Joseph Mitchell’s face is a familiar one when it comes to television advertisements and some movies – and thousands of children of the 1990s will know him as a talented puppeteer.
Mr Mitchell, 55, from Welcome Estate, a writer, actor and puppeteer, said the acting bug had bitten him at a very young age, and it has remained with him since.
He is so passionate about it, that he even took early retirement to focus on his acting career full-time.
Mr Mitchell worked for the City of Cape Town for 28 years. He used to save up all his leave to audition for, or shoot various roles. He said he had tried being a full-time actor in the 1980s, but after two years and the challenges that came with it, he was “forced” to find employment. But he never gave up on his dream.
“Acting is almost like an addiction to me. I’ve tried a few times to stop, but I just couldn’t. I can’t describe it – it’s just something that’s within me. I was lucky that my employer was very understanding and allowed me to live out my dream.”
The first movie he had a role in,was Jantjie, Kom Huis Toe, in 1983.
Since taking early retirement, he has featured in three advertisements – one being international – and two movies.
“In my entire life, I’ve never had so many roles in just one year,” Mr Mitchell said.
The next challenge he’d like to tackle is being part of a musical.
“When I mentioned this to my wife, Rochelle, she jokingly asked me if I can still dance. I am so determined to do a musical that I got myself a voice trainer to help me prepare for it.
“The last musical I did was 21 years ago, when I was part of the Kinkels in die Kabel cast, with Lee-Ann van Rooyen.”
Apart from his acting, Mr Mitchell is also a writer. He has been writing poetry for more than 20 years, and he has also written five plays. Four years ago, he produced an anthology of his poetry, called !HHUUB (the Khoi word for earth).
Mr Mitchell writes only in Afrikaans and about things that “bothers” him. One of his poems, Don’t Call Me…, deals with race classification.
“I want to be known as a South African. Yet, 22 years into our democracy, we must still tick a box to say whether you are coloured, black, white or Indian – this is when you go for auditions, fill in official government forms, or even when applying for jobs. We must accept that we are African too. Another one of my poems is titled Kinders Moet Speel en Nie Werk Nie.
“It is about my experience working every school holiday since Standard 3 (Grade 5),” Mr Mitchell said.
Now that he has more time available, Mr Mitchell’s son, Joseph junior, or Jos, as he is known, and his daughter, Lauren-Lee, have been helping him with video recordings of his poetry, which he posts on social media and his blog.
“I enjoy working on projects with my children. It’s always a challenge to work together as father and son, though. There are often debates, but we always manage to create something. Since working on projects together, our bond has grown closer. He studied civil engineering, and is very clued up with technology, so he helps his technologically-challenged dad.”
Lauren-Lee, who is a journalist and photographer, helps him to translate his work.
Mr Mitchell still has all his puppets – after more than 20 years, and plans to use them in some of his videos. With his blog, he hopes to attract more attention to what he does, so that more doors can be opened for him, he said.
His ultimate dream, is to make his own movie.