TERRY Pheto is unquestionably the pride of South Africa. In bagging the coveted role of a heart surgeon in The Bold and the Beautiful, she had the nation beaming, with Facebook and Twitter fielding a tsunami of good wishes.

In all honesty, her red carpet affair at the Oscars in 2006 – she accompanied Tsotsi director Gavin Hood and co-star Presley Chweneyagae – pales in comparison to the attention she is currently attracting. Then again, perhaps her debut film bagging the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year was a precursor to her foray in Hollywood.

To maintain the element of surprise, all the details around her soap character and storyline are being kept secret – South African viewers will only get to see her on screen next year.

However, I managed to sneak a peek of her in action at the CBS studio in Los Angeles.

Stylishly dressed under a white doctor’s coat, a poised Pheto sipped her coffee while going through her lines.

Once her scenes were canned, I had the opportunity to shoot the breeze with her and find out more about this career milestone.

A radiant smile showed her congenial disposition. Pheto exudes grace, which is complemented by her immaculately applied make-up.

“It was one of those things that you never thought (would happen), that one day you would get a phone call saying The Bold and the Beautiful is interested in you.

“And for me that was such a great honour because I have been a fan of the show ever since I can remember,” she shares.

“Actually, at first, I thought it was a joke,” laughs Pheto. “I thought there was no way in hell I would be a part of The Bold and the Beautiful.

“It is such an amazing production, with so many talented people, and also one of my favourite shows. And it wasn’t a joke – thank God. Ja, it took us months to prepare for everything because of the work permit to get myself here.”

While she wasn’t at liberty to discuss her role at length, the 30-year-old actress says her character – cast as a South African, by the way – is enigmatic and will definitely pique viewers’ curiosity.

Although she was only on set for three days, Pheto seemed very comfortable in her new abode.

“It has been a learning curve for me,” she admits. “It has been absolutely crazy and I’ve never seen anything like this before, but I love the sense of family around here. People work together to make something beautiful.

“We shoot something like two episodes a day, which is a lot of work because we start at 10am and (go on) to 5pm. It is a lot of work because you have to jump in – there is no time to warm up, you just sprint.”

And it has certainly been a whirlwind journey, especially with her strolling down the red carpet at the recent Daytime Emmys in Las Vegas.

“I was here when I got a call about going to the Emmys and I didn’t even know I was invited. I called Thula Sindi, a friend of mine, and said: ‘So I’m going to the Emmys – hook me up with a dress.’ And he was like: ‘Okay.’ He made it and shipped it here.”

Suffice to say, the royal blue dress, which was beautifully draped and adorned with diamanté, was a knockout.

For someone who cut her teeth in film, working with multicams took a bit of getting used to.

“I’ve only done film. And a bit of TV (Zone 14, Jacob’s Cross and Hopeville). But it was short and filmed with one camera. It is certainly exciting to work with a multicam and such an amazing cast. Some of the people I’ve seen growing up – it is such a surreal feeling.”

On her criteria when accepting roles, Pheto offers: “You know, ever since Tsotsi and the Oscars, people thought I was going to lose my mind and I didn’t. I’ve always been very careful when it comes to the roles I chose. I want to play characters I can relate to. Sometimes, though, you have to step out of your comfort zone and do something you have never done before.

“But I haven’t been afraid to play characters that are vulnerable because there is strength in doing so. It has been a really exciting journey and my current character is certainly interesting – I’ve never played someone in this kind of position. As an actor, it is the kind of role you pray for and, when it happens, you embrace it.”

Have the dazzling lights and glamorous buzz of Los Angeles fostered any thoughts on making the move permanent?

She muses: “It is something I’m debating right now. Obviously, there are exciting opportunities for me right here shooting Bold. But there are also other things happening for me back home. You know, the world is 24 hours away from South Africa, so I can always catch a flight back if I have to.”

Right now, though, Pheto simply wants to inject all her energy into her soap role: “I’m going to go with the flow. I think God has been really kind to me. The plans and dreams I had, he definitely had bigger ones. I also have a new movie, How to Steal 2 Million, coming out. I play a baddie in it and I’m looking forward to the release. Maybe after this I will come home for the premiere and to do promotions. In terms of my next role, I just want to keep it a mystery,” she teases.

Flying the South African flag while maintaining the intrigue – looks like our Terry is well on her way to becoming another success story à la our Charlize Theron, Gavin Hood and Sharlto Copley.