The star of the new M-Net telenovela ‘Legacy’, Anton ‘David’ Jeftha, 34, peels off the layers and gets candid about his relentless rise to stardom.
By: Thanduxolo “Thandz” Buti
After relocating to Los Angeles, United States, in 2016, Anton has made a bold come back to local television as Sebastian Junior (SJ) Price on the new M-Net Telenovela, Legacy, created by the dynamic TV duo, Phathu Makwarela, and Gwydion Beynon.
“While I was away, I always dreamt of coming back home to be part of an exceptional production,” he tells Blacklight during a virtual interview. “I was waiting for the right storyline, accompanied by a high-quality production. And I could not have waited for a better show than Legacy. The quality is top of the range, and the cast is phenomenal, which forces one to strap up and perform at a higher level.”
On the nail-biting prime-time show curated for Dstv’s premium members, Anton plays a mixed-race (half-Sotho and half White) son of a billionaire, alongside award-winning actress, Kgomotso Christopher, playing his mother, Dineo Price. SJ Price is a rich, naïve momma’s boy and heir to the highly contested Price legacy.
“I love how this show strives for authenticity,” explains Anton. “Legacy makes viewers think. There are constant plot twists and every character has a back story, whether it’s the antagonist, protagonist, or supporting characters. You may not always agree with some of the characters’ motives, but you see their full story and get to understand where they are coming from. The show tests our morality and forces us to place ourselves in each character’s shoes.”
Before his breakthrough as an actor, Anton was famous for being the Outsurance guy, after being featured in a series of high rotation insurance TV infomercials. However, as a developing actor, the gig stalled his professional acting career, reducing him to just a commercial actor.
“The insurance ads broadened my world and introduced me to a wider audience, nationally,” he reflects. “However, that kind of exposure was something I never strategically thought through as a rising actor. At the time, I was not aware that being attached to something else (slightly outside your industry) could potentially be detrimental to your career.
“It took for me moving to the United States for people to stop seeing me as just that insurance guy. Now the slate is clean, and I can reinvent myself and do what I want to do – acting. However, I am grateful for that period because, with the money from the campaign, I was able to move to the States. Everything has a silver lining, so even though it was not the best decision, at the time, it helped get me where I am now.”
Moving to the hyper-competitive city of Los Angeles with limited funds, the Belhar, Cape Town, born and raised actor had to pull up his survival skills from his back-pocket and battle to penetrate the ruthless US entertainment industry. Coming from the volatile Cape Flats, in pursuit of the American dream, he was pushed to his limits, personally and professionally. However, he managed to bag a few high-profile gigs; he scored guest appearances on Homeland, Dominion Fraud, Saints & Strangers, Bagels & Bubbles, to name a few.
“I Look back at that decision to move to the US and I think: I was totally nuts,” he says, laughing. “I didn’t think about it too much; I just packed my bags and moved. I sold my car, and I went to Hollywood.
“It was a life-changing experience. LA is a melting pot of different cultures, and I got to learn more about people and the way they move and think. The city has some of the most ambitious people in the world. You get there, and you start feeling very small and insignificant in that vast world.
“That taught me to be more resilient in the face of adversity and to keep pushing forward. I learned the art of survival because there were times where money was a big issue, and I didn’t have any. I had to reach out and ask for help when I felt stuck – that teaches you humility.
“In the past, I think I took this career lightly; I was floating along thinking that everything would magically fall into place. And in LA, I got to understand the estimation of effort – estimating how much effort goes into a career. People don’t realise the number of sacrifices that performers have to make to survive in this industry.”
Fresh off the re-affirming international acting arena, Anton beams with confidence, and he is eager to pour it all into his work. He is cognisant of the fact that respect in any field is earned through consistency and hard work.
“Confidence is something that grows over time; I am still working on it daily. Hard work breeds confidence,” he shares.
“When I relocated to the US, I scored this global commercial campaign, and my face was on billboards all over the US, Canada, and other parts of the world. As a boy from the Cape Flats, to have your face on Billboards in cities like Toronto is hard to comprehend. Those kinds of moments force you to believe in yourself more and to dream even bigger. However, nothing is permanent in this industry; you could book a huge gig today, and a couple of months later, you back to scrambling for work again. Coming back home, I have this newfound confidence because I have been through the worst, and I feel like I can conquer anything.”
Anton recalls his upbringing in the notorious Cape Flats and describes it as “a real journey.” He lauds his parents for setting a great example for him and his siblings and for providing them with the best opportunities in efforts to give them a much better chance at succeeding in life.
“My parents were hard-working individuals who pushed us into the best schools (at the time referred to as model-c schools). They always instilled the importance of education in us.
“But like all other kids, I would often make poor choices and find myself in those non-ideal spaces that my parents were trying to protect us from. I found myself in the gangsterism and drug scene, but my saving grace was sports. Sports helped to channel my energy into something positive.
“Also, losing a lot of people in my life also helped to steer me off that direction. I lost a friend when I was about 20 who was shot and stabbed multiple times in my neighbourhood. That was one of those defining moments that made me think: there must be more to life than this. It forced me to step up for myself and to prove that our environment does not define us – we are limitless.
He adds: “Growing up, I had no references; I was my own reference. I was the first one in my family to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. But as hard and scary as it may be, sometimes we have to step off our comfort zones and take a leap – jump.”
Even though Anton always had a strong desire to pursue acting professionally, without any successful actors in proximity to serve as references, he had to suppress his dream; instead, he acquired a Bcom in Finance, Economics & Information systems.
“Life would have been simpler if I stayed in finance,” he laughs. “I would have had a closet filled with designer suits and ties, and maybe I would be settled by now.
“I could not study acting because, like many other parents, my parents did not view the arts (drama) as a viable career choice. I come from a very academic family, and a degree in finance made more sense. I don’t regret making that choice, but I did not enjoy it.”
Speaking to Anton, you get a deep sense of his bottomless passion for life and his career. Within a few words into a conversation with him, he reels you in with his charisma. He is goofy but refined. Unlike his character on TV, he is not afraid to laugh at himself, and that’s when his walls crack open, and his true essence rises to the surface.
With his modelling background, he is blessed with striking looks and is often labelled and hashtagged: “#mancandy”, #mancrush”, #hunk.” However, at times his looks tend to threaten to overshadow his performances.
So how does he truly feel about being viewed as a Greek god?
“Do I like being objectified? What can I say?” He laughs and then ponders. “I think now I can take it as a compliment, but in the beginning, it used to be uncomfortable for me to accept any compliment – I would cringe inside. Now I have learned to appreciate compliments – all compliments.
“I also have a responsibility to shift the narrative because my modelling background was all about pushing that sexy agenda – there are a few half-naked and topless images circulating and also being featured on “Sexiest Man” lists etc. But it also opened doors for me that would have remained closed otherwise. So I cannot reject that part of me, but it is not all I am – I am a multi-layered being.
“I know that this a journey, and I have to earn respect over time. And I hope that through hard work and dedication, I can continue to grow and earn my stripes in the industry.”
Catch Anton on Legacy, on M-net (DStv 101) from Monday to Thursday at 19h00.