Fan of Fana: Talking with South African actor Fana Mokoena
Born in on May 13, 1971, veteran South African actor Fana Mokoena garnered worldwide acclaim for his powerful portrayal of General Augustin Bizimungu opposite Oscar-nominees Don Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo in Hotel Rwanda.
He previously worked with World War Z director Marc Forster on Machine Gun Preacher when he played John Garang, leader of the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army.
Fana’s other film credits include supporting roles in Safe House, Inside Story, State of Violence and Man on Ground, for which he received an Africa Movie Academy Award.
Here, he talks about his latest outing opposite Brad Pitt in World War Z where he reunites with Forster as U.N. Deputy Secretary General Thierry Umutoni.
What interested you in World War Z?
That it was a brave stab at the zombie genre. We haven’t seen one at this scale, and I immediately saw how it was going to work.
How was it working with director Marc Forster?
He trusted me with the work, and I found that refreshing. It helps you grow.
What was it like acting opposite an icon like Brad Pitt?
Awesome! Awe-inspiring! Awe-striking! It was incredible to watch him work.
How would you describe your character, Thierry Umutoni?
As a measured character. Hard-driven, but kind and compassionate. No drama.
How did you prepare for the role?
I first had to read the book to cover my basics. Then I had to understand the world of the zombie, and familiarize myself with what the end of the world means to my character personally.
What message do you think people will take away from the film?
I hope they take away the overarching message that the end of the world is all our responsibility.
What was the last book you read?
I’m still reading my birthday gift, Speeches That Changed the World. It’s a compilation of speeches by some of the greatest men and women in history.
Belated happy birthday! What was the last song you listened to?
I’ve been going retro on Ephraim Lewis and the last song I listened to was “Captured.”
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
A sign: “Work in Progress.”
If you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
Happiness and longevity.
What is your earliest childhood memory?
The chicken and the doves we used to have at home.
What key quality do you believe all successful people share?
Tenacity and integrity.
If you had to choose another profession, what would that be?
Art and graphics.
With so many classic films being redone, is there a remake you’d like to star in?
Citizen Kane, the second greatest movie ever made.
How do you want to be remembered?
Just as a guy who worked hard.