Friends warned Israel Makoe against playing the role of a villain on television. They told him people would run away from him, if they were ever to meet him in person, because of the characters he portrayed. But the opposite happened.
Instead of running away, fans approached Makoe and told him how much they admired his acting skills.
Makoe plays the role of a gangster, Mugza, in the new local production Hard To Get – a film he describes as an action, drama and comedy movie with “swag”.
Directed by Zee Ntuli, the cast includes Pallance Dladla, Thishiwe Ziqubu, Pakamisa Zwedala and Jerry Mofokeng, in a tale about two lovers who land themselves in sticky and dangerous situations.
According to Makoe, Mugza is just a guy who is struggling to find love, and when he finds it he gets screwed over by his love interest.
“Mugza is the bad guy in the film. He is a criminal. When you are hated on screen, then you know you are doing a good job,” he says.
South African audiences were first introduced to Makoe in the SABC1 drama series Yizo Yizo, where he played the role of prison gang leader Nongoloza.
Makoe: Crime was ‘my escape’
Makoe was sitting in jail, serving an eight-year sentence for housebreaking and theft, when Yizo Yizo first aired. He was first arrested for theft when he just 14 years old. “Crime for me at the time, was my plan to escape poverty.”
Makoe was, like many South Africans, captivated by the story that Yizo Yizo told about the townships.
“I remember watching the show in prison, and thinking to myself, I’m the next Yizo Yizo star. I could feel it.”
When he was released from prison in 1999 he joined the Victory Sonqoba Theatre Company in Alexandra, a township he grew up in. Through the company, he was able to audition and land the role of Nongoloza in Yizo Yizo.
Theatre was part of his rehabilitation programme while in prison. “Drama was my way of turning my life around,” he says.
Nongoloza, the villain he played in the series, was not a guy you wanted to mess with. Just looking at him on screen, intimidating the other prisoners, scared even the toughest cookie. Since then, Makoe has played more villainous characters in series and films like, Gaz’lam, Izulu Lami, iNumber Number, Tsotsi, Four Corners and now, Hard To Get.