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Man claims Chris Lilley shaped Jonah from Tonga on him

by Porfirio Gartner (2020-07-27)

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Pictured: Filipe Mahe during filming of Our Boys

A man has sensationally claimed that he is the real Jonah from Tonga and slammed Chris Lilley's depiction of him in the hit show Summer Heights High.

Filipe Mahe was filmed as part of an ABC documentary entitled 'Our Boys' which followed disadvantaged students at Canterbury Boys High in Sydney in 2004.

After the series aired Lilley came to Mr Mahe's school, observed classes as they were taught and watched a Tongan dance.

When Summer Heights High debuted four years later Mr Mahe and his friends gathered eagerly for the first episode.

But as soon as he saw Jonah from Tonga, Mr Mahe's heart sank and believed the character was based on him.

Jonah, like Mr Mahe, was from a single-parent family, had a larger than life and cheeky personality, could dance and had problems reading.

Jonah was also portrayed as being rebellious toward teachers - asking one if she was 'on her period'.

It mirrors a scene in the ABC documentary when Mr Mahe discretely asked in Tongan if a friend was menstruating because she was giving him a hard time. 

Pictured: Chris Lilley (centre) in his role as Jonah Takalua in his program, Jonah from Tonga

'I knew from that episode that Jonah was me,' he told the

'I've always thought it was racism to Tongans but never spoke out,' he said. 

'I would have been labelled a "sook" or "can't handle the banter" so I didn't say anything.' 

He added that he felt 'absolutely embarrassed, full of hate, angry and exploited' by the program. 

Mr Mahe, now 33, is a successful dad-of-two living in Queensland but his start to life was much tougher.  

His father had been killed in a motor accident, his mother was wheelchair bound after contracting polio as a child and his sister suffered from epilepsy - which later killed her.  

Mr Mahe has dyslexia and by grade nine he still couldn't read or write in English or Tongan, and his math capabilities were equivalent to a grade six student.

However he'd always managed to get by in class because of his great verbal and observational skills. 

The character of Jonah had similar learning difficulties and compensated by being brash and rude to his superiors, a trait that Mr Mahe said didn't come from him.

Mahe (centre) is certain the character of Jonah is based on him and his experiences at school. Pictured with Our Boys producer Kerry Brewster (left)

Chris Lilley visited Canterbury Boys High after Our Boys aired to conduct research for his upcoming show, Summer Heights High



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