Skeem Saam’s Shoki and Putla talk, showbiz, family and parenting
Shoki Mmola and Putla Sehlapelo. (Photo: Move!)
ON SCREEN, they are a couple who will stop at nothing
to succeed – even if it means getting rid of anyone who stands in the way of
their progress. But in real life, there’s no ruthlessness about them. Instead,
they are friends who love working with each other.
WHERE THEY FIRST MET
Shoki Mmola (42) and Putla Sehlapelo(49) have nothing
but praise for each other. Shoki plays Celia and Putla plays Magongwa on the
SABC1 soapie Skeem Saam and keep fans glued to their
screens with their evil ways. They’ve been working together for seven years on
the soapie and it’s been one of his career highlights, Putla tells Move!.
The pair met many years ago in Pretoria while Shoki was
studying drama at the Pretoria Technikon (now Tshwane University of Technology)
and Putla was at the University of Pretoria, also studying drama. “We later met
on different sets but only worked together in 2010, on the TV drama Death of
This is not the first time they’ve been husband and
wife. On Death of a Queen,10 years ago, Shoki was
the evil Grace Lerothodi, the wife of king Maloro, who was played by Putla. “That’s
when our friendship brewed.
On Skeem Saam, most times after
working on a scene together, she will say, ‘I love working with you.’ “I don’t
say it back because she’s that good. I don’t have to tell her all the time. She
knows,”Putla says with a smile.
THE LOVE FOR FAMILY
The youthful Shoki is turning 42 this year. It’s all
in the genes, she says, giving credit to her mom. “I’ve got nothing to do with
it. I’m born from a mother and a father of very good genes. I don’t have to
work hard for it.”
Shoki says she was raised by her aunt from the time
she was a young girl. Her mother only came into her life later. “I was about
six months old when my mother got married, and I was left behind to be raised
by my grandparents. When my grandfather passed on I was raised by my aunt.”
She’s got no hard feelings towards her mom though. “I
knew she was young when she had me and I grew up understanding that my mom
loves me and that’s all I needed.
“I have no resentment towards my mom who is
still with her husband of 41 years,” she says. They have a healthy relationship
and her mom is a grandmother to Shoki’s two daughters, Oratile (12) and Karabo
Putla grew up in a Christian loving home in Polokwane,
Limpopo, with his parents and five siblings. The former Generations
has great memories of his childhood but his fondest memory has to be when he
was able to eat cheese as a youngster.
“I love cheese and it was something we did not have
every day. When it came around it was a good day,” he says, laughing. The actor
and his wife, Neo (27), have been married for five years and have three kids
aged eight, seven and three. Putla prefers not to reveal the names of his kids.
He might be a serious man on screen, but when he’s
home, Putla turns into a softie. When he gets home from work, his kids often
hide from him.
“We play hide and seek all the time. I will walk in
the house and ask my wife where the kids are. Playing along, she will turn and
say, ‘I don’t know where they are’. “They hide in the same places every single
day, which means I always know where they are hiding, but I pretend to miss
them in my process of finding them. I really love that,” he admits.
Shoki’s eyes light up when they start talking about
their children. “I love my two girls and would give my left nipple for them,” she
says. “We have a good relationship and they understand that they are kids and I
am the mom. They understand that I am not their friend even though we have an
open relationship, which consists of trust.
We talk about anything and everything, including their
young crushes and their aspirations in life. “I also love that my children have
a lot of respect for me.” As much as they understand there are rules that need
to be followed, there is one rule she can’t get them to stick to. “I know when
I say ‘Do your homework when I’m not at home ‘I am merely wasting my breath,” she
THE BUSINESS OF TELEVISION
Putla, who’s been in the industry for almost two
decades, loves acting. “I love that I don’t have to bring a skaftin (lunch box)
to work because I am well fed at work,” he says. “I don’t need to iron my
clothes and groom myself. I show up and someone tells me what to wear and make me
look the way they want me to look.”
Shoki has been a regular on SA’s screens for 25 years.
She tells Move! it all happened by chance. “Not long after completing
my chemical engineering degree in 1997, I met veteran actress Lillian Dube on
my way home in the Johannesburg CBD. “She asked me if I was a model or actress,
and if I could speak Setswana. I answered ‘no’ to all her questions.
She informed me about a new drama Kgatelopele
was coming up and encouraged me to audition. I went to the SABC, learnt my
lines and I was in. I never looked back. I love acting and I love applause,” she
says frankly. She’s learned as much as she could, which included getting a
degree in drama at the Tswane University of Technology in 2000.
“I have seen many come in and fall out in this
business and I’m grateful it hasn’t happened to me.” She believes the accountability,
dependability and professionalism that she brings to her work has contributed
to her staying power. “I have to remember this is a job that feeds me and takes
my kids to school.”
SHE'S A SURVIVOR
In 2017, Shoki spoke publicly about the alleged abuse
she suffered at the hands of her then husband, actor Sello Sebotsane. She and
Sello had been married for 10 years before they went their separate ways. “If
it wasn’t for my therapy and Putla’s support, I would have not been able to
cope,” she says.