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Zakes Mokae television 1990s


With the X-Files and Law and Order Mokae appeared in the biggest television around.

Parker Kane

Parker Kane, an average detective story, directed by Steve Perry. 1990.  It was a television pilot which didn't lead to a series.  The director went on to be a "follow-up" director (Speed 2, Lethal Weapon 3,4, Die Hard 2).  The character Parker Kane is ultra-hip, an ex-cop he is now a private detective.

Parker Kane

A friend of his is killed by a hit squad and he seeks out the killers. Actually he doesn't seem too grieved by the death and coasts through the film seemingly without any problems or difficulties in life-the music just after the killing is an up-tempo "life is good".  He does discover a case of his friend filled with money, then a key to a storage room with an expensive car and bike.

Parker Kane

Mokae is the likeable cafe owner, one of Kane's friends.

Zakes Moke in Parker Kane

Parker Kane

All images from the film.




Dream On - The Taking in Pablum 1-2-3

Dream On and the two-part episode Taking of Pablum 1-2-3 (5.1, 5.2) 1990.   Dream On is a light comedy series which uses clips from old b&w films to reflect Tupper's feeling.  It is a nice idea but does slow down the story.

Dream On - The Taking in Pablum 1-2-3 

Brian Benben stars as Martin Tupper, and in these episodes Mokae appears briefly playing a UN Dignitary giving a speech.

Zakes Mokae Dream On - The Taking in Pablum 1-2-3 

The Tupper's baby (called Little Richard) is kidnapped by a hapless brother and sister, but the police assume Martin is the kidnapper.

Dream On - The Taking in Pablum 1-2-3

Stephen Engel was the writer and the director was Ron Wolotzky.   John Landis (director of An American Werewolf in London) is one of the executive producers.

The film is very tiresome lacking comedy or suspense.

Zakes Mokae Dream On - The Taking in Pablum 1-2-3

All images from the film of the episode.

The Valiant Little Tailor

The cartoon series Happily Ever After brings multiculturalism to traditional fairy tales.  Mokae does the voiceover of Mr. Babooska in The Valiant Little Tailor from 1995.  Bruce W. Smith directs, the writer is Daryl G. Nickens and the cast also includes James Earl Jones.

Mokae's character Mr. Babooska bullies the little tailor.

Zakes Mokae voiceover Mr. Babooska

But the tailor escapes and his journeys include him outwitting a giant.  Eventually he comes across a king (James Earl Jones) and his princess and after further adventures marries the princess and lives happily ever after.

  The Valiant Little Tailor

All images from the film.

The X Files logo

The X Files episode Teliko (4.3) from 1993.  Black men are going missing believed kidnapped. Then one turns up dead with his skin turned white.

X Files Teliko

X Files Teliko David Duchovny

Zakes Mokae plays the ambassador of Burkina Faso who tells Mulder the African myth of the Teliko, a possible lost tribe who evolved into other creatures.

Zakes Mokae X Files Teliko

Mulder is paralysed and Scully (Gillian Anderson) has to face Teliko.

X Files Teliko Gillian Anderson as Scully

X Files Teliko

Lisa Ferguson writes "[Mokae] was unfamiliar with the hit show when he was called to appear on it. "I'm not kidding," he says. "They just called me and flew me out to Vancouver," where the show was previously filmed (it's now produced in Los Angeles). Nor did he catch the episode when it aired. "I never really watch myself," he says. "You look really ridiculous sitting there watching yourself. "I'm basically a stage actor.  Movies and TV- especially TV- I'm terrible!" he says, chuckling. "I feel much (more) secure and safer in the theater." (Las Vegas Sun, 10 Mar 1999).

Zakes Mokae The X Files Teliko

Teliko is part of Bambara mythology. The Bambara are an ethnic group in Mali, Senegal, Cote d'Ivoire, the Gambia, and Burkina Faso (from the Joshua Project here).

According to Bambara legend, the universe began from a single point of sound- the sound Yo. Yo brought into being the creator figures Faro, Pemba, and Teliko… Teliko was the spirit of the air. (from Occult World here)

All images from the DVD.

Percy & Thunder title credit 

Percy & Thunder directed by Ivan Dixon and written by Art Washington, 1993.  A boxing saga with Courtney Vance as the young boxer (left) and James Earl Jones (right) as the trainer involved in the struggles outside the ring. 

