Petronella Tshuma steps out of her comfort zone in the eVOD dramedy feature, “Clean Job”.
The 33-year-old actress is celebrated for her roles in “Of Good Report”, “Rhythm City”, “Scandal”, “Hustle”, “Mzansi Love”, “Sokhulu & Partners” and “90 Plein Street”.
In “Clean Job”, she’s cast as Kimberly.
On bagging the role, she said: “So this one was a blessing. Mandla N approached my agent and asked if I would like to play this character. And I had been wanting to work with Mandla for quite some time.
“For me, it was a no-brainer wanting to be a part of Black Brain Productions.”
The story centres on law student Kimberly who, after the death of her mother, is forced to move in with her family in the township, which includes her uncle Bra Killa (Molefe Monaisa) and his girlfriend Sonto (Nomsa Buthelezi).
And it’s a culture shock for her as she’s always lived in the suburbs, with her mother having worked for an affluent white family.
Cash-strapped, she starts helping women in the township and, in doing so, starts Clean Job Domestic Services with four unemployed women and her uncle. It is a front company to clean out the homes of their unsuspecting clients.
Tshuma says her character is very relatable.
“I was born in 1990 and if we look at even before my generation, we have heard of stories of the maid, who has had a child with the white man she’s working for, which is the case in this situation.
“I think Kimberly, like anyone, wants to know who her father is and where she comes from. There’s a longing and wanting to know. And just before her mom passes away, she tells her that her boss, is the father.
“Kimberly pursues that, obviously wanting to know are you my dad. And Mr Oosthuizen basically denounces her up until the very end.”
The actress pointed out: “Kimberly was raised in a very nice life. And having grown up in this mansion, even though her mum was the maid, to be taken to eKasi, is a culture shock.
“Arriving to see her uncle, her grandmother (played by Deli Malinga), who is a gangster on her own. She’s coming into complete chaos. There's drama and loudness. She’s mixed race. She doesn’t know this other side of life, until everything is taken from her when her mom dies.”
The rejection of her dad and her bearing witness to many injustices faced by other women in the community fuels Kimberly’s need to seek vengeance.
Tshuma pointed out: “Kimberly is put in a position to find out where is home. Throughout the film, she says finally I belong, I feel a part of something.
“A lot of mixed-race kids are raised by one side of the family. I’m not saying, people should turn to crime but I think it’s vengeance for her. She wants to level the playing field.
“She’s hurt and angry. Her thing is I want to go to school. We see how it all comes together.”
On pivoting from drama to comedy, she admitted: “A lot of people have said to me you need to teach acting and drama. But I am still learning.
“With every character I approach, I go through the flow of things and talk with the director to see what they envision and see what her style and look are in her wardrobe.
“I feel like I don’t have a set way in how I approach a character. Each character needs a different approach. The relationship between a director and actor is so sensitive and it requires trust.
“I was lost at first. And then I had to find my centre. For Mandla, everything is in the moment. ‘Clean Job’ is a dramedy. I’ve never done comedy. I was super scared.
“One of the actors said to me, how you win in comedy, you play it as you do in drama. You play it honestly, you play it seriously, you play it truthful. Because you are so serious, that is what makes it funny.”
She continued: “The people around me were so amazing. I was blessed to work with such an amazing cast from Nomsa Buthlezi, and Vele Manenje, two hilarious actresses, to Nolwazi Kwenyama and Deli Malinga.
“We were able to bounce off each other.”
As for getting to work with Mandla N, she said: “Mandla gets it right. He knows his market. He knows what people like to see. It’s not an American-hyped film. It’s also so ridiculously funny.”
When asked about what else is in her kitty, Tshuma candidly mentioned that 2023 has been the hardest year.
She said: “I will be truthful in this. So this is 12-13 years as a professional actor. I’ve done so many auditions, 30 something, and for the very first time I’ve never booked work.
“What that has done. I said to myself, I want to be conscious of the choices I’m making. I’m becoming more conscious of the type of projects I want to do. And I’m going more behind the scenes, creating my stories and collaborating with others.
“Acting is one of my babies. It is dear to my heart. But I don’t want to play roles to just put food on the table. It feels like I’m selling my soul. There were times I’ve had to do that.”
While it was a “tough and humbling” year, she added: “The growth and introspection that I have had, I’m so excited for the next project.
“I believe God has a plan. I’m excited about this new growth and the new projects I will be doing. I know 2024 will be a turning point.”
∎ “Clean Job” is streaming on eVOD.