Though he has been with SABC 3’s popular television drama series Isidingo for nine years now, Motlatsi Mafatshe is a talent who has portrayed and excelled in a lot of roles on the small screen, giving viewers and his many fans more reasons to fall in love with the actor that he is – from his role as Wandile Dhlomo in the e.tv soccer drama Shooting Stars, to Casper on the retrospective drama that focuses on love and politics, When We Were Black, to the stuttering Thabang on It’s Complicated.
While he says being on TV was a thought far from his mind, he points out he couldn’t be happier with where he finds himself; being a husband, father, actor and director, musician and music producer.
Grandmother’s TV set
Being a busy man, we had to catch up with Mafatshe while he was driving to buy his favourite kota (bunny-chow), a meal he says he and his first-born son love.
Explaining how he got to fall in love with acting and finally appear on television, he had an interesting story to tell. “When I was a kid, my grandmother bought one of those huge television sets, allowing me to watch my favourite sitcom Sgudi ‘Snaysi (it is good; it is nice) and Police Academy.
“I loved watching TV, not acting,” he said, suggesting he thought being on TV was meant for people different from him.
“Even when I would try drama at school, I would only get small roles, like a tree, hence I never thought I could act until I had to produce and the actors were not good enough.
“So I tried my luck with acting, then I was a hit,” he said. But he was more interested in producing because he thought people saw producers as extra-intelligent and cooler than actors.
“Besides, I don’t think I have a face for television, like Maps Maponyane. I had a lot of difficulty in accepting how I look on screen, but when I started being comfortable with myself the more great performances came though.”
Wanting to fly
“Growing up I wanted to be a pilot and luckily I had an opportunity to try it, but I found it boring, so I changed my mind. The good thing is I changed at the right time and went to school to study musical directing,” he said.
Coming from a political family, Mafatshe says at one point he also thought he would end up as a politician, although he did say one of his high-school teachers once told him he would end up on TV.
The actor says once one gets to know him, one gets to understand that he and Sechaba are very different, but there are elements of him that come through in the character.
“I’m more of a nerd. I like being an intellectual, smarty-pants, and Sechaba is not like that. We are both ghetto and expressive, but I’m more of a diplomatic person – and I believe I’m funnier than him,” he said.
He says what he likes about being with the soapie for nine years is the fact that viewers were allowed an opportunity to grow with the character from nothing into something, creating hope and teaching many that anyone can make it big in life.
“Sechaba is now a mayor and this says anything is possible in life. He has problems in his marriage. He is dealing with issues of land. Viewers get to see a leader who will fight for his people. In Sechaba, people will get to see a gem of a leader.”
The actor says even though Sechaba has a good heart, he now has to learn political tricks and things like women and the good life come into play. “A man cannot live alone. I don’t know what will happen to Lerato, but Sechaba’s heart needs to be mended,” he said, without giving too much away.
Passion for music
The 34-year-old musician and music producer says he is creating music that most people have not heard before, explaining he works on that side of his career three days in a week, collaborating with a few artists and legends in the music industry.
“So far I’m on 400 songs. I’m not in a rush to release. The music is not something I’m doing for the money. It’s just my passion and we are doing some amazing work,” he said.
The star further elaborated that he is busy with other interesting jobs, mentioning he is also directing and is in a film titled Love Lives Here with Thando Thabethe. The film is coming out in February next year.
“Motlatsi is a lover of life, people and his country,” he said.
The father of two sons, he says he is a simple guy who loves chilling with his wife. “I’m not a cheeseboy – maybe I am, but I’m not like your typical celebrity, and I like a simple life.
“I don’t let popularity get to me. If I come back in life, I don’t think I would mind being a teacher.”
Mafatshe says he has a good relationship with his boys – his wife regards herself as a mother of three boys.
“We don’t have rules. I’m dating my woman. She is my girl. Sometimes I bore her and sometimes she bores me.
“We know we don’t always have to be together,” he said about his wife Millicent.
The actor says they are “friends with benefits and responsibilities”, explaining they try not to take marriage too seriously. “
We mind our own business. She has her girls-only time and I allow her to go and have guys shela [pursue] her,” he said with laughter, adding they have known each other for over 15 years. “We give each other space.”