Percy & Thunder with Courtney Vance as boxer Percy  Percy & Thunder with James Earl Jones as Thunder

The film lacks the realism of say Rocky, with the gym full of people who clearly could not stand a round inside the ring.

Percy & Thunder boxers in gym 

Mokae has a role as Pee Wee, owner of the local gym.

Zakes Mokae as Pee Wee in Percy & Thunder 

Zakes Mokae in Percy & Thunder 

When Percy starts a relationship with a woman, Thunder wants him to stop.   Mokae gets involved  in the argument

Zakes Mokae in Percy & Thunder 

The film of course leads up to a fight in the ring.

boxing ring in Percy & Thunder 

The acting of everyone is as poor as the direction.  The photography is particularly bad, with lack of focus in some shots- the director of photography is Hector Figueroa.

  Zakes Mokae Percy & Thunder

All images from DVD  of the film. 

In Darkest Hollywood: Cinema and Apartheid

Zakes Mokae In Darkest Hollywood   Zakes Mokae In Darkest Hollywood

A documentary in two parts about cinema in South Africa, directed by Peter Davis and Daniel Riesenfeld. 1999, each partm56 minutes.

"Using a wealth of archival footage and commentary by filmmakers and actors, including a young John Kani and Miriam Makeba, this two-part film examines the role of cinema in both supporting and attacking Apartheid, focusing on the impact of Hollywood films in South Africa, the depiction of South Africa in Hollywood films, and finally, the emergence of an indigenous film industry in South Africa. It also questions Hollywood’s commitment to racial stereotypes and reluctance to depict black heroes." (from African FilmFestival New York here).

Zakes Mokae In Darkest Hollywood

Zakes Mokae In Darkest Hollywood

In segregated South Africa films were a major source of entertainment, where people could escape from the problems of every day living.  Novelist Lewis Nkosi says "for a moment we forgot apartheid".

Zakes Mokae In Darkest Hollywood

Zakes Mokae In Darkest Hollywood  Zakes Mokae In Darkest Hollywood

Initially films were standard Hollwood fare, but gradually films for the non-white population had non-white actors and (in South Africa) stars.

John Kani In Darkest Hollywood

Actor John Kani says "The whole bug of me being an actor was as a result of those great movies". 

The film is highly critical of Attenborough's Cry Freedom, with the white character dominating the film despite being about Steve Biko "all the black characters in the film reduced to something very minor, very thin and characters where you don't get an idea of at all" (John Matshikiza who plays Mapetla in the film).

Zakes Mokae In Darkest Hollywood

A Dry White Summer fares better with Zakes Mokae saying "There's nothing that is not true in this picture and I know from experience.  I know what it is to be in a cell and to be beaten".  There is some criticism that the film ends with an act of violence, suggesting this is the only way out.

All images from the film.  Quotes are from the film unless specifically referenced.

Zakes Mokae - Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story - title

Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story, directed by Michael Dinner, 1994. An American football star Dennis Byrd played by Peter Berg becomes paralysed. He then has to undergo treatment to regain the use of his legs.

Zakes Mokae - Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story - Peter Berg

Zakes Mokae - Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story

Zakes Mokae - Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story

Zakes Mokae - Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story

Zakes Mokae - Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story - Kathryn Morris

"The 6ft 5in, 270lbs Byrd was a second-round draft pick for the Jets in 1989 and quickly became a fan favorite for his intensity on the field as much as his humble, soft-spoken approach off it. He was considered one of the NFL’s promising young defensive ends... his life was changed during a game in November 1992, against Kansas City. He broke his neck after slamming headfirst into the chest of team-mate Scott Mersereau as Chiefs quarterback David Krieg stepped forward to avoid a sack. The impact broke the C-5 vertebra in Byrd’s neck, leaving him briefly paralyzed, although doctors were uncertain if Byrd would ever be able to walk again...After a vigorous rehabilitation over the next several months, Byrd returned to the Meadowlands for the Jets’ opening game the following season and walked — gingerly but unaided — to midfield as an honorary captain" (Associated Press quoted in The Guardian, 16 Oct 2016).

Despite the inspiring background the film turns it into a predicable story. 

Zakes Mokae - Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story

Zakes Mokae - Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story

Zakes Mokae - Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story  Zakes Mokae - Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story

Zakes Mokae has a minor role as the assistant of the therapeutist.

