She’s a bold, rebellious young woman who always seems to find trouble on the popular SABC1 show Skeem Saam. Her traditional Pedi family continuously despairs over her antics and her latest stunt has left them shocked.

Rachel Kunutu, played by award-winning actress Lesego Marakalla (26), has just married the man of her dreams, Marothi Maphuthuma played by Macks Papo (53).

The only problem is he’s old enough to be her father and has married him against her mom Celia Kunutu’s wishes. But Rachel doesn’t care. She wants the whole world to know she’s married a wealthy man and is living comfortably like she has always wanted.

And she’s well suited to her new husband, who’s as vindictive and power hungry as she is.

MARRYING FOR LOVE?

Lesego is nothing like Rachel. She’s a shy woman who just happens to love acting. She admits that her character often leaves her shocked. “Many times, in my head, I just think of Rachel and think ‘you are really a piece of work’.”

It’s become almost a norm to see young women in relationships with older men, some for love while others do it for the financial benefit. Rachel insists she’s very much in love with her older bae though.

“If I can’t be with him, I would rather die,” she said the day of her wedding when she almost killed herself. She’s just heard rumours that Marothi killed his first wife to claim an insurance payout.

Eventually, Marothi finds her before she drowns herself, pours his heart out and whisks her back to the wedding altar where they marry. The shy Lesego has been on Skeem Saam for eight years and it’s her first professional acting job.

“I surprised my family when I told them I wanted to pursue an acting career. They know I am too shy, but I guess when something is meant for you nothing can stop it,” she says.

CHEMISTRY ON SET

The Mpumalanga-born actress fell in love with acting when she started doing drama in school and then went on to attend Monis Arts House in Pretoria after Grade 12.

There’s nothing that says this is her first job in her performance though. The convincing actress walked away with the Best Female Villain Award at the 2019 Royal Soapie Awards and the accolade caught her by surprise.

“I am honoured and grateful to be recognised for the work I do but I am not where I would like to be, so the journey continues,” she says.

Acting alongside veterans like Macks helps her become a better actress. He has been on Skeem Saam for five years and has witnessed Lesego’s growth, Macks says. “She is something else.”

It takes a lot of work to pull off what viewers see on TV, Lesego says. “Some might want to just be on TV because of wanting to be seen but it is not about that. It is about doing what you love and working hard to make sure you do it to the best of your ability.”

WORKING HARD

They have intense chemistry on set because they are both passionate about their jobs. “We are both hungry,” Macks says. “I have had my fair share of being overlooked to the point that you start doubting yourself, so we give it our all. With any role I get, I make sure it is memorable. I prepare and take my job seriously.”

He has a BA in dramatic arts degree from Wits University, which he’s been putting to good use. Before being Marothi, he was known as Ivan Tshinawa, a power hungry and wealthy man who would stop at nothing to get what he wanted on e.tv’s drama series Rhythm City.

Some people still call him Ivan Tshinawa, which isn’t a problem for him. It shows he was convincing in the role.

“I am very careful about taking on too many roles at a time as that might cause one to not focus on the quality of the performance,” he says.

Getting to play a lead role of such a big show for Macks is an honour. “It is always a great feeling to be part of something meaningful. I don’t want to be remembered for being a celebrity, but I want to be remembered for my acting skills, my art.”

Because he’s so particular about taking on work, there’ve been rumours that he’s broke. There’s no such thing, Macks tells Move!. “Me, broke? They don’t know what they are talking about,” he laughs out loud.

A BLESSED LIFE

She doesn’t judge women who date or marry for money, Lesego says, but she does caution against letting a temporary lifestyle delay your progress.

“With Rachel, she is from a poor background and wants a better life for herself and Marothi can certainly give that comfortable life to her.”

She believes that sometimes women find themselves in such situations because they don’t believe in their own greatness. “I know it can be hard to try change your life around, but you have to believe that you can and will turn it all around by working hard and finding ways of bettering your life.”

Macks does not necessarily have an issue with age between two people who love each other, he says. “I personally do not endorse sugar daddies, sugar mommies, blessers or blessees because it is not authentic but culturally, it is not a new thing to marry a woman a lot younger than you with things like pre-arranged marriages being a known practice in many families like my own.”

But that doesn’t stop him from being relieved that his 18-year-old daughter isn’t too into boys at the moment.

“She is overseas on a scholarship. She is athletic and loves soccer. I don’t have to worry about ‘boys’ but she knows I am cool but protective and tough.”

WHAT’S NEXT?

In real life, Lesego and Macks are ordinary people who are living drama free lives. But on screen, they are preparing to go into their eighth season – and Marothi and Rachel aren’t over with the drama, the TV couple say.

Stay tuned because they are going to cause havoc with their captivating storyline.