Thembsie Matu, as Petronella in The Queen. Picture: Supplied
Thembsie Matu, as Petronella in The Queen. Picture: Supplied

'The Queens' Petronella brings #DMVCA nomination for Thembsie Matu

By Liam Karabo Joyce Time of article published Nov 20, 2018

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The second annual DStv Mzansi Viewers Awards will be held at the Sandton Convention Centre later this month, and it promises to be bigger and better. The awards have a number of categories which include the highly contested one for best actress.

The nominees include Rami Chuene and Thembsie Matu, a fan favourite. I first met Matu at a press event held at Summer Place. A fan of her work and more especially the character she currently plays on "The Queen," I had to get a selfie with the star. She was shy and extremely humble, even taking selfies with her own mobile.

No stranger to the stage, Matu has been performing for more than 30 years. From acclaimed theatre productions to television shows and adverts, she has done it all.

Matu plays Petronella, a larger than life domestic worker who has become one of the small screen’s most loved characters. Known for her big mouth and humour, Petronella takes no prisoners. Matu said she was given the chance to make Petronella, a character created just for her, exactly how she wanted her to be.

“I got a call from Shona Ferguson, I was still busy on another show at the time. He told me they had created a character just for me and that they wanted me to join "The Queen" in its second season. I said yes because I enjoyed the show as a viewer, so just imagine acting on it,” Matu said.

A week before joining production, Matu expected a character bible to be sent to her, but that never happened. In fact, Matu was allowed to give Patronella whatever backstory she wanted. “I was allowed to make Patronella whatever I wanted her to be, whether she was a Xhosa or Zulu woman, whether she was shy or outspoken. I was a little nervous about it at first but I was actually very honoured that I was given that creative freedom,” she said.

The last time South African viewers enjoyed a domestic worker character the way they enjoy Patronella was when "Madam & Eve" was aired back in the mid-2000s. Matu said she never expected her character to become so popular.

“You know I did not expect Petronella to become so huge. I thought she would show up now and then and interact with her boss, but that did not happen. I think people enjoy her because she is so relatable but also because she says what everyone else is thinking but is too scared to say.”

“She is also extremely funny,” said Matu. Although she admitted to being very different to Petronella, when she is in public people don’t see that. “Listen people come up to me expecting her and they want me to say the things she says and even speak the way she does and I don’t mind but when I am off set I don’t want to be her because she is so exhausting. But people love her and I understand that but we are different. I think before I speak, unlike her,” she said.

On her DMVCA nomination, the actress said she was humbled.

“I did not expect it, I have been doing this for such a long time and awards have never been something I was bothered by. It’s an honour to be nominated and I really hope I win”.

Matu recently celebrated 30 years of acting and said that in those years, she had learnt many valuable lessons.

“Never let the fame go to your head, it’s that simple. When people become famous they forget how to treat others and where they come from. Never allow that to happen, don’t let fame change you,” she said.

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