AFDA Johannesburg alumna, Thapelo Mokoena, has kicked off 2017 with a Usain Bolt swagger. He received a Golden Horn for the The Young Achiever Award at the SAFTA’s 2017, sponsored by Ster-Kinekor Theatres and handed over to Thapelo by Wanda Matandela, CEO of the cinema exhibitor.“Mokoena is a most worthy recipient of this inaugural Youth Achiever Award” says Matandela.
He also bagged the lead in e.tv’s new telenovela, Broken Vows, which debuts on the 10th April 2016, after finishing his role on the award winning series High Rollers and he’s also returning for a third season of his Sinawe 72 reality show on e.tv.
However, he isn’t content being in front of the camera. He wants to build a legacy behind it too. And he’s doing that through his production company, Thapelo Mokoena Productions.
“I’m producing some made-for-TV films for Mzansi Magic. I have been doing so for the past couple of years. I’m also developing a feature film script for the National Film and Video Foundation. It’s my second big feature.” Thapelo says the project will start in the next 18 months.
Thapelo was born under a tree 22 kilometres from the nearest hospital in the KwaZulu-Natal town of Ladysmith, in 1982. His father is Sotho and his mother is Zulu.
He completed his schooling in Ladysmith before moving to Johannesburg to pursue a degree in accounting, which he gave up in favour of studying filmmaking at AFDA.
“I used to write music, I thought I was going to be a singer but I realised I couldn’t sing. I used to watch TV and then record it on VHF, and I’d re-enact what I recorded and really have fun with it. I was very intrigued by characters and the people that played them but I suppose I didn’t know that it was building towards me wanting to be an actor or filmmaker. I just had a deep interest in movies and stories on TV.”
Upon graduating at AFDA he made an instant impact in acting when he landed the role of “Gabriel”, the bodyguard of” Karabo Moraka” (played by Connie Ferguson), on the SABC1 soapie Generations In the show he famously (and scandalously) had a torrid love affair with “Karabo”, which made a lasting impression on fans of the show. Initially contracted for three months, he ended up playing the role for six months.
In 2006 he took over the role of “Vusi” from Fezile Mpela for the second season of the SABC1 drama series Mzansi.
Also in 2006, he was cast as the presenter of the first season of Fear Factor South Africa, which aired on e.tv. He was replaced for the second season by Lungile Radu, as he was filming a British television series at the time.
He replaced Pepi Khambule as the lead character, “Bongani Thwala”, for the third season of the SABC1 drama series Mtunzini.com, which aired in 2009.
Thapelo was the host of the second season of the SABC1 reality competition Rize Mzansi, in 2010. He was one of the celebrities to compete in the sixth season of the SABC3 reality competition Strictly Come Dancing, in 2013. In 2014 he hosted the e.tv reality makeover series Sinawe72.
Thapelo also became a SA household name for presenting the first season of the South African version of the reality competition Fear Factor, in 2005 as well as being the face of Hunters Dry TV ads for 13 years.
Thapelo is also no stranger to the silver screen, starring in the film Mandela: Long walk to Freedom and the SA box office hit Mrs Right Guy.