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

DRUM - - Contents - BY KHOSI BIYELA PIC­TURES: MARTIN DE KOCK

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.

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