The tweets bordered on the disturbing. From “Arrest us, we are your criminals” to the more macabre “Serial murder us, we are your victims,” women on Twitter seemed to have lost their minds over a young cop/serial killer called Tuelo on the Mzansi Magic telenovela The Queen.
The man bringing this enigmatic character to life is Top Actor winner Jesse Suntele, who has dominated social media trend lists since his debut on the Ferguson production.
He laughs when I bring up the picture that caused such a stir on Twitter as he recalls how other people thought he was an actual cop. In the picture, posted on Instagram, he is wearing an SAPS uniform, posing next to a police van, with what looks vaguely like a crime scene behind him.
The picture was taken on set and although it is true for Tuelo, it couldn’t be further away from Jesse’s reality.
“I could never be a cop. I do not think I am brave enough for that. But I really respect the men and women who do that job daily,” he reveals.
Jesse was born in Johannesburg and grew up in Bloemfontein. He was raised by his single mother and has two siblings. In addition to getting straight A’s, he played chess, hockey and soccer, swam, danced and wrote lyrics on the side. The smallest boy in his class, he was always considered “cute” by admiring girls.
A qualified sound engineer, he explains that his acting calling has not always been so loud. He started off modelling and got a few commercial gigs. It was during that time that he caught the acting bug and entered the Top Actor talent search, which he eventually won.
He considers his talents his mother’s blessing and aspires to change her life by being successful in all he does. “My mom had big dreams, but she never had the time or the resources to chase those dreams. But I think God recognises all the hard work she has put into our lives, and sometimes God blesses you through other people.”
Many young women flock to his Instagram page daily to see what he is up to and whether he has posted a new shirtless picture of himself.
But many do not know that we have the hip-hop talent show VuzuHustle to thank for Jesse’s presence on Instagram.
The aspiring rapper created his Instagram account specifically so that he could enter the rapping competition.
He sent in his video entry just five minutes before the deadline and believes that that may have contributed to why he did not pro-gress any further. His first love was poetry, but as he matured, so did his passion for music.
“Funny enough, I still remember the first poem I recited to a crowd. It was back in Grade 6 and the lyrics went: ‘If love was crime, I’d be doing time from 1999 to 2045. If love were a teardrop, I’d be crying rivers. If love was a friend I’d be chilling with my niggas’.”
Suntele hasn’t given up on music. He realises that, by virtue of Tuelo’s fame, he may be known to many as the actor who later tried to rap, but emphasises that he fell in love with music first.
“What I’d like to be is a jack of all trades but a master of one; I’d like to master my music. But I want to ensure that by the time people hear my music there’s no doubt that I’m good at what I do!”
The Queen is on Mzansi Magic, DStv channel 161, on Mondays to Thursdays.