Jerry Phele insists there’s still more to offer to live up to his legendary status

‘I don’t think people have seen my full potential as an actor’

Masego Seemela Online journalist
Legendary actor Jerry Phele.
Legendary actor Jerry Phele.
Image: Supplied.

Veteran actor Jerry Phele doesn’t believe he has done enough in the acting industry to be considered a legend of our time.

The 69-year-old actor, widely known for his iconic role as Mofokeng on SABC 1’s 90s hit sitcom Emzini Wezinsizwa, insists that he has more work cut out for him to live up to his legendary status. 

With an acting career spanning close to 40 years, Phele has assimilated numerous roles that depict how multifaceted he is as an actor. 

He has embodied the role of a jokester who lives at a hostel with his buddies and has also played the role of a God-fearing man whose faith hardly gets shaken and now after a three-year hiatus from our screens, Phele will make his return to the small screen on Monday night on e.TV’s Smoke & Mirrors. 

The seasoned actor will be playing a dodgy character named after him who swindles people and finds himself in treacherous situations. 

“I cannot begin to explain this feeling. I’m so excited to be back, doing what I love. The operation on my hip has kept me away from acting and I’d often envy my peers whenever I’d see them acting on TV,” said Phele. 

“It wasn’t nice sitting at home nursing my hip but I’m glad to say that I’m feeling far better than I have in years. 

“The funny thing is, I’d often forget about my pains whenever I’m on set… that’s how much I love it.”

Image: Supplied.

In 2021, the comedic actor bagged a role on season two of faith tested by sin drama series, Abomamawhere he assumed the role of church caretaker Jonas. 

“As much as Jonas was there to guard and took care of the church, he was staunch in his faith. He was full of hallelujahs and amens and would never do any wrong no matter what,” he said. 

“Now, this new role of Jerry Phele is far different from Jonas. Jerry is a sketchy person who is very untruthful in his ways. 

“Yes, my character and I share the same name but he and I are not the same, not even an inch. This Jerry is hardcore with a twisted persona. I only realised the scammer he was after a few scenes… that was when I knew I had to protect the real me [inside] when I was acting as Jerry, the big-time scammer.”

Being a humorous actor has been a part of Ntate Jerry’s aesthetic since his inception on television. He has starred in SABC2’s sitcom Skwizas as the ever-so-funny Morena alongside legendary actors Lillian Dube and Tsholofelo Matshaba.

Image: Supplied.

“I was yearning so badly to come back to television because I believe this is what I’m meant to do. I still believe there are more roles for me to take on before being called a ‘legend’, people are pre-emptive by calling me a legend,” said the actor. 

“I don’t think people have seen my full potential as an actor. I still need to take on that one role that will convince me that I truly am a legend.” 

Looking back at his career, Phele described it as a “bumpy yet pleasant ride”. 

“There were moments where I played some of my roles under too much pressure, some I felt I could’ve done better on but most of all, I’m pretty happy with my contribution to television acting,” he gushed. 

“Of all my roles, Mofokeng will always hold my heart. He was my footprint, the character that showed me that ‘I had arrived’ and was really cut out for this TV thing.”

Phele is just weeks away from his 70th birthday and as a “booked and busy” actor, he said he was grateful that producers were not concerned about his seasoned age but are more focused on the magic he makes on our TV screens.  

“What’s also exciting is that I’m busy cooking and studying a new role that I believe people will also love.”

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