Sometimes art imitates life and it couldn’t be truer for novice actress Petronella Tshuma as she tries to do justice to her new character Ruby in e.tv’s soap Scandal.
Seen earlier as a contestant in SABC1’s Class Act 2, the 21- year-old aspiring actress made the Top 10, but was the first woman to be eliminated.
Determined to find another avenue to pursue her dreams, the single mother of a three- year-old boy, Daijon Sipho, found herself an agent and, in so doing, landed herself an audition for the role of Ruby.
“Lisa (my agent) told me they were looking for a young girl aged between 18 and 21 on Scandal. I went for the audition with a bunch of people and made it into call-backs and, after a week or so, I got the role,” she recalls.
Ruby, Tshuma explains, is a really sweet girl. Of course, she is, according to her story arc, no angel when it comes to dealing with Donna, her biological mother.
“Ruby grew up in a loving family. She is very mature for her age. When she found out she was adopted, she wanted to find out who her parents were. It wasn’t to ask: ‘How come you gave me away?’ She’s cool with it, she just wants to know more about them,” she enlightens.
On how she planned to introduce Ruby to viewers, Tshuma says: “She is a very challenging character to play. But she is also such an inter- esting character. There is a lot in the details of her story I can relate to. I haven’t seen my biological mother in 18 years. Some of the questions Ruby has for Donna, I have. And sometimes it was difficult to play Ruby because the story was too close to home.”
Raised by her late paternal grandmother Thembeka, the actress says: “My family is very mixed. My father is Xhosa – I grew up on his side of the family. And my mother is coloured and speaks Tswana. She is from Botswana.”
Funnily enough, Tshuma says she learnt a lot from Ruby, who “doesn’t get angry easily or hold any grudges”.
Aside from Ruby trying to get to know Donna better and finding out about her father – something her mother isn’t keen on talking about – the teenager finds herself trapped in a love triangle between Mangi and Quinton.
“Mangi is good for her. He has been of great support. She goes to him with every problem she has. But Ruby has already sort of put him in the ‘friend’ zone. It is sort of a big brother thing, but he wants more.
Quinton is a hot guy. First, he wasn’t interested in her when she started at Cole’s. Now there is chemistry between them. You don’t know what he wants. This is sort of Ruby’s first real love. He is a bad boy and she is attracted to him. Ruby is very serious and he makes her laugh and is charming.
“I think viewers will be split as to whom is better for her,” the actress reveals.
With the writers having no immediate plans to terminate the character, Tshuma wants to soak up as much of the experience as she can.
“I’m a new actor. I have never been to drama school. I was intimated by Louise Barnes (Donna). It has taken a while to find my feet and now we have a great relationship on set. I look up to her and those I work with.
“With Ruby, I want her to come across as truthful, a simple girl with a really big heart. I think viewers will see more of that. And they will be pleasantly surprised too.”
Although she has big dreams for herself, for now Tshuma is perfectly content getting there by taking baby steps in building a solid career with longevity as the cornerstone.
lScandal is on e.tv at 7.30pm, Monday to Thursday.