won’t be paid that much but with time things change for the better.
Q. Ok! So how much was your first earning?
My call rate was…..
Q. Your salary is called call rate?
Yes! It depends. When you are featured in a play which comes in seasons then you get paid only when you appear unlike when its a soapie which airs everyday whereby you have a fixed salary.
Q. Please answer my question. What was the least that you got paid?
Ohh! Yaa! My first call rate was R1080.00
Q. Is the South African Government giving you guys enough support?
The SA Government is not doing enough at all.
We need a lot of funding from Government but they don’t want to invest in us.
Don’t be fooled when you see us shining they don’t do anything.
Q. You have a big scar on your face. What happened?
When I was 5 I fell off a stool.
I was trying to reach a VCR. I was a naughty boy, I had seen my parents pressing that so I also wanted to see how it works.
Behind the stool was a glass coffee table so I fell onto it and slashed my face. I still remember it like yesterday.
I remember my dad carrying me and my mother crying in the background.
Q. Did you get guys mocking you at school because of this scar?
Some people would call me scar face but I didn’t really care.
It was one cool thing to have bandages as a kid so I was not traumatised in any way.
Q. What has been the highlight of your career?
I haven’t won any awards but my shows have been nominated so many times.
The highlight of my career would be all things I have done in this industry put together.
I have achieved a lot.
Q. What has been the lowest point of your career?
It was a certain period in my career. There was a moment when I felt unappreciated.
It was in 2009 when I went down.
I felt like I deserved better. Work was not enough but because of the love I have for what I do I just carried on.
Q. Most SA celebs have gone through drugs. Is it one thing you have also tried?
I have experimented as well. I can’t say I have had a drug problem and beat it like Bouga Luv did (laughs).
Q. There is high crime in Mzansi. Do you have a gun?
Naah! I don’t have a gun Dan. I don’t live in fear.
I believe in God and I know that he controls what happens and if its the time for it to happen it will happen but if not, God won’t allow.
If anybody want my car I’ll just walk out and hand it over.
I can’t die over material things.
Q. Have you ever been hijacked or attacked before?
Not really but I have been robbed before.
I used to stay with Motlatsi who acts Sechaba on Isidingo and thieves took everything from our house.
On that day we didn’t set the alarm. I have been robbed three times since staying in Jozi.
Q. What’s your take on the media?
I love the media. I have never been on the wrong side of the Paparazzi. Its always good reporting on me.
I don’t misbehave in public.
Q. How do you cope with so much attention you get from ladies?
I think you get used to it and get to know how to handle it.
It’s now part of my life and I know how to respond. When they scream you just greet them.
Q. Have you ever had a bad encounter with a fan?
Yaaa!! You know those rough ones Dan. There are those who pull you.
There are those moments they make you feel unsafe.
I remember after my first appearance on TV and I just decided to go to a park.
Iyooo!!. The mob. I had them pulling me from all sides.
I had valuables in my pockets and feared losing them.
The worst of all is when a lady comes from nowhere and kisses you.
Q. Have you ever considered getting body guards?
I have had them before but they were hired by the company I worked for.
It’s just for safety assurance and I would still allow fans to come greet me.
Q. Who is the lucky lady?
Eish!! This guy. Eish!! For me there is no lucky lady Dan.
Q. So it’s just hit and runs?
Noo! Even if I get someone there is always that person who always sticks in your mind but I am single for now and not doing anything.
Q. Have you ever had a girlfriend in the same industry as you? Maybe an actress or actor we know?
I was with Nozipho who used to be on Rhythm city.
She has done a few TV shows.
I have dated a couple of celebrity girls.
Q. Have you tried Khanyi Mbau?
Noo! Khanyi is too expensive for me.
Q. What’s your take on Big Brother Africa?
That’s a boring show for me. What’s the use of watching people seating in the house for 90 days.
There is nothing inspirational about it.
Q. And lastly. Did you enjoy your stay here?
I love Botswana.
It’s my second time here and I see a lot of developments and very beautiful ladies of course.
Q. Thank you very much. What’s up for the weekend?
I will be home watching Sports on TV.