Zakes Mokae - Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story

The director of photography is Tim Suhstedt and the editor is James Austin Stewart.

Dennis Byrd Rise and Walk

The teleplay is by John Miglis based on the book by Dennis Byrd with Michael D'Orso.

Zakes Mokae - Rise and Walk: the Dennis Byrd Story - credit

All images from the film and the book cover.  Apologies for the poor quality of the images.

Law and Order

Law & Order with the episode Wager (4.18) in 1994.  Directed by Ed Sherin with Zakes Mokae playing a lawyer in a story about murder with a background of gambling and baseball.

The father of a famous baseball player is murdered, and suspicion falls on Papa Doc (played by Ray Aranha), a chiropodist who is actually involved in organised gambling and drugs.

Law and Order, Wager, Papa Doc

Mokae plays Edgar Barkley, the lawyer representing the baseball player.

Zakes Mokae, Law and Order, Wager

The court case against Papa Doc stumbles and detectives reconsider the evidence.

Zakes Mokae Law and Order, Wager

The episode is bland with a predicable range of witnesses, and the story lumbers to a climax.  Mokae is not given anything challenging and so is not on form.

Zakes Mokae Law and Order, Wager

The suspect is nicknamed Papa Doc, the infamous dictator of Haiti with his infamous Tonton Macoute.  Mokae played a Tonton Macoute member in The Comedians.

The credits for the episode include two co-producers, two producers, one "produced by", one supervising producer and two co-executive producers.

Zakes Mokae Law and Order 

All images from the DVD of the episode

Zakes Mokae - Gensyn med Johannesburg - title

Gensyn med Johannesburg (Return to Johannesburg) an Afrikaans documentary in 1996 by Anders Høgsbro Østergaard revisiting Mokae's 1962 film A World of Strangers- also called Dilemma.  Mokae and fellow Dilemma actor Evelyn Frank revisit Johannesburg together with Dilemma director Henning Carlsen.

Zakes Mokae - Gensyn med Johannesburg  Evelyn Frank  Zakes Mokae - Gensyn med Johannesburg

Zakes Mokae - Gensyn med Johannesburg

Zakes Mokae and Evelyn Frank.

Gensyn med Johannesburg - Nadine Gordimer

Director Henning Carlsen with novelist Nadine Gordimer.

Zakes Mokae - Gensyn med Johannesburg  Zakes Mokae - Gensyn med Johannesburg

Mokae is happy revisiting his hometown.

Zakes Mokae - Gensyn med Johannesburg

But he also visits Pretoria Municipal Prison where his brother was hanged.  "You wonder if he screamed".

Zakes Mokae - Gensyn med Johannesburg

All images from the DVD of the film which is available as an extra on the Dilemma DVD.

Oz Logo

Oz with Zakes Mokae appearing in two episodes, Animal Farm and Escape from Oz (2.7 and 2.8), in this series about Oswald Maximum Security Penitentiary (called Oz). Directed by Mary Harron and Jean de Segonzac in 1998.

The series covers the prisoners and staff with interlocking stories which span episodes.


In Animal Farm a new prisoner, faith healer/witch doctor Kipkemei Jara, played by Zakes Mokae, collects his prison clothes.

Zakes Mokae in Oz

Zakes Mokae in Oz Animal Farm

The  episode is reasonably light hearted with an elderly prisoner needing money to help his grandson who has leukemia and the prisoners eventually each donating the money to him.  But in Escape from Oz the tone changes radically with a paedophile priest crucified on the gym floor...

Oz - priest

... a prison guard with his eyes gouged out, and a prisoner will his legs and arms all broken.

Mokae's story plays out in Escape from Oz. He was convicted for criminally negligent homicide as part of a voodoo ceremony and tries to convert prisoner Simon Adebisi, played by Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje. 

Oz Escape from Oz Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje

Initially he is rejected but gradually Jara´s power, shown through flashbacks to voodoo ceremonies, wins over Adebisi.  This threatens the established criminal order, and Jara is stabbed to death.

Zakes Mokae in Oz

The result is that Adebisi starts to hear the Yoruba drums in his head and strips and dances a tribal dance. He is seen as mad but he does find some inner peace.

Oz episode escape from Oz

Zakes Mokae Oz credit

All images from the DVD of the episodes.


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