The return of Cherel de Villiers- Haines-le Roux (yes, she’s been married that many times) to the popular soapie Isidingo has been dubbed the return of evil.
It’s no wonder, with the dramatic storyline the character has followed in the few weeks she has been back. Cherel has destroyed a marriage, drugged the ex-wife until she attempted suicide, and married the husband, but fed him impotency pills so they couldn’t consummate their marriage. The cherry on top was the affair she had with her new husband’s 20-year-old son.
But let’s not forget the dark cloud she exited the show under – she narrowly escaped prison for the murder of her ex-lover Duncan Haines after hiding his body in a mine shaft, marrying Barker (Duncan’s father) immediately after.
But veteran actress Michelle Botes says she has returned to a much-loved character.
Describing her reprisal of the role as “weird, wonderful and familiar”, she admits she has gotten strange reactions from people.
“It has been lovely to find Cherel again and while it was a whole set of circumstances that saw her return, which is normally the way of the world, she was not to be ignored.”
But how does the mother of two play such a devious character?
Michelle says that all people have both sides at play within themselves and the fascination for her lies in how we use these archetypes in our daily lives.
“My inspiration to play Cherel comes from many women who have been wronged and who fight back, and how creatively they do it. Cherel and I aren’t that similar, but I think I live by my own rules, independent of others’ opinions.”
Michelle was born in Cape Town in 1962 and attended Stellenbosch University and the University of Cape Town, graduating with a Performer’s Diploma in Speech and Drama (bilingual) and a teaching diploma.
She played Cherel from 1998 until 2007, taking a break and appearing on the M-Net Afrikaans language soapie Binneland Sub Judice (formerly known as Binnelanders) between 2007 and 2010. And while she is happy to be back on our screens, she said there had been a few rough physical encounters by over-enthusiastic fans who couldn’t separate her from the character.
But her most unusual request has been from fans who want the pills she used to drug her husband and his ex-wife.
“I have been asked for the pills she used countless times and have been refused drinks on a New Year’s Eve. I have also been asked to donate or pay for dentures,” she said.
Asked if Cherel is finally about to meet her demise, as she is currently being framed for murder, Michelle cheekily asked if I knew Cherel at all – she always rises above her challenges.
She said the magic of Isidingo lay in the variety of people and characters on set.
“Your energy is constantly changing in relation to who you are playing with, which is my favourite part of acting. However, memorising lines is the endless bane of a soap, which can be a feast when it is well-written but difficult and slow if it is badly written.”
A day in her life is not terribly exciting she says, waking up to greet the mist while her cats wake her son. She then has a cup of freshly brewed sweet coffee while she overlooks the trees at her home. “My favourite pastime is being absolutely quiet in a forest, reading about dragons, movies and walking and getting lost in the mist.”
She said fans would be surprised to know that she has green fingers and loves digging in mud and soil. I asked her advice for aspirant actors.
“First, don’t give up, wake up to each new day and see yourself and each moment unlike ever before. For me the joy of acting is living a passionate and full-textured life. Those are your tools,” she said.
Catch Isidingo on SABC3 weekdays at 6.30pm