Just like dad: Jerry Mofokeng wa Makhetha and his son, Lerato
Jerry Mofokeng wa Makhetha’s son is following in his famous dad’s footsteps – even though the veteran actor would prefer him to stick to music
AGOOD guy, a villain and a politician – he’s played them all with the poise of the true professional. Yet the role that means the most to the veteran actor is that of proud father.
Jerry Mofokeng wa Makhetha (61) and Claudine, his wife of 37 years, have five children: Tsakane ( 36), Palesa ( 33), Lerato (30), Mpho (26) and Mosa (24). But it’s their middle child, Lerato Makhetha, who was bitten by the acting bug like his old man – and the one who, in honour of Father’s Day, joins his dad to talk about their relationship.
The pair is close and Jerry clearly supports his son – but it wasn’t always this way. For a while Jerry, who plays Bra Moscow in e.tv’s Scandal!, refused to
Aaccept his kid could be any good as an actor and it took him a while to give his boy the green light to forge his own path in the industry.
We visit the family home in Observatory, east of Johannesburg, where Jerry leads us to a dining area overlooking the manicured garden.
Lerato, who spent eight years as a musician and is also known as Larry Soulo from the old-school funk band Throwback, is making a name for himself in the profession his father has commanded for the past 30 years. LTHOUGH Lerato was a shy kid, he liked to joke and fool around, his father recalls. “We’d get home after visiting friends and he wouldn’t be there. We’d look for him for hours and finally drive back to our friends’ house to get him. Then he’d pop out of the back of the van and yell ‘Surprise!’ after hiding there all along.”
They both laugh. “We laugh now, but it wasn’t funny then,” Jerry adds.
These days they have a great relationship. “We’re loyal and truthful to each other,” Jerry says.
They enjoy spending time together and often go to theatre productions or play a game of Monopoly or Crazy Eight. “I love my jazz,” Jerry says. “Lerato will suggest some music to play in the background while we play a game.”
Lerato has always looked up to his father, and was married at 24 – the same age Jerry was when he wed his wife.
He has nothing but the highest regard for his famous dad.
“You never really know the journey people walked to get where they are. I’ve
seen my dad get himself up and fight for his family and for dignity and respect.”
Lerato and his wife, Phetola, don’t have kids yet. “But when we do he’s the kind of dad I want to be,” he says of Jerry.
Lerato always wanted to be a performer and as a kid would regularly entertain his family by putting on plays for them.
The family would also help Jerry learn his lines and Palesa would find outfits for the kids to wear so they could recreate the characters in the scripts.
“I remember at some point Lerato was wearing a red skirt,” Jerry recalls, laughing. “Thanks for sharing that, Dad,” Lerato retorts.
Jerry says he didn’t intend to inspire Lerato to become an actor and sometimes wishes he’d stay a musician.
“My dream was to go to an opening night of a concert where he was the music director and they’d say, ‘This is the music director’s father’, instead of ‘That’s Jerry Mofokeng’s son’. That was my dream – which he’s busy messing up,” he adds teasingly.
Lerato studied popular music at the National School of the Arts in Joburg and without his parents’ knowledge took acting as a major. He knew his dad wouldn’t approve so he kept it secret, he says.
“I auditioned for productions and got in and they didn’t know anything about it.”
His father understands why he was secretive about it.
“I’d seen him act and he’d help me with scripts but to me he wasn’t an actor,” Jerry says. “I was always so taken with his singing talent.”
JERRY, whose screen credits include blockbusters Cry the Beloved Country, Lord of War and the Oscar-winning Tsotsi, says he and his wife first saw Lerato on stage when he was part of a Michael Jackson tribute production in 2002 – and although Jerry was sceptical of his son’s acting abilities he had to admit he was impressed.
Lerato went on to act in several lowbudget feature films such as Chicken Murder, Vacancy, Umhlaba uyahlaba and Surprise.
Father and son even unintentionally shared a stage at the State Theatre in Pretoria in MaBrrr: The Musical, a production in honour of the late Brenda Fassie.
“By God’s provision we acted opposite each other,” Jerry says. “He was a custodian of my production on that stage. When he was done, I told him to go back to his keyboard!”
Lerato worked hard to get his dad’s nod of approval.
“I had to fight for this. I knew if I was going to do this I’d have to win him over,” says Lerato, whose familiar face features in a bank’s TV commercial.
Growing up with his dad in the industry helped prepare him for its challenges and struggles.
“If I can commit every single day to telling the story with as much sincerity, with as much truth and respect I can muster – then I’ll get there. I’m not in competition with my dad. It would be foolish for me to think I can compete with him.”
While he’s always yearned for Lerato to be a musician, Jerry’s embracing his son’s talent and recently told Phetola he’d look for books on acting for his son.
“We recently went to [Lerato’s] house to pray for the road ahead for him as an actor. It’s almost like the eagle releases its baby to fly. I can’t fly for him but I can give him pointers.”
Lerato is ecstatic his father is finally rooting for him as an actor. “I can’t ask for more than that.”
He’s also given his father a gift: he recently released his first hip-hop soul single, Ride. “I’m still a musician. I love music with everything inside me. And I’m still holding my breath for that day when he’ll say, ‘If I’ve ever doubted you, today I take it back’.”
‘I had to fight for this. I knew if I was going to do this I’d have to win him over’
LEFT: Jerry has been married to Claudine for 37 years. RIGHT: Lerato married Phetola six years ago.
ABOVE: Lerato is a musician too and recently released his first hip-hop soul single. Jerry, who’s currently on the small screen in Scandal! (RIGHT), has finally accepted that his son wants to be an actor as well.