The multi-faceted superstar is our cover star for Piece 13.
Whenever you’re preparing for a celebrity interview, it’s always fascinating to imagine what they’ll be doing when you call them (if it’s a telephonic one especially).
For our chat, I caught Thapelo Mokoena on a busy weekday in his household, in the background one could hear the unmistakable sounds of everyday family life while he himself juggled an errand or two while (presumably) nestling his cellphone between his ear and cheek, responding to my questions.
Outside of his home, Thapelo Mokoena is a distinguished, award-winning actor, a businessman with a touch of bespoke class about him and a household name. In his household, however, he’s as much of a dad and husband as any out there. Normal phrases like “Daddy is on the phone baba” suggest that he too is not immune to the challenges of working from home during the pandemic.
At a time when the acting world is only starting to return to a “new normal”, following lengthy breaks for many productions around the country, Thapelo Mokoena has found numerous ways to communicate and engage his fans remotely. In the week that Cyril Ramaphosa declared a national lockdown, the Trackers star had planned to launch two new YouTube Channels: The Artist Corner, focusing on his work in the arts and culture space, and Nero TV, which would follow his exploits in the world of wine.
It was on this tasteful note which we began our chat on an otherwise busy weekday for the actor…
Moziak Magazine: It sounds like you haven’t had any trouble keeping busy during the lockdown, have you?
Thapelo Mokoena: We have to keep ourselves busy any way we know how and today is just a typical example of that! This [phonecall] is probably the most peaceful moment of the day I’ve enjoyed so far!
MM: Wow! Aside from today, your YouTube channels couldn’t have launched at a better time. Was this a tactical response to the lockdown?
TM: Actually, not at all. These projects had been in the works for years, and in fact I was planning on launching both channels on the week that turned out to be the beginning of lockdown. But the change in events didn’t derail us.
MM: How did you bring both channels to life?
TM: Well, I work with an ideation company and we are always brainstorming new content, new ways to deliver cool concepts, and a fresh take on ideas that can make a statement. We had been grinding away and ideating what these channels would look like. The Artist Corner has probably been in the making for about four years but in that time we were crafting exactly what it would look like once it took shape.
MM: We thoroughly enjoyed The Global Film Webinars on The Artist Corner
TM: That’s a great example of the standard of execution which we want to maintain. It’s using the best of local talent and sending a message to the whole world.
MM: Similarly with Nero TV, we get a window into the wine industry. You’re about 3 years into your journey as a winepreneur. How much have you learned along the way?
TM: The learning never ends, if we are being honest. It’s a journey that has taught me so much about what goes into the product on the shelf and there’s an entire world behind the scenes.
MM: I have to be honest. Like many, I often believed the wine industry was a “white only” club but that has begun to change in recent years. What’s it like to be a black face in the wine world?
TM: Well I don’t blame anybody who thinks that way because for a long time I myself used to believe that was the case, and it’s for a good reason too.
However, I think it is important that we as black people write our story on our terms, and in my case, I was excited to explore uncharted territory and eventually leave a legacy that is bigger than just me. It’s been challenging at times, but me and my team keep rising to the challenge at all times.
MM: Let’s move the conversation from Mzansi to matters abroad. One of your hottest projects to date will be launching in the States. I’m talking of course about the US Premiere of Trackers on Cinemax.
TM: Whoo! I. Am. PUMPED for this!
MM: I can tell!
TM: Again going back to what I was saying earlier, I am all about the idea of embracing our identity as global players right now. We are South African and this is home, but showing that we belong up there with the best in the world is extremely important to me and Trackers will be an opportunity to do that once again in the States. The production was a global effort and this roll out is only part of the initial vision we had for it.
MM: In the meantime, what parting words do you have for your loyal fans among our readers?
TM: Tough times create even tougher people and in times like these we must remember that we are African and we have outstood A LOT OF BS. We have survived pandemics, regimes, sicknesses, intolerance, we’ve survived slavery – so what’s corona?! We’ve got this.